Asian Shares Rise Ahead Of Holiday Break

Asian stocks firmed up amid light trading activity on Thursday as trading desks wind down for the Christmas break.

While separate studies indicated the Omicron variant poses a lower risk of severe disease and hospitalization than the Delta variant, the World Health Organization said it is too early to draw conclusions on its severity.

Chinese shares edged higher as the country redoubled efforts to control new virus outbreaks in a number of cities. The benchmark Shanghai Composite index rose 20.72 points, or 0.6 percent, to 3,643.34, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index gained 91.31 points, or 0.4 percent, to settle at 23,193.64.

Japanese shares advanced as South Africa’s noticeable drop in new Covid-19 cases in recent days as well a study suggesting reduced risks of hospitalization and severe disease in people infected with the Omicron variant versus Delta helped lift airline stocks. Japan Airlines gained 2.1 percent and ANA Holdings added 2.3 percent.

Tokyu Fudosan Holdings shares jumped 4.4 percent after the property developer agreed to sell its Tokyu Hands home interior store chain.

The Nikkei 225 Index climbed 236.16 points, or 0.8 percent, to 28,798.37, marking its third straight session of gains despite Japan reporting the first community infections of the Omicron variant. The broader Topix closed 0.9 percent higher at 1,989.43.

Australian markets rose for a third straight session despite the country reporting 8,205 new cases, its highest daily caseload since the pandemic began. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 22.80 points, or 0.3 percent, to 7,387.60, marking the highest close in two weeks.

Gold miners, banks and healthcare stocks advanced, while tech stocks fell after three sessions of gains. Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto ended marginally lower.

Dairy firm Bega Cheese plunged 10.3 percent after the company outlined a raft of ongoing issues that are expected to hit its bottom line this financial year.

Seoul stocks rose for a third straight session, led by gains by tech and auto stocks on news of SK Hynix’s acquisition of Intel Corp.’s NAND memory chip business and Tesla’s overnight rally. The Kospi climbed 13.69 points, or 0.5 percent, to 2,998.17.

New Zealand shares gave up early gains to end on a flat note in the run-up to the Christmas break. Hospitality operators underperformed, with fast-food operator Restaurant Brands losing 3.6 percent, while travel software developer Serko surged 4.3 percent.

U.S. stocks advanced overnight as Omicron fears subsided and the latest data on consumer confidence, home sales and revised third-quarter economic growth painted a positive picture of the world’s largest economy.

Meanwhile, the White House said it was resuming talks on a major social spending bill with a senator crucial to passing the legislation.

The Dow rose 0.7 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite climbed 1.2 percent and the S&P 500 added 1 percent.

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