Asia stocks mostly higher as hopes for a coronavirus vaccine rise – CNBC

Stocks in Asia shed earlier gains and were mixed on Wednesday as concerns over U.S.-China tensions weighed on investor sentiment.

Mainland Chinese stocks led losses on the day regionally among the region’s major markets, with the Shanghai composite down 1.56% to about 3,361.30 while the Shenzhen component shed 1.874% to around 13,734.13. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index also declined 0.28%, as of its final hour of trading.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 gained 1.59% to close at 22,945.50 while the Topix index added 1.56% to end its trading day at 1,589.51. South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.84% to close at 2,201.88.

Over in Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 closed 1.88% higher at 6,052.90.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index rose 0.55%.

Bank Julius Baer’s Bhaskar Laxminarayan said Asia’s markets are “taking the cues from the global environment.”

“Equities in general … is the only game in town,” Laxminarayan, who is Asia chief investment officer at the firm, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday. “Chances of making any kind of return on a risk-adjusted basis really rests on the shoulders of equities now.”

U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he signed legislation to impose sanctions on China in response to its interference with Hong Kong’s autonomy. Trump also said he signed an executive order ending Hong Kong’s special status with the U.S.

Investors on Wednesday also watched for reaction to the latest developments surrounding a potential vaccine for the coronavirus. Biotech firm Moderna‘s potential vaccine to prevent produced a “robust” immune response, or neutralizing antibodies, in all 45 patients in its early stage human trial, according to newly released data published in the peer-reviewed New England Journal of Medicine.

Meanwhile, the Bank of Japan said in its outlook report on Wednesday that the country’s economy is “likely to improve gradually” from the second of this year, though the pace is “expected to be only moderate” as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic remains globally.

“For the time being, the Bank will closely monitor the impact of COVID-19 and will not hesitate to take additional easing measures if necessary, and also it expects short- and long-term policy interest rates to remain at their present or lower levels,” the BoJ said.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 96.127 after touching an earlier low of 96.06.

The Japanese yen traded at 107.13 per dollar after touching levels around 107.4 against the greenback yesterday. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.699 following an earlier high of $0.7018.

Oil prices edged higher in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures up 0.33% to $43.04 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also gained 0.37% to $40.44 per barrel.

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