Asian markets mixed as US stimulus remains elusive

Businesswoman looking at stock exchange market display screen board in downtown financial district.
Businesswoman looking at stock exchange market display screen board in downtown financial district.
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Asian markets mostly fell Monday with traders increasingly pessimistic that US lawmakers will pass a new stimulus package before next week's election, while spiking virus cases fanned worries about the economic impact of new containment measures.

Despite months of arduous talks in Washington, there appears to be little chance Republicans and Democrats will hammer out a rescue deal to help hard-strapped Americans, with both sides blaming each other for the impasse.

Analysts said investors had essentially given up hope of an agreement being made any time soon, and were now betting on Joe Biden and a Democratic sweep of Congress that would open the way for an even bigger spending package in the new year.

"There is very limited incentive on both sides to get a deal done," Joseph Shaposhnik, a portfolio manager at TCW, told Bloomberg TV.

"The market has baked that in, has baked in the election and is looking out six months and thinking what are the odds life begins to normalise, a vaccine is introduced."

Adding to the negative sentiment is a surge of coronavirus cases across the United States and Europe, with the World Health Organization on Sunday reporting a third straight day of record new infections globally.

The virus has now claimed the lives of 1.1 million people and infected more than 42 million around the world.

The new wave has already forced governments in several countries including Britain, Germany and France to reimpose tough restrictions to prevent the disease from spreading.

"The US stimulus stalemate is now getting amplified through concerns about rising virus cases that could ultimately result in more stringent mobility restrictions and could even force additional business closures, which will most certainly put the economic recovery on the back foot into year-end," said Axi strategist Stephen Innes.

Tokyo, Shanghai, Sydney, Mumbai, Seoul and Singapore all fell, though there were gains in Taipei, Manila and Jakarta.

Hong Kong was closed for a holiday.

Traders are also keeping tabs on a key policy-setting meeting of China's Communist Party this week, which is expected set the course for the world's second-biggest economy for the next several years with an eye on US relations.

Worries about fresh lockdowns and the lack of movement in stimulus talks also dented expectations for oil demand, sending prices tumbling more than 2%.

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