People walk by an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Monday, Jan. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)
BEIJING — Asian stock markets followed Wall Street lower Wednesday after European governments extended anti-coronavirus lockdowns, clouding the outlook for economic recovery.
Market benchmarks in Shanghai, Tokyo and Hong Kong retreated.
Overnight, Wall Street gave up most of the previous day’s gains as technology, industrial and bank stocks fell.
Investor confidence was shaken after Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, and the Netherlands extended lockdowns and imposed new travel and business curbs in response to spikes in infection.
The World Health Organization said the weekly global death toll from the virus is rising again following six weeks of declines. It said the number of new reported cases rose in four of six global regions.
"Investors were left scrambling for life jackets, as it seems we are back navigating the stormy sea of the coronavirus pandemic," said Stephen Innes of Axi in a report.
The Shanghai Composite Index lost 1.2% to 3,369.78 and the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo fell 2% to 28,405.52. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong retreated 2.1% to 27,905.54.
The Kospi in South Korea gave up 0.3% to 2,996.35. The S&P-ASX 200 in Australia gained 0.5% to 6,778.80.
India’s Sensex opened down 1% at 49,502.30. New Zealand and Southeast Asian markets retreated.
In Europe, Germany extended anti-virus restrictions by three weeks to April 18 and said travellers arriving from abroad by air must be tested for the coronavirus before boarding their flight. The Netherlands extended its lockdown by three weeks.
That followed similar moves earlier by Italy and France.
Investors are wavering between optimism about coronavirus vaccines that might allow business and travel to return to normal and concern about the pace of recovery.
Traders also are watching the potential for inflation pressures to pick up after struggling economies were flooded with credit and government spending. That has depressed U.S. bond prices, prompting some to shift money out of stocks.
On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 fell 0.8% on Tuesday to 3,910.52. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.9% to 32,423.15.
The Nasdaq, dominated by tech stocks, sank 1.1% to 13,227.70.
In Washington, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell told Congress more must be done to limit economic damage. Powell stressed that he does not expect stimulus programs to trigger inflation.
Bond yields, or the difference between the market price and the payout at maturity, narrowed as prices rose. The yield of the 10-year Treasury note fell to 1.63%, down from last week’s level above 1.70%.
That weighed on banks and other financial companies which look to yields as a benchmark for the interest rates they charge on mortgages and other loans. Bank of America fell 2.0% and Wells Fargo dropped 1.9%. American Express slid 2.8%.
In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude rose 33 cents to US$58.09 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract plunged $3.79 on Tuesday to $57.76 after Germany’s lockdown announcement triggered concern demand for industry and travel would decline.
Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 41 cents to $61.27 per barrel in London. It lost $3.83 the previous session to $60.79.
The dollar declined to 108.51 yen from Tuesday’s 108.75 yen. The euro retreated to $1.1845 from $1.1853.
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