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Asian Stocks Down, COVID-19 Worries Prompt Turn to Safe-Haven Assets

Stock MarketsMar 23, 2021 11:16PM ET
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© Reuters.

By Gina Lee

Investing.com – Asia Pacific stocks were mostly down Wednesday morning after investors turned to safe-haven Treasuries and the dollar, at the expense of shares, thanks to COVID-19 worries.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 1.88% by 11:08 PM ET (3:08 AM GMT), as the Bank of Japan released the minutes from its March monetary policy meeting earlier in the day. Other data released earlier in the day said that the manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) stood at 52 in March, above the 50-mark indicating growth and slightly higher than February’s 51.4 figure.

South Korea’s KOSPI was down 0.64% while in Australia, the ASX 200 was up 0.38%.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index slid 1.95%, nearing a correction. The city hit a small snag in its COVID-19 vaccination drive, suspending vaccines from a single batch of the BioNTech SE/Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) candidate due to defective packaging. Macau has also suspended the use of the vaccine.

There is also suspicion that the data submitted by AstraZeneca PLC (LON:AZN) for its COVID-19 vaccine developed with the University of Oxford is outdated, adding to worries about the vaccine rollout and economic recovery globally.

China’s Shanghai Composite fell 1.14% and the Shenzhen Component was down 0.99%.

U.S. bond yields fell for a third consecutive day, with the ten-year Treasury around 1.6%. Tuesday's solid two-year Treasury auction raised hopes, as five and seven-year notes go under the hammer later in the week.

U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell also played down inflation risks as he and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen testified before Congress on Tuesday. Yellen added that the U.S. economy remains at risk as she answered questions about potential infrastructure and tax increase plans under consideration.

Back in the Asia-Pacific region, New Zealand's ten-year note rates also fell, as a government move to restrain housing-market speculation caused investors to withdraw bets for early rate hikes from the Reserve Bank of New Zealand.

Meanwhile, Europe is facing a third wave of cases, prompting countries including Germany, which extended its current lockdown to Apr. 18, France, and Italy to tighten restrictive measures. World Health Organization director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also called the recent increases in COVID-19 deaths and cases “truly worrying trends.”

Some investors warned of potential risks, even as the U.S. prepares more measures to drive economic recovery.

“We have a lot of innovation happening, incredible advancement in health-care technology, rapid vaccine development... but at the same time, there’s risk around inflation and rising rates and the impact that will have on equities,” Brown Advisory LLC partner Dune Thorne told Bloomberg.

Asian Stocks Down, COVID-19 Worries Prompt Turn to Safe-Haven Assets
 

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