Asian Shares End Choppy Session Mostly Higher

Asian stocks ended a choppy session mostly higher on Wednesday as U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden battled it out for the White House, with no clear winner emerging yet in a tight contest.

There is a broad consensus among investors that a stimulus deal will go through regardless of the election result.

China’s Shanghai Composite index edged up 6.37 points, or 0.19 percent, to 3,277.44 after a survey from Caixin signaled a further recovery of business activity from the Covid-19 related drops. The services PMI rose to 56.8 from 54.8 in September.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index ended down 0.21 percent at 24,886.14 after a choppy session. A survey showed the private sector in Hong Kong contracted at a slower pace in October.

Japanese shares rallied as investors awaited the outcome of the knife-edge U.S. presidential race. The Nikkei average jumped 399.75 points, or 1.72 percent, to 23,695.23, while the broader Topix index closed 1.20 percent higher at 1,627.25.

Sony rose 1.5 percent and heavyweight Fast Retailing gained 2.5 percent, while SoftBank Group gave up 2.4 percent. Gaming giant Nintendo declined 1.6 percent ahead of its earnings release.

Minutes from the Bank of Japan’s monetary policy meeting on September 16 and 17 revealed that the central bank would take additional easing steps if it proves necessary.

Australian markets ended on a flat note as early results in the U.S. presidential election showed a very tight race. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 finished marginally lower at 6,062.10, while the broader All Ordinaries index ended with a positive bias at 6,265.

Mining giants BHP and Rio Tinto fell 1-2 percent while smaller rival Fortescue Metals Group lost as much as 4.6 percent.

The big four banks dropped 1-2 percent on worries about declining interest margins. Fund manager Pendal Group slumped 8 percent on disappointing FY result.

On the economic front, a government report showed the total value of retail sales in Australia dropped a seasonally adjusted 1.1 percent month-on-month in September. That beat forecasts for a decline of 1.5 percent following the 4.0 percent drop in August.

The Australian Industry Group said that the construction sector in Australia moved into expansion territory in October, with a seasonally adjusted Performance of Construction score of 52.7, up from 45.2.

IHS Market said that the services sector in Australia continued to expand in October, and at a faster pace, with a seasonally adjusted services PMI score of 53.7, up from 50.8 in September.

Seoul stocks closed higher as vote counting for the U.S. presidential election progressed. The benchmark Kospi inched up 14.01 points, or 0.60 percent, to 2,357.32.

Top pharmaceutical firm Samsung Biologics surged 4.9 percent and Celltrion climbed 4.4 percent. Internet portal giant Naver soared 5.5 percent and its rival Kakao jumped 6.8 percent.

New Zealand shares advanced, with the benchmark NZX-50 rising 69.62 points, or 0.57 percent, to 12,199.93, led by utilities and healthcare companies.

The country’s unemployment rate rose to 5.3 percent in the third quarter from 4.0 percent in the three months prior, official data showed today but that beat expectations for a score of 5.4 percent.

U.S. stocks posted strong gains overnight as investors hoped for a definitive outcome from the presidential election and that there would be a swift deal on more fiscal stimulus. Upbeat durable goods orders data also added to signs of economic recovery.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 2.1 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index surged 1.9 percent and the S&P 500 advanced 1.8 percent.

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