SYDNEY, RAW – Asian shares are wavering amid worries that problems with vaccine rollouts combined with new strains of COVID-19 will delay a global economic recovery that has already been baked into the market’s rich valuations.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.4 per cent early on Monday, following four straight sessions of losses. Japan’s Nikkei bounced 0.4 per cent after shedding almost 2 per cent on Friday.
Futures for the S&P 500 lost another 0.7 per cent in heavy trade, while NASDAQ futures fell 0.9 per cent.
Dealers were also warily awaiting new developments in the headline-grabbing battle between retail investors and funds specialising in shorting stocks.
US hedge funds bought and sold the most stock in more than 10 years amid wild swings in GameStop Corp, according to analysis by Goldman Sachs.
Talk on Monday was that silver was the new target for the retail crowd as the metal jumped 5.7 per cent to a six-month high .
Yet many analysts see this entertaining episode as a sideshow compared to signs of a loss of momentum in the United States and Europe as coronavirus lockdowns bite.
A survey from China on Sunday showed factory activity grew at the slowest pace in five months in January as restrictions took a toll in some regions.
Neither was news on vaccine rollouts positive, especially given doubts about whether they will work on new COVID strains.
“It is these considerations, not what is happening to a video gamer retailer day to day, that has weighed on risk assets,” said John Briggs at NatWest Markets.
“So much of the market’s valuations, risk in particular, is premised on the fact we can see a light at the end of the COVID tunnel.”
Doubts have also emerged about the future of President Joe Biden’s $US1.9 ($A2.5) trillion relief package, with 10 Republican senators urging a $US600 billion plan.
The jitters in stocks caused only a brief ripple in bonds with Treasury yields actually rising late last week, perhaps a refection of the tidal wave of borrowing underway.
A record $US1.11 trillion of gross Treasury issuance is slated for this quarter, up from $US685 billion the same time last year.
Early Monday, US 10-year yields held at 1.07 per cent and near the recent 10-month top of 1.187 per cent.
Higher yields combined with the more cautious market mood have seen the safe-haven dollar steady above its recent lows. The dollar index stood at 90.628, having bounced from a trough of 89.206 hit early in January.
The euro idled at $1.2121, well off its recent peak at $1.2349, while the dollar held firm at 104.74 yen.
Gold followed silver higher to $1,853 an ounce but has repeatedly stalled at resistance around $1,875.
Global demand concerns kept oil prices in check. US crude eased 30 cents to $US51.90 a barrel, while Brent crude futures dropped 20 cents to $US54.84.