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Asian shares slip as global rally eases off the accelerator

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares were mostly lower Thursday in Asia after another day of wobbly trading on Wall Street as markets eased off the accelerator following their big rally. Japan's Nikkei 225 shed 0.4% to 22,365.00 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong also fell 0.4%, to 24,385.84. South Korea's Kospi slipped 0.5% to 2,130.52.

The Shanghai Composite index gained 0.2% to 2,941.64 after the central bank reportedly conducted market operations to inject cash ahead of mid-year settlements. India's Sensex edged 0.2% higher to 33,567.50 and shares also rose in Taiwan but fell in Southeast Asia.

Sydney's S&P/ASX 200 skidded 1% to 5,934.80 after the government reported that unemployment surpassed 7% and would have been above 9% if the figure included people laid off and not officially looking for work.

Some 228,000 jobs were lost for a total of 835,000 jobs lost in two months' time, the government reported. “These are devastating unemployment numbers, they reveal the true pain and hurt that Australians are going through as a result of the coronavirus," said the Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg.

“These are not just numbers. These are our friends, family members, workmates and neighbors,” he said. The jobless data just added to the gloom, said Jeffrey Halley of Oanda. Eratic moves by North Korea and antagonisms between China and India in Kashmir have added to the unease.

“Covid-19 fears in Beijing and parts of the United States and geopolitical concerns in Asia continue to weigh on sentiment," he said. Chinese e-commerce firm JD.com’s stock jumped nearly 6% on its debut in Hong Kong on Thursday after the firm raised $3.9 billion in a share sale.

JD.com is already listed on Nasdaq in New York. It opened at $239 Hong Kong dollars per share on Thursday, up from its offer price of $226 Hong Kong dollars each. The company’s strong debut comes as a growing number of Chinese technology companies choose to list in Hong Kong amid a deterioration of U.S.-China relations and regulatory pressures.

Chinese gaming firm NetEase also debuted in Hong Kong last week, raising about $2.7 billion with its stock closing up 6% on the first day of trading. NetEase is also listed in New York. JD.com rival Alibaba Group Holding held a secondary listing in Hong Kong in November, raising over $13 billion in the largest initial public offering of 2019.

Overnight, the S&P 500 dipped 0.4% to break a three-day winning streak, closing at 3,113.49. Roughly seven out of every 10 stocks in the index declined. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 0.6% to 26,119.61, while the Nasdaq composite edged 0.1% higher, to 9,910.53.

Stocks of smaller companies were weak, which is typical when investors are apprehensive about the economy. The Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks fell 1.8%. Markets have been trending upward this week amid hopes that the worst of the recession may have already passed, and a worldwide rally on Tuesday carried the S&P 500 back to within 8% of its record. But rising levels of coronavirus infections in hotspots around the world are also raising concerns that all the improvements could get upended.

Many professional investors have been warning that the S&P 500’s big rally of nearly 40% since late March has been overdone and that volatility is likely the market’s only certainty in upcoming months.

Even if authorities don’t reinstate widespread lockdowns to fight fresh coronavirus outbreaks, the worry is that businesses and consumers could get frightened by new waves of infections and pull back on their spending.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury fell to 0.71% from 0.72% late Wednesday. It tends to move with investors’ expectations for the economy and inflation. A barrel of U.S. crude oil for delivery in July slipped 33 cents to $37.63 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gave up 42 cents to settle at $37.96 on Wednesday. Brent crude, the international standard, slipped 16 cents to $40.55 per barrel.

In currency trading, the dollar bought 106.83 Japanese yen, down from 106.97 yen on Thursday. The euro edged higher to $1.1252 from $1.1243.

AP Business Writer Zen Soo in Hong Kong contributed.

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