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Asian Stocks Choppily Higher As Markets Await US Fiscal Stimulus Plans

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Last updated: 01/12/2021 05:57:56

05:57 AM EST, 01/12/2021 (MT Newswires) -- Asian stock markets moved unevenly higher Tuesday as traders awaited details of incoming US President Joe Biden's fiscal stimulus plan. Biden has indicated major parts of his plan will be revealed on Thursday and will include $2,000 stimulus checks for most Americans. Hong Kong and Shanghai stocks moved higher as telecom issues regained favor, while Tokyo shares eked out a small gain. Other regional exchanges were mixed, although Mumbai posted a fresh all-time record close.

The Nikkei 225 opened modestly lower on Wall Street cues but staged a small rally to finish up 0.1%, as traders returned to their posts after a three-day weekend. Pharmaceutical issues gained while the yen traded marginally lower against the US dollar, which tends to aid stock prices.

The upside in equities has been capped by record-high new COVID-19 infection rates. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Tuesday said he plans to declare a state of emergency for the Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo prefectures, effective Wednesday, in a bid to curtail the spread of the virus. The nation's largest metropolis, Tokyo, already operates under emergency rules.

The Nikkei 225 rose 25.31 to 28,164.34, as gaining issues outnumbered losers 122 to 103.

In economic news, Japan's Economy Watchers index, which measures sentiment among frontline service workers such as taxi drivers and restaurant employees, decreased to 35.5 in December from 45.6 in November. Readings below 50 indicate pessimism. The decline reflects the ongoing spike in COVID-19 infections, according to the Cabinet Office.

The Hong Kong Hang Seng Index opened evenly and finished up by 1.3% Tuesday as investors bought back into telecom shares recently depressed by the Trump administration's order barring US investors from buying into the companies. China Unicom, China Mobile, and China Telecom all rose by more than 6%, as mainland funds acquired shares in the companies, said analysts.

The broad gauge Hang Seng rose 368.53 to 28,276.75, as gaining issued outnumbered losers 29 to 21.

On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite rose 2.2% to 3,608.34.

In economic news, China's economy appears likely to expand by 8.2% in 2021, with strong domestic consumption to be stoked by successful vaccination program, investment bank UBS reportedly said on Tuesday.

On the other exchanges, the S. Korean Kospi fell 0.7%; the Taiwan TWSE declined 0.4%; the Australian ASX 200 declined 0.3%; the Singapore Straits Times Index fell 0.2%, and the Thai Set edged up 0.2%. In late trading in Mumbai, the Sensex was up 0.5%.

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