Asian benchmarks appeared to be still steeped in worries about the growing number of coronavirus cases in some areas, and the painful impact of lockdowns, especially in Southeast Asia. “The hope is for a smooth recovery as lockdowns ease, but the fear is that global ‘second wave’ risks and rising U.S.-China tensions may throw a spanner at ... recovery in the works,” said Hayaki Narita at Mizuho Bank in Singapore.
Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 slipped 0.4% to finish at 22,329.94, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 sank 0.6% to 6,004.80. South Korea's Kospi edged 0.5% higher to 2,353.81. Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 1.7% to 24,511.25, while the Shanghai Composite lost 0.6% to 3,365.13.
Toyota Motor Corp. shares gained more than 1% in afternoon trading after Japan's top automaker reported that it managed to stay in the black in April-June, despite plunging sales. Nintendo Co. stock also climbed, gaining 2.6%, after the Japanese video-game maker reported healthy profits as people stuck at home snatched up game software.
Overnight, the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 0.7%, to 27,386.98 after waffling between smaller gains and losses for much of the day. The Nasdaq composite rose 1%, to 11,108.07 and set another record.
The day’s headline economic report showed that nearly 1.2 million workers applied for unemployment benefits last week. It would have been an astounding number before the coronavirus pandemic leveled the economy. But it’s a slight slowdown from the prior week’s tally, and it was also not as bad as economists were expecting.
It was also the first drop in jobless claims following two weeks of increases, and economists called it an encouraging step. But the threat of more business closures due to the continuing pandemic means the path remains treacherous.
Benchmark U.S. crude oil dropped 6 cents to $41.89 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It slipped 24 cents to settle at $41.95 per barrel Thursday. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 6 cents to $45.03 a barrel.
The U.S. dollar inched up to 105.56 Japanese yen from 105.53 yen. The euro fell to $1.1844 from $1.1877.