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Asian Shares Mixed Amid Economic Aid Hopes, Pandemic Fears

Asian Shares Mixed Amid Economic Aid Hopes, Pandemic Fears

Asian shares were mixed Monday as hopes for more U.S. economic aid were countered by fears over spreading damage from the pandemic.

NEW YORK: Stocks are slipping Monday as trading cools on Wall Street and in markets around the world following their strong record-setting runs.

The S&P 500 was 0.8% lower in early trading and on pace to take a breather from a four-day winning streak that carried it to more all-time highs. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 190 points, or 0.6%, at 30,907, as of 9:45 a.m. Eastern time, and the Nasdaq composite was 1.4% lower.

From stocks to bond yields to commodities, markets have been pushing ever higher recently amid a wave of optimism. With Democrats set to take control of Washington, investors expect Congress to try soon to deliver more stimulus to the economy through larger cash payments for Americans and other programs. Thats building on top of enthusiasm already built about a powerful economic recovery coming later this year as COVID-19 vaccines roll out.

But the big rally means stocks and other investments are even more expensive than they were just a week ago, leaving critics to say theyve gone too high. One of the main ways professional investors gauge a stocks value is by measuring its price against how much profit it made in the prior 12 months. Stocks in the S&P 500 are now trading at close to 29 times their earnings. Thats a much more expensive price tag than their average over the last decade of a little below 18.

At the same time, the worsening pandemic continues to slam the economy. U.S. employers cut more jobs last month than they added, for example, the first month of job losses since last spring. New, potentially more contagious strains of the coronavirus are helping the pandemic to tighten its grip on the economy around the world.

In the background, political uncertainty also continues to hang over markets. Democrats are pushing for the removal of President Donald Trump, who has less than two weeks left in his term, after his words helped incite a group of loyalists to storm the Capitol last week.

Shares of Twitter sank 9.6% for the largest loss in the S&P 500 after it banned Trump from his account and his 89 million followers. Twitter cited the risk of further incitement of violence, but the move has drawn a lot of anger from Trump loyalists and conservatives who may abandon the service and ask for more regulatory scrutiny of the company. Facebook fell 3.9% after it suspended Trumps accounts.

One area of the market that continues to climb is in the bond market. Treasury yields have been shooting higher, in part on expectations that the U.S. government is set to borrow a lot more money for stimulus programs. That has investors raising their expectations for economic growth and inflation, and the yield on the 10-year Treasury climbed to 1.12% from 1.09% late Friday. It was at just 0.89% at the end of 2020.

Higher long-term yields can put pressure on stock prices and make them look even more expensive. Thats because when bonds are paying investors more in interest to own them, they can pull buyers away from stocks. In general, higher interest rates make investors less willing to pay higher prices for stocks relative to their earnings.

Strategists at Morgan Stanley have been saying for months that bond yields may be set for a big rise, and they said in a report on Monday that stocks may have hit their peak for how much investors are willing to pay for each $1 of corporate earnings. If theyre right, it puts more pressure on companies to grow their earnings for their stock prices to rise further or even to hold steady.

Analysts expect strong profit growth to return for companies later this year as the economy recovers. But in upcoming weeks, when CEOs are scheduled to tell shareholders how much profit they made during the last three months of 2020, Wall Street expects to see a sharp drop. Analysts forecast S&P 500 companies to report a decline of nearly 9% in earnings per share from a year earlier, according to FactSet. If theyre right, it would be the third-worst drop since the summer of 2009.

In European stock markets, Germanys DAX lost 1.3%, and Frances CAC 40 fell 1.1%. The FTSE 100 in London dropped 1.2%.

In Asian stock markets, South Koreas Kospi slipped 0.1%, Hong Kongs Hang Seng edged 0.1% higher and stocks in Shanghai fell 1.1%.

Japanese markets were closed for a national holiday. Adding to concerns over surging numbers of coronavirus infections in the worlds third-largest economy, another new variant of the virus was reported over the weekend among several people who had arrived from Brazil.

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AP Business Writer Yuri Kageyama contributed.

Disclaimer: This post has been auto-published from an agency feed without any modifications to the text and has not been reviewed by an editor


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