Asian markets mixed as traders weigh outlook, Tokyo breaks 30,000

Investors are torn between optimism over the outlook thanks to central bank largesse, and concerns about the impact of the fast-spreading Delta coronavirus variant. ©AFP

Hong Kong (AFP) - Asian investors battled to build on recent gains Tuesday as they tentatively assessed the global outlook against the backdrop of rising Delta coronavirus cases and signs of a slowdown in the economic recovery.

Tokyo's Nikkei 225 briefly broke 30,000 for the first time in five months on growing expectations for a fresh injection of stimulus after Japan's prime minister said he would step aside, paving the way for a new big-spending successor.

The blockbuster growth that characterised the start of the year has tailed off in recent months as the Delta variant sends new infections spiking around the world, tempering consumer spending and forcing some countries to impose strict containment measures.

However, several markets have continued to press to new records or multi-year highs owing to the ultra-loose monetary policies of central banks around the world -- particularly the US Federal Reserve -- that have kept borrowing costs down.

While there is a general expectation that that largesse will come to an end soon as economies emerge from the pandemic crisis, officials have indicated they are in no rush to taper just yet as they track the impact of Delta.

And Friday's massive miss on US jobs creation provided a big boost to markets as it meant the Fed's planned policy tightening will not likely start until November or December, instead of the September that had been suggested.

Still, trading floors remain nervous places.

"The Delta -- and possibly other -- variant(s) remain a cause for concern as the disease is spreading rapidly through unvaccinated communities and the efficacy of the 2021 vintage of vaccines is being questioned," Chris Iggo, at AXA Investment Managers, noted.

"I don't think the recovery and growth outlook is negated by this but there could be some 'air-pockets' in the data and in investor sentiment."

With US traders off Monday for a public holiday, Asia had few catalysts but Hong Kong, Shanghai, Manila and Jakarta all posted gains.

Sydney, Seoul, Singapore, Wellington and Taipei edged down, though.

Tokyo continued to thunder higher on stimulus hopes, and a reshuffle of the Nikkei 225 also provided healthy support.

The gauge is up more than four percent since Thursday's close, before Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said he would step down and sparked speculation about who would take his mantle.

Investors are awaiting the release of Chinese trade data later in the day, which will provide the latest snapshot of the world's number two economy and a key driver of global growth as its recovery stumbles.

Key figures around 0230 GMT

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.8 percent at 29,894.92 (break)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng Index: UP 0.9 percent at 26,391.22 

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.5 percent at 3,639.32 

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 109.81 yen from 109.84 yen

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3850 from $1.3823

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1880 from $1.1861

Euro/pound: DOWN at 85.77 pence from 85.81 pence

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 0.4 percent at $69.05 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.3 percent at $72.44 per barrel

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.7 percent at 7,187.18 points (close)

New York - Dow: Closed for public holiday


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