SINGAPORE – Asia-Pacific stocks fell in trading on Friday, and Japanese stocks led regional losses as fears of a new variant of Covid weighed on investor sentiment.
The Nikkei 225 in Japan fell 2.69% while the Topix index fell 2.09%. SoftBank Group shares plunged about 5% after a Bloomberg report that Chinese regulators asked Didi, in which the Japanese conglomerate has a sizable stake, to withdraw from the US listing.
Those losses came after World Health Organization officials said Thursday they are monitoring a new variant with “a large number of mutations.” A special meeting has been scheduled for Friday to discuss its implications for vaccines and treatments.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index also posted heavy losses, falling 1.98%. The variant has been detected in Hong Kong, according to South African Health Minister Joe Phaahla.
In mainland China, the Shanghai component was down 0.5% while the Shenzhen component was down 0.207%.
South Korea’s Kospi fell 1.12%.
Australia’s S & P / ASX 200 fell 1.45%. Australian retail sales in October rose 4.9% month-on-month, seasonally adjusted, according to official estimates released on Friday. That was much higher than the 2.5% increase predicted in a Reuters poll.
MSCI’s broader Asia-Pacific stock index outside of Japan was trading 1.45% lower.
Travel stocks crashed
Markets in the US were closed Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Oil falls at least 2%
Oil prices fell in the morning of Asian business hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures falling 2.01% to $ 80.57 a barrel. US crude futures fell 2.54% to $ 76.40 a barrel.
The US dollar index, which tracks the dollar against a basket of its peers, was at 96.715, still above the levels below 96.5 seen earlier in the trading week.
The Japanese yen was trading at 114.70 per dollar, even weaker than the levels below 114.5 seen earlier this week. The Australian dollar stood at $ 0.714 after yesterday’s slide from levels above $ 0.72.