BEIJING, China. December 4, 2020 (AP) — Asian stock markets followed Wall Street lower Friday after Pfizer Inc. cut the number of doses of a planned coronavirus vaccine it might ship this year. Benchmarks in Shanghai, Tokyo and Hong Kong, which are the bulk of the region’s market value, retreated while Sydney advanced. Wall Street’s benchmark S&P- 500 index closed 0.1% lower on Thursday, falling short of a new record, after Pfizer reduced the number of vaccine doses it might ship this year by half to 50 million.
The company told The Wall Street Journal testing and setting up a supply chain took longer than expected. Also Thursday, U.S. health authorities reported a one-day record of 3,157 virus deaths. “Before we can make new gains, there is the usual sentiment tug of war between medium-term optimism and near-term COVID-19 despair,” said Stephen Innes of Axi in a report.
The Shanghai Composite Index lost 0.6% to 3,423.35 and the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo sank 0.5% to 26.680.68. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong retreated 0.2% to 26,685.59. The Kospi in Seoul gained 1.6% to 2,739.21 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 was 0.4% higher at 6,640.60. New Zealand and Jakarta declined while Singapore advanced. Investor sentiments have risen on hopes one or more coronavirus vaccines might be available next year despite the challenges of making and distributing billions of doses that must be kept frozen.
On Wall Street, the S&P 500 slipped to 3,666.72. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.3% to 29,969.52. The Nasdaq composite added 0.2% to 12,377.18. Investors have been encouraged by signs that Democrats and Republicans in Washington may get past their bitter partisanship to reach a deal to provide more financial support for the economy.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spoke Thursday after Pelosi signaled a willingness to make major concessions in search of a coronavirus rescue package. President-elect Joe Biden urged Congress on Wednesday to pass a relief bill now, with more aid to come next year. An industry group reported Thursday that U.S. service industries grew in November but the pace slowed for a second month.
The Institute for Supply Management’s index of services activity declined to 55.9 from October’s 56.6. Readings above 50 represent expansion in industries such as restaurants and bars, retail stores and delivery companies. A separate report said fewer Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week than forecast, though economists cautioned that number may have been distorted by the Thanksgiving Day holiday.
Oil prices edged higher after OPEC and allied countries including Russia agreed Thursday to increase oil production by 500,000 barrels per day starting from January. They slashed output earlier to shore up price as the pandemic and controls on business and travel depressed demand. Benchmark U.S. crude gained 68 cents to $46.32 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
The contract rose 36 cents on Thursday to $45.64 a barrel. Brent crude, used to price international oils, was 91 cents higher to $49.62 per barrel in London. It added 46 cents the previous session to $48.71 a barrel. The dollar declined to 103.83 yen from Thursday’s 103.97 yen. The euro edged up to $1.2145 from $1.2143.