Asian Markets Mixed Amid Omicron Worries And Inflation Uncertainty

Asian Markets Mixed Amid Omicron Worries And Inflation Uncertainty

As countries battled the spread of the omicron coronavirus variety, Asian stocks were neutral on Monday, the first day of the year's last trading week.

The Nikkei 225 index NIK in Tokyo fell 0.2 percent, while Seoul's Kospi fell 0.4 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index, or SHCOMP, increased by 0.2 percent.

Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Australia all had their markets shut.

Comments by China’s central bank, or People’s Bank of China, about support for the economy highlighted differences in stance among major economies in balancing the need to support economic recoveries from the pandemic while keeping inflation in check.

When the pandemic initially hit the world economy in early 2020, the Federal Reserve was one of a few central banks that began decreasing interest rates or otherwise reducing the extra support they gave.

In a statement, Mizuho Bank stated, "The divergences in global monetary policy are certain to sharpen moving into the new year, especially given the PBOC's pronouncement that it will stay 'proactive' in its use of monetary policy instruments."

"With omicron instances on the rise across China, forcing regions into lockdowns and tougher social restrictions, the necessity for further growth support is becoming evident," the report added. This came after a mixed day of sluggish trade on Friday, when many markets across the world were closed or closed early for the Christmas holiday.

As concerns about the possible impact of omicron breakouts faded last week, the S&P 500 struck a new high. However, much remains unknown about the variety, which is growing at an alarming rate, prompting the reinstatement of pandemic restrictions in some areas.

Hundreds of flights were canceled in the United States during the holiday weekend due to COVID-related staffing issues, according to airlines. In a daily report, France recorded more than 100,000 new cases.

As omicron outbreaks challenge efforts to avoid further lockdowns as hospitals continue to be strained by delta variant illnesses, authorities in several countries have increased immunization efforts.

Wall Street's benchmark S&P 500 index SPX had risen 0.6 percent the day before to establish a new high as market concerns about how adversely the omicron type might affect the economy waned at a time when inflation in the US is at a nearly four-decade high.

In electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange on Monday, U.S. benchmark crude oil CLG22 dropped 63 cents to $73.16 a barrel. Brent crude oil BRNG22 climbed 19 cents to $75.98 per barrel.

The dollar USDJPY was trading at 114.45 yen, up from 114.38 yen late Friday.