Asian shares mixed in scant New Year Eve trading

Business

A currency trader walks near a screen showing the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) at a foreign exchange dealing room in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021. Asian stock markets were mixed Thursday after Wall Street hit a high and new daily U.S. coronavirus cases surged to a record. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares were mixed in Asia on Friday after a late slide pulled major indexes into the red on Wall Street, leaving the S&P 500 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average slightly below record highs.

Tokyo and many other regional markets were closed.

Hong Kong jumped 1.7% in New Year’s Eve trading to 23,496.86 and the Shanghai Composite index gained 0.4% to 3,634.61. Sydney lost 0.7% to 7,461.43 as the number of new coronavirus cases surged.

Singapore advanced while Malaysia edged lower.

2021 was a mixed year for Asian markets. Some benchmarks, like the Hang Seng in Hong Kong which has suffered from troubles in China’s property sector and U.S.-Chinese friction, have languished. Others, like Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 and the Shanghai Composite index, have gyrated but held relatively steady.

India’s Sensex, meanwhile, breached new record highs despite severe bouts of COVID-19 outbreaks.

On Thursday, the benchmark S&P 500 gave up 0.3% and the Dow and the Nasdaq each fell 0.2%. Trading was relatively quiet with many investors having closed out their positions for the year.

Investors will likely not make any large moves until next week with the start of the New Year, though in China end-of-year window dressing may have pushed prices higher.

On Thursday, the S&P 500 index slipped 0.3% a day after notching a record high, closing at 4,778.73. The Dow, which also set a new high Wednesday, fell 0.2% to 36,398.08. The Nasdaq also slipped 0.2%, to 15,741.56.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks slipped less than 0.1% to 2,248.79.

Major U.S. stock indexes are on pace to end December with solid gains, capping a banner year for the market. The S&P 500 is headed for a gain of more than 27% for 2021, the best performance since 2019, another standout year.

A wave of consumer demand fueled by the reopening of economies pumped up corporate profits more than expected this year, which helped keep investors in a buying mood.

The Federal Reserve and other central banks also helped, by keeping interest rates low, which makes borrowing money more affordable for companies and consumers.

Plenty of economic challenges persist, including rising inflation, global supply chain disruptions and outbreaks of more contagious variants of the COVID-19 virus.

Investor concerns about the omicron variant, which is spreading fast and quickly becoming the dominant coronavirus variant, have eased in recent weeks after researchers said it appears to cause less severe symptoms.

Technology companies accounted for a big share of Wall Street’s late-afternoon slide. Micron Technology led the sector decline, dropping 2.4% after disclosing that its memory chip output has been hindered by a lockdown in the Chinese city of Xi’an intended to contain a coronavirus outbreak.

Investors got a couple bits of good news. The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits fell below 200,000, more evidence that the job market remains strong in the aftermath of last year’s coronavirus recession. Wall Street will get the December jobs report next week.

Meanwhile the Chicago Purchasing Manager Index, a gauge of manufacturing and economic activity, came in at 63.1 for December. That’s slightly better than the reading of 62.0 that economists were expecting, according to FactSet.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury note edged lower to 1.51% from 1.54% the day before.

In other trading, U.S. benchmark crude oil lost 64 cents to $76.37 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It picked up 43 cents to $76.99 per barrel on Thursday.

Brent crude oil, the basis for pricing international oils, lost 60 cents to $78.93 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar was virtually unchanged at 115.08 Japanese yen. The euro slipped to $1.1320 from $1.1326.

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AP Business Writer Alex Veiga contributed.

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