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Asian shares mixed following Biden speech, Wall St retreat
AP

Asian shares mixed following Biden speech, Wall St retreat

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Asian shares were mixed on Friday after a late slide in several Big Tech stocks left major indexes lower on Wall Street.

U.S. futures were trading slightly lower after President-elect Joe Biden announced his plans to propose a $1.9 billion package to help along a recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. Biden spoke about the plan after Thursday’s market close.

Biden's coronavirus plan would include $1,400 checks for individuals, on top of $600 provided in the last COVID-19 bill. The plan would also extend a temporary boost in unemployment benefits and a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures through September. It also provides funds for a mass vaccination campaign and a major expansion of local public health efforts.

Markets have been mostly charging higher recently amid growing optimism that the rollout of coronavirus vaccines will set the stage for a big rebound for the economy and corporate profits later this year. Expectations are also rising for another round of stimulus coming for the economy because Democrats are set to soon have control of Congress and the White House.

Investors are hoping that more government stimulus can tide the economy over until COVID-19 vaccines get daily life back toward normal and trigger a powerful recovery later this year.

But the hopes are tempered by the reality that Biden may struggle to win support for massive spending, even from some Democrats, analysts say.

“To some extent, most of this optimism had been priced in, but the huge figures had also invited some contemplation as to whether the necessary bipartisan support will materialize for this huge sum," Jingyi Pan of IG said in a commentary. “The market appears to be playing it safe," she said.

Japan's Nikkei 225 slipped 0.2% to 28,639.05 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong rose 0.4% to 28,610.09. In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 also added 0.4% to 6,731.50. South Korea's Kospi skidded 1.2% to 3,112.45 while the Shanghai Composite index shed 0.2% to 3,560.64.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 fell 0.4% to 3,795.54. The benchmark index was weighed down by losses in Apple, Microsoft and other huge tech companies.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 0.2% to 30,991.52. The Nasdaq composite edged 0.1% lower, to 13,112.64. The indexes are still close to their record highs set last week.

The retreat followed another discouraging report showing how much damage the economy is taking as the pandemic worsens. Last week, 965,000 more U.S. workers filed for unemployment benefits as businesses shutter and lay off employees. That’s up sharply from the prior week’s tally of 784,000, and much worse than economists expected.

Several analysts said they expect investors to continue to focus on hopes for a brighter future as temperatures warm and more people get vaccines.

“Further, a bleaker than expected jobs report translates into a greater likelihood for a full-throated stimulus package, which perversely acts as a tailwind for the market,” said Mike Loewengart, managing director of investment strategy at E-Trade Financial.

Stocks of companies that would benefit in particular from a healthier, reopening economy held up best Thursday.

Smaller companies jumped more than the rest of the market, as they often do when investors are upgrading their expectations for the economy. The Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks rose 2.1% to 2,155.35.

Airlines, oil producers and cruise-ship operators also clawed back more of their steep losses from last year, when sales for many of them suddenly vanished because of the pandemic.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury was 1.11% early Friday, down from 1.13% on Thursday but above its 1.07% level the day before. The 10-year yield was at 0.90% less two weeks ago, before two runoff elections in Georgia gave control of the Senate to Democrats.

In other trading, U.S. benchmark crude oil gained 4 cents to $53.61 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It climbed 66 cents t $53.57 on Thursday. Brent crude, the international standard lost 14 cents to $56.28 per barrel.

The dollar slipped to 103.79 Japanese yen from 103.82 yen on Thursday. The euro weakened to $1.2152 from $1.2155.

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AP Business writers Stan Choe, Damian J. Troise and Alex Veiga contributed.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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