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Asian markets, US stock futures mixed after tepid Tuesday on Wall Street

Asian markets, US stock futures mixed after tepid Tuesday on Wall Street

New York/Hong Kong: Asia Pacific markets were mixed Wednesday, following losses on Wall Street as investors continue to look out for more signs of economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index (HSI) fell 0.7%. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 and China’s Shanghai Composite (SHCOMP) each dropped 0.3%. South Korea’s Kospi (KOSPI) lost 0.2%. Japan’s Nikkei (N225), though, was last up 0.4%, reversing earlier losses.

US stock futures were also mixed after declines Tuesday on Wall Street. Dow (INDU) futures dropped slightly. S&P 500 (SPX) futures were up about 0.1% and Nasdaq Composite (COMP) futures were up 0.4%. All three major indexes finished lower in regular trading, erasing what had started out as a strong day.

Caution has prevailed as investors weigh the effects of the pandemic, said Jingyi Pan, a strategist for IG Group.

There are some signs of improvement. Fatalities and infections seem to be slowing in Italy, Spain and France, which are among the hardest-hit countries in Europe — and the rest of the world. Meanwhile, China lifted its lockdown on Wuhan, the original epicenter of the coronavirus crisis, on Wednesday, two days after the country reported no new deaths for the first time since late January.

But the global economic impact has been dramatic. Many countries in Europe, for example, are now thinking about how to re-open factories, offices and schools while minimizing the chance of further outbreaks.

This week is also a shortened one for many stock exchanges. Those in the United States, Europe, Hong Kong, and Australia will close later this week for the Easter holiday.

In oil, meanwhile, US crude settled Tuesday sharply lower at $23.63 a barrel, down 9.4% from the previous day. Futures were last up 5.7%, though, to trade at $24.97 a barrel.

Brent crude — the global benchmark — was up about 2.4% to $32.64 a barrel on Wednesday morning.

The rise in oil prices arrives days ahead of an OPEC meeting with Russia on Thursday to discuss oil production cuts in response to plummeting demand and to deescalate a price war.