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James Hyerczyk
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Asia Pacific Shares

The major Asia-Pacific stock indexes finished mixed on Thursday as some investors booked profits and squared positions ahead of the new year. Others reacted to Wall Street’s lower close, while some bought stocks in anticipation of a better global economy in 2021.

The overnight news was light with investors closely watching for any fresh fiscal stimulus news from the United States. China also released a new report on its 2019 GDP growth. The U.S. Dollar also continued to weaken against a basket of major currencies, signaling that demand for risk would likely remain at heightened levels.

Wednesday’s Performances

In the cash market on Wednesday, Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index settled at 27444.17, down 123.98 or -0.45%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index finished at 27147.11, up 578.62 or +2.18% and South Korea’s KOSPI Index closed at 2873.47, up 52.96 or +1.88%.

In China, the Shanghai Index settled at 3414.45, up 35.42 or +1.05% and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index finished at 6682.40, down 17.90 or -0.27%.

Wednesday was the final trading day in 2020 for stocks in Japan and South Korea as their markets will be closed on Thursday.

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US Politics

In Washington, lawmakers continued to disagree over direct payments to Americans. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s effort to fast-track the bill, passed by the House late Monday, that would increase checks to $2,000 from $600.

Although many Republican Senators remain adamantly opposed, worried about the cost to taxpayers, support is growing among them, including two from Georgia, who are running in the crucial races that will determine who will control the Senate.

China’s Blue-Chip, Start-up Indexes Hit Over Five-Year High on Growth Hopes

China’s blue-chip index and start-up board ChiNext both hit their highest in more than five years on Wednesday, as Asian stocks hit a record on hopes of a strong economic recovery next year.

Investors shrugged off the move by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to strengthen an executive order barring U.S. investment in Chinese firms with alleged military backing.

In other related news, global index publisher FTSE Russell said it may delete more Chinese companies from its global benchmarks in response.

Most sectors climbed, with energy and resources gaining the most. Investors are anticipating a robust economic recovery as several nations seek to contain the coronavirus spread with vaccines.

Some internet firms, which witnessed panic-selling earlier this week due to Beijing’s anti-trust probe into Alibaba Group, and its affiliate Ant Group, rebounded sharply on Wednesday.

Nikkei Slips from over 30-year High, but Posts Gains for 2020

Japan’s Nikkei share average ended lower on the last trading day of the year, retreating from a more than three-decade high hit in the previous session as investors booked profits, but it logged gains for a second straight year.

On the year, the Nikkei was up 16% compared to an 18.2% gain in 2019. It rose nearly 18.4% in the quarter, marking the biggest quarterly gain since the three months ended March 2013.

Japanese financial markets will be closed from Thursday and reopen on Monday, January 4.

For a look at all of today’s economic events, check out our economic calendar.

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