Asian stocks set to slip on coronavirus fears, vaccine timing
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Asian equities were set to pull back on Wednesday as heightened concerns about coronavirus infections and the timing for a vaccine outweighed the lift from rebounding oil prices and upbeat corporate earnings in Europe.
Leading US infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci on Tuesday warned lawmakers that a premature lifting of lockdowns could lead to additional outbreaks of the deadly coronavirus, which has killed 80,000 Americans and brought the economy to its knees.
“It looks like we’re in for another negative day of trading here in the Asia Pacific region,” said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney. “It’s very clear that the containment has done economic damage and the recovery will take years and not weeks,” he said.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index futures .HSI .HSIc1 were up 0.37%, Australian S&P/ASX 200 futures YAPcm1 slipped 1.26% and Japan’s Nikkei 225 futures NKc1 fell 0.05% to be 1.13% below Tuesday’s cash index close.
U.S. stocks dragged equity benchmarks lower after Fauci’s remarks, who also said that there was unlikely to be a treatment or vaccine in place by late August or early September.
The cautious mood was not helped by proposed legislation by a leading US Republican senator that would authorize President Donald Trump to impose sanctions on China if it fails to give a full account of events leading to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
The bill would give the president authority to impose a range of sanctions, including freezing assets, travel bans and visa revocations, as well as restrictions on loans to Chinese businesses by US institutions and bans on US listings by Chinese firms.
Stock markets have rebounded sharply in recent weeks as the spread of the novel coronavirus slowed in some countries in Asia and Europe, while parts of the U.S. economy began to reopen after weeks of lockdowns.
MSCI’s gauge of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS closed 0.96% lower on Tuesday while its global stock index .MIWD00000PUS shed 1.23%.
In commodity markets, oil prices rose after OPEC’s de facto leader, Saudi Arabia, said it would increase supply curbs in June, while other members of the oil-producing group said they want to extend the deep cuts reached in April for a longer period than originally agreed.
US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude CLc1 futures settled at $25.78 a barrel, up $1.64, or 6.8%. Brent crude LCOc1 futures settled at $29.98 a barrel, gaining 35 cents, or 1.2%.
The dollar fell on Tuesday as the mood turned cautious a day ahead of US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s speech on economic issues and as investors weighed the chances of negative US interest rates.
Safe-haven assets such as government bonds moved higher as investors edged away from riskier investments. Benchmark 10-year US Treasury notes US10YT=RR last rose 15/32 in price to yield 0.6795.