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Asian Stocks Down as COVID-19 Vaccine Fatigue Sets In

Stock MarketsDec 14, 2020 10:23PM ET
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By Gina Lee – Asia Pacific stocks were down on Tuesday morning, with tighter COVID-19 restrictions in many countries causing investors to hit the pause button on the recent vaccine optimism. U.S. shares were mixed overnight over dwindling optimism over the likelihood of the latest U.S. stimulus measures being passed.

China’s Shanghai Composite fell 0.50% by 11:15 PM ET (3:15 AM GMT) and the Shenzhen Component inched down 0.07% Industrial production and retail sales data from China was mixed, with industrial production growing 7% year-on-year, against the 7% growth in forecasts prepared by and October’s 6.9% growth. Retail sales grew 5% year-on-year in November, down from the forecast 5.2% growth but up from October’s 4.3% growth.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 0.76%.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 edged down 0.20%, with investors digesting an increase in Japanese business sentiment. The Tankan Large Manufacturers Index for the fourth quarter was at -10, higher than the -15 in forecasts and the third quarter’s -27 reading. The Tankan Large Non-Manufacturers Index was at -5, also up from the forecast -6 and the third quarter's -12

South Korea’s KOSPI fell 0.50%. In Australia, the ASX 200 was down 0.26% as tensions with China rose over reports that China has formally banned imports of Australian coal.

Surging numbers of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. saw New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio issue a warning that the city should be prepared for a full shutdown. Other parts of the country could also see tightened restrictions. European governments are also tightening measures, with London possibly seeing England’s toughest COVID-19 rules from Wednesday onwards.

The restrictions curbed the optimism after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization for BNT162b2, the COVID-19 vaccine co-developed by Pfizer Inc (NYSE:PFE) and BioNTech SE (F:22UAy), on Dec. 11. Deliveries of the first doses of BNT162b2 started on Monday.

Singapore's Health Sciences Authority also gave its nod to BNT162b2 on Monday, with the first shipments due in the city by the end of December, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

However, vaccine fatigue is starting to set in for some investors.

“We’ve been trading off the same vaccine headlines for three or four months … this market is 100% relying on this vaccine,” Bright Trading LLC trader Dennis Dick told Reuters.

Other investors agreed with him.

“Signs of market fatigue are more prevalent today than a month ago, even as the popular average is near all-time highs … the much-awaited correction could come as investors tire of Washington, worry about the COVID-19 cases over the holidays, or some other concern that is likely to pass in a few months.” Kingsview Investment Management portfolio manager Paul Nolte told Bloomberg.

The vaccine optimism is also wearing off as doubts over whether the U.S. Congress will pass the latest $908 billion stimulus bill currently being prepped a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

Meanwhile, the Electoral College has formally confirmed Joe Biden’s victory in the Nov. 3 presidential election. The confirmation could finally see Senate Republicans, as well as the man himself, acknowledge incumbent President Donald Trump’s defeat.

A slew of central bank decisions is due throughout the week, starting with the Federal Reserve convening later in the day and on Wednesday. The Bank of England and the Mexican, Swiss and Indonesian central banks will release their policy decisions on Thursday, while the Bank of Japan and the Bank of Russia will hand down their decisions on Friday.

Asian Stocks Down as COVID-19 Vaccine Fatigue Sets In

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