Asian Shares Mixed Amid Recovery Hopes

Asian stocks ended mixed on Wednesday amid uncertainty about whether the U.S. Senate would approve a measure increasing the size of stimulus checks to $2,000.

Nevertheless, the start of mass COVID-19 vaccination drives in several countries and the passage of U.S. fiscal stimulus boosted hopes for a strong economic recovery next year.

Chinese shares rose amid hopes of a robust economic recovery next year, while Hong Kong shares rallied for a second day, reflecting a rebound in the tech sector.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index jumped 35.42 points or 1.1 percent to 3,414.45 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index surged up 578.62 points or 2.2 percent to 27,147.11.

In Hong Kong, shares of Alibaba gained 6.5 percent, Tencent jumped 5.7 percent and Meituan climbed 5.3 percent.

Meanwhile, Japanese shares closed lower on the last trading day of the year as investors booked profits after recent strong gains. The continued surge in coronavirus cases and confirmation of new virus strains in Japan that were first detected in the U.K. and South Africa weighed on the markets.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index dropped 123.98 points or 0.5 percent to 27,444.17 and the broader Topix closed down 14.50 points or 0.8 percent at 1,804.68. However, the Nikkei index, which jumped to a 30-year high on Tuesday, gained 16 percent in 2020.

Market heavyweight SoftBank Group edged up less than 0.1 percent and Fast Retailing rose 1.8 percent. Among the major gainers, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha rose 2.0 percent, Mitsubishi Motors advanced 1.4 percent and ANA Holdings added 1.2 percent.

Conversely, Seiko Epson fell 3.9 percent, Mitsui E&S Holdings dropped 3.6 percent and Sapporo Holdings declined 3.3 percent.

Australian shares closed lower following news that a second coronavirus cluster has developed in Sydney and a South African COVID-19 variant was detected in Queensland.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index declined 17.90 points or 0.3 percent to 6,682.40 and the broader All Ordinaries Index dropped 19.20 points or 0.3 percent to 6,942.90.

In the tech sector, AfterPay slid 3.7 percent, WiseTech Global fell 1.9 percent and Appen lost 1.8 percent.

In the banking sector, Commonwealth Bank, ANZ Banking and National Australia Bank closed lower in a range of 0.4 percent to 0.5 percent. Westpac Banking closed unchanged.

Among the major miners, BHP Group rose 0.5 percent and Rio Tinto added 0.4 percent.

Seoul stocks recovered after a weak start to close the final session of this year at an all-time high. The benchmark Kospi shot up 52.96 points or 1.9 percent to 2,873.47, hitting record highs for the fourth straight day.

Market bellwether Samsung Electronics jumped 3.5 percent, while chipmaker SK Hynix rose 2.2 percent. Automaker Hyundai Motor advanced 0.8 percent and steelmaker POSCO added 0.7 percent.

New Zealand shares ended lower, with the benchmark NZX 50 Index slipping 29.63 points or 0.2 percent to 13,217.14.

On Wall Street, stocks initially rose to new record intraday highs on Tuesday but failed to sustain the gains and closed lower on profit taking. The Dow dipped 0.2 percent, the Nasdaq fell 0.4 percent and the S&P 500 slipped 0.2 percent.

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