Asian shares mostly higher despite lingering energy worries


japantoday– Asian shares were mostly higher on Monday despite persisting worries about the region’s energy crunch and coronavirus infections.

Benchmarks in Japan and China rose in early trading, while South Korean markets were closed for a national holiday. Shares fell in Australia.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida calmed worries in Japan by backing away from comments suggesting he favored raising taxes on capital gains and dividends. The possibility of such an increase had spooked investors after he took office a week ago.

U.S. stock indexes closed lower last week following a disappointing jobs report. This week, attention turns to inflation numbers due out on Wednesday, and upcoming corporate earnings.

Tokyo’s benchmark Nikkei 225 jumped 1.5% to 28,455.71 in afternoon trading. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dipped 0.3% to 7,299.80. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng surged 1.8% to 25,296.08, while the Shanghai Composite added 0.2% to 3,598.38. South Korean markets were closed for a national holiday.

Revving up the world’s third largest economy remains an important mission for Kishida, but he is widely seen as the choice of the old guard of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which has dominated politics since World War II. Some critics say change is needed if the nation hopes to remain competitive, especially when the pandemic has created new kinds of problems, ranging from shifts in work styles to supply shortages.

The rally could be short-lived as other worries remain. Like Europe, Asia is seeing fuel shortages that could hinder recoveries from the pandemic.

“The energy crisis also continues, with India and China both flagging blackouts that will hit supply chains from another angle, and China seeing massive flooding in the coal-producing region it is relying on to keep the lights running,” RaboResearch said in a market commentary.

The weak U.S. jobs report Friday raised questions about the Federal Reserve’s timeline for paring back its immense support for markets. The S&P 500 fell 0.2% to 4,391.34. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell less than 0.1%, to 34,746.25, while the Nasdaq composite slid 0.5%, to 14,579.54.

Much of Wall Street had assumed that the job market had improved enough for the Fed to soon begin paring back its monthly purchases of bonds meant to hold down longer-term interest rates. But Friday’s jobs report showed that employers added just 194,000 jobs last month, well short of the 479,000 that economists expected.

Inflation remains a concern, and many investors still expect the Fed to stick to its timetable.

In energy trading, U.S. benchmark crude jumped $1.49 to $80.84 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose $1.05 to $79.35 on Friday. Brent crude, the international standard, gained $1.18 to $83.57 a barrel.

In currency trading, the U.S. dollar rose to 112.72 Japanese yen from 112.21 yen. The euro cost $1.1579, up from $1.1571.