Asian equities sluggish after fresh Wall Street records

HONG KONG – Asian markets struggled on Friday despite Wall Street benchmarks climbing overnight on the back of healthy US economic data.

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq closed at fresh records Thursday after another fall in applications for unemployment benefits, while trade balance figures contained hints of an end to supply chain snarls that have driven up prices.

Most European markets also finished higher on another day of solid earnings reports, with aircraft engine-maker Rolls-Royce was back in the black in the first half of the year and Siemens tripling quarterly profits.

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But London closed flat and gains on other bourses were limited, with traders awaiting US payroll data on Friday for an indication of when Washington will begin to taper coronavirus support measures and put the brakes on inflation.

Sentiment has also been dampened by the global spread of the Delta coronavirus variant, said Tapas Strickland of National Australia Bank.

“Delta concerns remain, though markets continue to view it more in the window of delay rather than derail given the high efficacy of vaccines,” he wrote.

“Nevertheless, a number of US companies have pushed back the date when they expect most workers to return to offices given the spread of delta.”

Hong Kong was down 0.5 percent on weakness in banking shares, though Tencent was up nearly three percent to pare the week’s losses after a regulatory crackdown on the online gaming industry by Beijing.

Fellow entertainment company Nintendo was among the biggest losers on the Tokyo bourse, diving more than eight percent after reporting a worse-than-expected quarterly profit.

The Nikkei was up just 0.1 percent at the lunch break while Shanghai was down 0.7 percent.

Sydney was flat despite authorities reporting a record number of new Covid infections and warning residents to brace for worse to come, and with Australia’s second-biggest city Melbourne sent into a virus lockdown for a sixth time.

Oil benchmarks meanwhile showed signs of modest upward movement with a report showing recent increases in US crude exports and other signs recovery in coronavirus-hit markets.

“India posted twice as strong demand for US crude, implying once a country gets beyond the Delta variant, crude demand will surge quickly,” said Edward Moya of OANDA.

Key figures around 0310 GMT

  • Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.1 percent at 27,744.24 (break)
  • Hong Kong – Hang Seng Index: DOWN 0.5 percent at 26,078.88
  • Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.7 percent at 3,443.73
  • Dollar/yen: UP at 109.86 yen from 109.46 yen
  • Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3921 from $1.3923 at 2100 GMT
  • Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1823 from $1.1846
  • Euro/pound: DOWN at 84.92 pence from 85.08 pence
  • West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.1 percent at $69.18 per barrel
  • Brent North Sea crude: UP 0.1 percent at $71.38 per barrel
  • New York – Dow: UP 0.8 percent at 35,064.25 (close)
  • London – FTSE 100: FLAT at 7,120.43 (close)

Reporting by Sean Tyler Chan. With reports from Agence-France-Presse

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