Asian Shares Mixed In Quiet Trading

Asian stocks ended Thursday’s session on a mixed note despite U.S. shares edging up to news record highs overnight amid light volumes in the final days of the year.

Chinese shares advanced after the government pledged to focus on a consumption recovery and reduce certain income tax rates.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index rose 22.19 points, or 0.6 percent, to 3,619.19 as authorities continued efforts to curb the Covid-19 outbreak in the western city of Xi’an.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index ended nearly flat, with China Evergrande Group shares falling more than 9 percent after some holders of two China Evergrande Group dollar bonds with coupons due on Tuesday said they had yet to receive payment.

Japanese shares ended lower after the country logged over 500 daily Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, exceeding the 500 mark for the first time in over two months.

The Nikkei 225 Index dropped 115.17 points, or 0.4 percent, to 28,791.71 but recorded its highest year-end closing level since the bubble era of the 1980s. Similarly, the broader Topix closed 0.3 percent lower at 1,992.33 but marked the best year-end close since 1989.

Nintendo and Kikkoman both fell over 2 percent, while heavyweight SoftBank Group advanced 1.5 percent and Z Holdings, formerly known as Yahoo Japan, added 3.3 percent.

Australian markets rose for a sixth straight session to close at their highest level in more than three and a half months, with financials and miners leading the surge.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index finished marginally higher at 7,513.40, its highest close since September 7. The broader All Ordinaries Index inched up 3.40 points to close at 7,843.70.

Fund manager Magellan Financial Group surged 3.7 percent, while mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto both rose about 1 percent as iron ore futures rebounded after three days of losses.

Seoul stocks ended lower as investors took to the sidelines in the final trading session of the year. The Kospi dropped 15.64 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,977.65 despite positive industrial output data signaling an easing in global supply bottlenecks.

New Zealand shares ended notably higher in light trading, with property developers pacing the gainers. The benchmark NZX-50 Index climbed 100.52 points, or 0.8 percent, to settle at 13,040.94, its highest close since November 9.

U.S. stocks ended mostly higher overnight, with recent reports indicating strong holiday sales for retailers as well as early studies pointing to a reduced risk of hospitalization in Omicron cases helping underpin investor sentiment.

The Dow rose 0.3 percent and the S&P 500 edged up 0.1 percent to reach new record closing highs, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite ended flat with a negative bias.

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