TOKYO: Asian shares were mixed in listless trading on Tuesday after US stocks finished mostly lower as cause for optimism, such as the Suez Canal reopening, mixed with caution about the vaccine rollout.
Japan’s benchmark slipped 0.1 percent in morning trading to 29,347.21. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 lost early gains to fall 0.4 percent to 6,772.10. South Korea’s Kospi added 0.6 percent to 3,053.78. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.3 percent to 28,408.74, while the Shanghai Composite slipped 0.3 percent to 3,423.83.
“Asia markets can be seen broadly treading water,” said Jingyi Pan, senior market strategist at IG in Singapore, adding the markets were “awaiting fresh catalysts to assume a definitive direction.”
One cause for market optimism was the reopening of the Suez Canal, one of the world’s most vital waterways, after a stuck cargo ship was freed.
At least 113 of over 420 vessels that had waited for the Ever Given to be freed were expected to cross the canal by Tuesday morning, Egypt time. It’s expected to take at least another 10 days to fully clear the backlog on either end.
Nomura stocks continued their slide, slipping nearly 3 percent in the morning session in Tokyo trading.
On Monday, Nomura Holdings and Swiss bank Credit Suisse said they’re facing potentially significant losses because of their dealings with a major client, though the exact magnitude is still unclear. Nomura estimated the claim against its client could be about $2 billion.
Credit Suisse said that it “and a number of other banks” are exiting trades they made with a significant US-based hedge fund, which defaulted on a “margin call” last week.
A margin call happens when a broker tells a client to put up cash after it borrowed money to make trades. News reports identified the client as New York-based Archegos Capital Management.
Shares of Credit Suisse and Nomura each nose-dived on Monday. US banks got caught in the downdraft as investors question whether the soured trades will be isolated or the effect will spread widely.
Hopes for economic recovery have been growing as the vaccine rollout moves along in parts of Europe as well as the United States, with reports the shots are proving effective in preventing serious illnesses. Developing economies were also getting the vaccine.
Japan was one exception, having among the slowest vaccine rollouts in Asia, with fewer than 1 percent of its population getting inoculated so far, all medical workers. Prospects for the general public getting the vaccine weren’t expected until the end of the year.