Asian shares retreat as virus vaccine rally fades

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A man walks past an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index at a securities firm in Tokyo Wednesday, July 15, 2020. Shares were mostly higher in Asia on Wednesday as investors were encouraged by news that an experimental COVID-19 vaccine under development by Moderna and the U.S. National Institutes of Health revved up peoples immune systems just as desired. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Shares fell back in Asia on Thursday after markets worldwide rallied on rising hopes for a COVID-19 vaccine.

Benchmarks fell in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai early Thursday. Investors see a vaccine as the best way for the economy and human life to get back to normal.

Researchers announced on Tuesday that one developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna had revved up people’s immune systems in early testing, as hoped. But that news, plus a report that China’s economy grew 3.2% in annual terms in April-June failed to sustain the rally, as rising numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases clouded the outlook.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 lost 0.5% to 22,825.55, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong fell 1.1% to 25,207.82. In South Korea, the Kospi shed 0.6% to 2,190.66. The Shanghai Composite index skidded 1.4% to 3,315.11.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 edged less than 0.1% lower, to 6,051.90, as authorities reported that Victoria state had confirmed a record 317 new coronavirus cases in a day.

The Victoria government responded be reducing numbers of non-urgent surgeries allowed in hospitals to increase beds available for COVID-19 patients, Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said.

China reported, meanwhile, that its economy grew at a 3.2% pace in April-June from a year earlier, rebounding from a painful 6.8% contraction in the previous quarter that was its worst performance since at least the mid-1960s.

The expansion came as anti-virus lockdowns were lifted and factories and stores reopened. But it still was the weakest positive figure since China started reporting quarterly growth in the early 1990s.