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Asian markets mostly lower as virus forces new lockdowns

Asian markets mostly lower as virus forces new lockdowns

HONG KONG: Asian markets mostly fell Monday with sentiment depressed by a spike in coronavirus infections that has forced fresh lockdowns and sparked worries about the impact on the world economy.

A lack of substantial progress by US lawmakers on a new stimulus package is also frustrating traders, while China-US tensions continued as the White House considers measures against Chinese tech firms, citing national security.

With the disease showing no sign of easing globally — total cases topped 18 million Monday — governments are moving to reimpose containment measures.

Australia’s Victoria state imposed fresh, sweeping restrictions Sunday, including a curfew in Melbourne for the next six weeks, a ban on wedding gatherings, and an order that schools and universities go back online in the coming days.

Britain introduced new measures in several northern counties at the end of last week, while there are reports the government is considering fresh moves to avert another economically painful national lockdown, including sealing off London.

The new wave of infections has fanned fears that a nascent economic recovery will be knocked off track.

“COVID-19 either remains rampant or is making worrying localised comebacks across the world,” said Jeffrey Halley at OANDA.

“Although not priced into financial markets yet, it remains the critical risk factor to global recovery. Particularly if key economies that had previously controlled COVID-19 are forced back into large scale lockdowns again.”

Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose more than two percent as investors picked up cheap stocks following a steep drop last week, while there was also some cheer in data showing the country’s economy contracted less than first thought in January-March.

Shanghai put on 1.8 percent following a forecast-beating reading on factory activity from Caixin, days after a strong official report showed improvement in the manufacturing sector. Seoul edged up slightly.