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Associated Press

Nov. 29, 2021, 10:18 p.m. EST

Asian markets mixed as investors weigh economic risks posed by omicron

By Associated Press

TOKYO — Asian shares were mixed Tuesday as investors continued to cautiously weigh how much damage the new omicron coronavirus variant may unleash on the global economy.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 (NIKKEI:JP:NIK) rose 0.8% in morning trading. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 (S&P:AU:XJO) gained 1.2% while South Korea’s Kospi (KOREA:KR:180721) lost 1.2%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng (HONG:HK:HSI) dipped 1.1%, while the Shanghai Composite (SHG:CN:SHCOMP) added 0.2%. Stocks dipped in Singapore (SES:SG:STI) and Malaysia (KLS:MY:FBMKLCI) , but advanced in Taiwan (TAIWAN:TW:Y9999) and Indonesia (INDONESIA:ID:JAKIDX) .

Some analysts think a serious economic downturn, like what happened last year, will likely be averted because more people have been vaccinated. But they also think a return to pre-pandemic levels of economic activity has been dramatically delayed, especially in sectors such as tourism. Consumption may also be hurt.

“Sentiments may ride on the positive handover from Wall Street overnight, but with the slower vaccination rate and more limited healthcare capacity in the region, uncertainty from the new omicron variant may seem to bring about higher economic risks for the region at a time where it is shifting towards further reopening,” Yeap Jun Rong, market strategist at IG in Singapore, said of the omicron’s impact on Asia.

The vaccination rollout rate varies by country in the region, at about 77% in Japan, 50% in Vietnam and 35% in Indonesia. In Asia, the omicron variant has only been officially detected in Hong Kong, but the region is bracing for its wider arrival, which generally means a setback for economic reopening. Worries also remain about how effective current vaccines may be against omicron.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 (S&P:SPX) rose 1.3% to recover more than half of its drop from Friday, which was its worst since February. Bond yields and crude oil also recovered chunks of what they lost in traders’ knee-jerk reaction to run toward safety and away from risky investments.

With vaccines in hand — and with the benefit of a weekend to mull whether Friday’s sharp market moves were overdone — analysts said the world may be in a better position to weather  this newest potential wave . Plus, Friday’s tumble for markets may have been exacerbated by many traders taking the day off following Thanksgiving.

But while the market steadied itself, uneasiness still hangs over it due to the discovery of the omicron variant. The variant appears to spread more easily, and countries around the world have put up barriers to travel in hopes of stemming it.

“There are still more questions than answers regarding the new variant,” said Ryan Detrick, chief market strategist for LPL Financial. “At the same time, we’ve been living with COVID-19 for almost 20 months now, and we’ve seen multiple variants.”

Given the uncertainty, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DOW:DJIA) wavered between a loss of 3 points and a gain of 388 points through the day. It ended with a gain of 236.60 points, or 0.7%, at 35,135.94. The Nasdaq (NASDAQ:COMP) added 291.18 points to 15,782.83.

“Because so much is still unknown about the omicron variant, it could take us a week or more to recover what we lost in a single day,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 1.51% from 1.49% late Friday, recovering some of its steep slide from 1.64% that day. It tends to rise and fall with expectations for the economy’s strength and for inflation.

In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude surged $1.03 to $70.98 a barrel. Brent crude , the international standard, gained $1.02 to $74.46 a barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar (XTUP:USDJPY) rose to 113.66 Japanese yen from 113.61 yen.

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