Asian shares slide from all-time highs; Oil falls on virus cascade

© Reuters. A man wearing a protective face mask walks past a screen displaying a chart showing the latest Nikkei stock average outside a broker during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Tokyo

From Swati Pandey

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Asian stocks retreated from record highs on Monday after a Reuters report the United States prepared to impose sanctions on some Chinese officials highlighted geopolitical tensions while oil prices fell on rising virus cases.

MSCI's broadest index for stocks in the Asia-Pacific region outside Japan fell 0.3% after four consecutive earnings sessions.

It's up 16% this year, the best since a 33% jump in 2017.

China's blue chip index fell 0.6% while Hong Kong's fell 1.2%.

declined 0.3% while Australian stocks rose 0.5%.

The e-mini futures for the fell 0.1% after a higher start.

The sell-off began after Reuters, citing sources, exclusively reported that the US was preparing sanctions against at least a dozen Chinese officials for their alleged role in Beijing's disqualification of elected opposition lawmakers in Hong Kong.

The move comes as President Donald Trump's administration continues to put pressure on Beijing in his final weeks in office.

Asian markets had initially started the week on a positive note in hopes of a faster global recovery as coronavirus vaccines launch in the UK starting this week.

The US authorities will continue to discuss the program this week ahead of the expected first round of vaccination this month.

We hope the vaccines will help contain the pandemic that has killed more than 1.5 million people worldwide in the past few weeks.

On Wall Street, stock indices hit new highs on Friday, with the Dow up 0.8%, the S&P 500 up 0.9% and the Nasdaq up 0.7%. ()

"The vaccine will break the link between mobility and infection rates and enable the strongest global GDP growth in more than two decades," JPMorgan (NYSE 🙂 analysts wrote in a note, forecasting global growth of 4.7% for the year 2021.

"After the second waves in October and November, economic activity surprised positively. This applies to both Europe and the US. This could be the reason why financial markets have largely ignored the increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths."

Still, expectations for a US incentive gained momentum after weak pay data last week after months of deadlocked negotiations.

The US economy hired the fewest workers in six months in November. The number of non-farm workers rose 245,000 last month, well below expectations for an increase of 469,000.

A non-partisan group of Democrats and Republicans proposed a $ 0.9 trillion compromise package, which leaders on both sides seem to be able to agree to.

In currencies, investors are focusing on the UK and European Union's final attempt to strike a trade deal this week after Brexit, with negotiators likely to have just a few days left to prevent a chaotic end-of-year separation.

If there is no agreement, a five-year Brexit divorce will end in chaos, just as the UK and its former EU partners are grappling with the high economic costs of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pound fell 0.06% to $ 1.3429 while the single currency rose 0.1% to $ 1.2132, not far from an April 2018 high of $ 1.2177.

The risk sensitive Australian dollar was barely changed at $ 0.7427.

With that, the US dollar fell 0.1% against a basket of major currencies to 90.715 after hitting a 2-1 / 2-year low last week.

In commodities, oil prices fell from their highest level since March as a sustained spike in coronavirus around the world forced a number of new locks, including tough new measures in Southern California. (OR)

was down 22 cents at $ 46.04 a barrel and 19 cents at $ 49.06. Brent has lost around a quarter of its value so far this year.

, which hit a record high of $ 2,072.49 an ounce, was last at $ 1,837.4 and is still up a whopping 21% this year.

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