WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Asian stocks were set for gains on Friday although trade was likely to be choppy after a mixed Wall Street session with investor focus swinging between concerns about a second pandemic wave and more upbeat hopes about an economic recovery.
Fresh contagion concerns have dominated the market focus this week with mixed data on infections jolting sentiment.
On Thursday around 400 workers at a slaughterhouse in northern Germany tested positive for the virus. At the same time, gold prices eased a bit after a Chinese medical expert said Beijing has brought a recent outbreak under control.
All three major U.S. stock indexes were range-bound and oscillated through much of the day as investors struggled to interpret the impact of U.S. employment data without any guidance from corporations on their earnings.
“The market’s looking for its next big impulse,” said Chuck Carlson, chief executive officer at Horizon Investment Services in Hammond, Indiana. “There are a lot of impulses in the market for investors to weigh, sift through and take into account to figure out the next direction.”
Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank President Loretta Mester said it could take a year or two for the U.S. economy to return to pre-pandemic levels, with the gross domestic product declining by 6% in 2020 and the unemployment rate still around 9% by year’s end.
Australian S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.5%, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 .N225 was up 0.7%. South Korea’s KOSPI .KS11 rose 0.3%.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index futures .HSI .HSIc1 were mostly unchanged.
MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe .MIWD00000PUS shed 0.08% while emerging market stocks rose 0.06%.
“The uncertainty that has acted to pause any further price gains in U.S. stocks is centered on concerns over a second wave of COVID-19, continued concerns over the state of the U.S. economy in a post pandemic landscape and increasingly strident concern over the upcoming 2020 elections – as framed by recent civil unrest,” said Peter Kenny, founder of New York-based Kenny’s Commentary LLC and Strategic Board Solutions LLC.
On Wall Street, The Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 0.15%, but the S&P 500 .SPX added 0.06%.
The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC rose 0.33% after spending much of the session lower.
China’s markets have provided investors with some cheer with the blue-chip CSI300 shares .CSI300 adding 0.7% on Thursday, helped by reassurances from its central bank governor that the world’s second-largest economy would maintain ample financial liquidity this year.
In currency markets, the Japanese yen strengthened 0.01% versus the greenback at 106.96 per dollar, while sterling GBP= was last trading at $1.2425, up 0.01% on the day.
U.S. Treasury yields rose as did crude oil as worries about fuel demand in light of rising coronavirus cases were offset by data showing lower U.S. inventories of gasoline and distillates, indicating higher demand.
Benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury notes US10YT=RR fell in price to yield to 0.7068%, from 0.694% late on Thursday.
U.S. crude CLc1 recently rose 0.77% to $39.14 per barrel and Brent LCOc1 was little changed on the day
U.S. gold futures GCc1 settled down $1,724.80 an ounce.
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