Asian markets fall after Wall Street’s latest record

Asian markets fall after Wall Street’s latest record

Stocks retreat in Tokyo, Hong Kong

BEIJING — Asian stock markets declined Friday after Wall Street hit a new high on optimism about economic stimulus and coronavirus vaccine development despite a spike in U.S. unemployment claims.

Stocks in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul retreated.

Overnight, Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index gained for a third day on optimism about progress in Washington toward a new economic aid package while the government reported the highest level of new jobless claims in three months.

Market action suggested investors see “bad data is good news” for progress toward a stimulus, said Mizuho Bank in a report.

The Nikkei 225 NIK, -0.31% in Tokyo lost 0.2% while the Shanghai Composite Index SHCOMP, -0.50% edged up 0.1%. The Hang Seng HSI, -1.02% in Hong Kong lost 0.7%.

The Kospi 180721, 0.11% in Seoul rose 0.2% and Sydney’s S&P/ASX 200 XJO, -1.20% sank 0.7%. New Zealand NZ50GR, -1.60%, Singapore STI, -0.35% and Indonesia JAKIDX, +0.09% also retreated, while stocks inched up in Taiwan Y9999, -0.02%.

Investors have been waiting since before the American presidential election Nov. 3 for legislators to agree on new aid to replace unemployment benefits that are expiring. That loss in income undercuts consumer spending that powers the biggest global economy and demand for imports from Asian and other suppliers.

The Labor Department reported the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose to 885,000 last week, the highest level since September.

Progress in developing and distributing coronavirus vaccines has helped to buoy optimism the U.S. economy might start to recover next year.

Democrats and Republicans in Congress are locked in a fight divided by party lines over the size and scope of an aid package at a time when the economy is showing fresh signs of stalling due to pressure from the pandemic.

Despite that, the S&P 500 SPX, +0.58% rose 0.6% on Thursday to 3,722.48. The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.49% gained 0.5% to 30,303.37. The Nasdaq COMP, +0.84% added 0.8% to 12,764.75.

Investors received more encouragement from the Federal Reserve, which helped shore up the markets early in the pandemic.

The central bank has again pledged to keep buying bonds until the economy makes substantial progress. Still, the Fed has said it can only do so much to tide over the economy and that more financial support from Washington is critical for a continued recovery.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude CLF21, -0.45% lost 13 cents to $48.23 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose 54 cents on Thursday to $48.36. Brent crude BRNG21, -0.56%, the price standard for international oils, declined 21 cents to $51.29 per barrel in London. The contract rose 42 cents the previous session to $51.50.

The dollar USDJPY, 0.35% gained to 103.36 yen from Thursday’s 103.11 yen.

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