BEIJING – Asian shares were mixed Friday as jubilance over positive U.S. economic data and a Wall Street record high were tempered by caution in the region, where the coronavirus vaccine rollout has lagged.
Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 gained 0.1% to 29,674.31 in morning trading. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell nearly 0.1% to 7,052.30. South Korea's Kospi was little changed, inching up less than 0.1% to 3,194.49. Hong Kong's Hang Seng inched down less than 0.1% to 28,771.21, while the Shanghai Composite added 0.2% to 3,406.93.
The contrast in the speed of the vaccine rollout has been striking between the U.S. and Asia. Nearly half of American adults have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, and about 30% of adults in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Japan, where inoculations for the public have barely started, has seen a resurgence of infections in recent weeks. The country’s western metropolis of Osaka reported over 1,200 new infections Thursday, its highest since the pandemic began. A top ruling party official suggested the possibility of canceling the Tokyo Olympics, set to start in July, if infections continue to surge.
Prakash Sakpal and Nicholas Mapa, senior economists for ING, said the markets are watching the meeting between Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and President Joe Biden, set for the weekend, data from China, including GDP and retail sales, as well as for further news on the pandemic.
“Asian markets will likely track gains overnight with optimism driven by positive US data highlighted by retail sales. Investors now turn their focus to a string of China data reports,” they said in a report.
Wall Street notched more milestones, as a broad market rally pushed the S&P 500 to an all-time high and the Dow Jones Industrial Average crossed above the 34,000 mark for the first time.
The S&P 500 rose 1.1%, with technology, health care and communication stocks accounting for much of the upward moves. Only energy and financial companies closed lower. Bond yields fell.