Asian Shares Rise As Omicron Fears Ease

Asian stocks reversed early losses to end broadly higher on Friday amid hopes that the Omicron Covid-19 variant would prove to be milder than previous strains and existing vaccines can hold up against it.

Chinese shares advanced after the latest survey from Caixin showed the services sector in China continued to expand in November, albeit at a slower pace, with a PMI score of 52.1, down from 53.8 in October.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index gained 33.60 points, or 0.9 percent, to finish at 3,607.43, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index dipped 22.24 points, or 0.1 percent, to end at 23,766.69.

Japanese shares rallied as the yen weakened and a survey showed the services sector in the country expanded at a faster pace in November. The Nikkei 225 Index jumped 276.20 points, or 1.0 percent, to 28,029.57, while the broader Topix closed 1.6 percent higher at 1,957.86.

Among the top gainers, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha soared 12.9 percent, Dentsu surged 5.6 percent and Mitsui O.S.K. Lines added 5.3 percent.

Seoul stocks rose for the third day running on strong foreign buying. The Kospi climbed 23.06 points, or 0.8 percent, to 2,968.33 as health authorities strengthened virus curbs amid spiking Covid-19 cases. Lender Kakao Bank jumped 3.9 percent, while chipmaker SK Hynix lost 1.7 percent.

Australian markets eked out modest gains, with banks and energy stocks pacing the gainers. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index inched up 16 points, or 0.2 percent, to 7,241.20, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 7.50 points at 7,543.60.

Woodside Petroleum, Santos and Oil Search climbed 1-3 percent as oil extended overnight gains after the OPEC decision to stick to their existing policy of monthly oil output increases.

The big four banks rose between 0.7 percent and 1.3 percent. On the losing side, TPG Telecom slumped 8.6 percent after Chairman David Teoh cut his stake in the telecom giant.

New Zealand shares fluctuated before ending flat with a positive bias.

U.S. stocks advanced overnight to snap a two-day losing streak. The Dow climbed 1.8 percent, the S&P 500 gained 1.4 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose 0.8 percent as the Biden administration unveiled its plan for battling Covid-19 this winter.

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