Asian shares mostly fall in muted trading amid virus worries

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares were mostly lower in muted trading Tuesday on continuing concerns about surging COVID-19 infections in key regional markets like Japan.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 edged down nearly 0.1% in morning trading to 27,762.52. South Korea’s Kospi slipped 0.2% to 3,136.62. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.2% to 7,520.00. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dipped nearly 1% to 25,286.85, while the Shanghai Composite fell 0.3% to 3,518.72.

Reported coronavirus cases recently reached record highs in Japan, one of the hardest hit nations in Asia and where a government state of emergency has been extended through Sept. 12. Japan’s vaccine rollout, which got off to a slow start compared to other developed nations, stumbled recently when contaminants were found in the Moderna vaccine supply, forcing the suspension of more than 1.6 million doses.

Global investors have their eyes on several key U.S. economic reports later this week, including consumer confidence on Tuesday and the closely watched monthly employment survey from the Labor Department on Friday.

Both could help investors better gauge the American economic recovery’s path, which will impact Asian economies as well, and the resistance from a surge in virus cases because of the more contagious delta variant.

On Wall Street on Monday, gains for several Big Tech stocks helped push the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq composite to more record highs. The S&P 500 added 19.42, or 0.4%, to close at 4,528.79 The Dow fell 55.96 points, or 0.2%, to 35,399.84 and the Nasdaq composite rose 136.39 points, or 0.9%, to 15,265.89.

Technology stocks, which benefit from low interest rates, did much of the heavy lifting for the broader market. Apple rose 3%, while Amazon and Facebook each rose more than 2%.

Health care companies also had solid gains and helped lift the benchmark S&P 500. Banks stocks, which would benefit from higher rates, were the biggest drag on the overall market. Wells Fargo lost 2.8%.

The Russell 2000 index of small company stocks lost 10.70 points, or 0.5%, to 2,266.80.

Energy prices were mixed as the the full impact of Hurricane Ida is still being assessed. The storm will likely take a toll on the energy, chemical and shipping industries that have major hubs along the Gulf Coast, but the impact on the overall U.S. economy should be modest so long as damage estimates don’t rise sharply and refinery shutdowns are not prolonged, economists suggested.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 32 cents to $68.89 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, declined 41 cents to $73.00 a barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar fell to 109.86 Japanese yen from 109.92 yen. The euro cost $1.1803, up from $1.1795.


AP Business Writer Damian J. Troise contributed.