December 8, 2020

By Pete Schroeder

(Reuters) – Asian stocks came under pressure in early trade on Tuesday as investors struggled to balance hopes for more economic stimulus and vaccines with anxiety over the growing number of COVID-19 cases.

A mixed Asian open followed a similarly mixed Wall Street session with the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite closing at a record high as investors flocked to mega-cap growth stocks while the two other major U.S. indices fell.

“You saw more than a slight moderation to the S&P 500, and the Dow, but you’re still looking at these markets at record highs,” said Tom Piotrowski, a market analyst with CommSec. “It’s a matter of looking out for what the next catalyst is for these markets.”

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.13% in early trade. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 inched up 0.09% in while Japan’s Nikkei 225 fell 0.63%.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index futures were up 0.31%.

On Wall Street, the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.45% while the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.49% and the S&P 500 lost 0.19%.

Investors are watching whether U.S. policymakers can reinvigorate efforts to pass additional pandemic stimulus. The U.S. Congress is expected to vote this week on a one-week stopgap funding bill to give negotiators more time to strike a compromise, as the business community cautioned inaction could spur a deeper recession.

At the same time, California, the nation’s most populous state, announced new restrictions on travel and business activity after record case numbers and hospitalizations. And officials in New York warned similar restrictions could be employed soon, which further weigh on the nation’s recovery.

The dollar slid against most currencies on Monday as investors eyed potential stimulus and vaccine development. An index that tracks the dollar against a basket of currencies was little changed at 90.843, not far from 90.471, its weakest since April 2018. But U.S. Treasury yields did fall on Monday as investors bought the safe-haven securities.

Brent crude fell 0.9% and U.S. crude dipped 1.1%. Prices came under pressure after Reuters reported that the U.S. was prepping sanctions on at least a dozen Chinese officials over alleged roles in Beijing’s disqualification of elected opposition legislators in Hong Kong.

Spot gold prices were 1.3% higher at $1,860.49 per ounce, and U.S. gold futures settled up 1.4% at $1,866, as investors bet on more stimulus money being pumped into the financial system.

(Reporting by Pete Schroeder; additional reporting by Suzanne Barlyn; Editing by Sam Holmes)

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