BANGKOK (AP) — Shares were mostly lower in Asia on Wednesday after a post-holiday retreat on Wall Street, as markets count down to the end of a painful year for investors.
Shares fell in Tokyo, Shanghai and Seoul but rose in Hong Kong as the Chinese government took further steps to reopen to foreign travel after relaxing its stringent “zero-COVID” policies.
Oil prices fell back and U.S. futures inched higher.
The Chinese government announced it will start issuing new passports in another major step away from anti-virus travel barriers. That sets up a potential flood of tourists out of China for next month’s Lunar New Year holiday, taking free-spending Chinese visitors to Asia, Europe and other destinations during what usually is the country’s busiest travel season.
But governments in India and Japan have said they will impose extra precautions on those arriving from China due to widespread virus outbreaks there. U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to convey internal discussions, also expressed concern and said they were considering taking similar steps.
“Investors are enthusiastic about China re-opening its economy. However, there are plenty of reports which suggest that COVID cases are on the rise in China, which really threatens the supply chain," Naeem Aslam of Avatrade.com said in a commentary.
Hong Kong's Hang Seng climbed 1.3% to 19,851.72. The Shanghai Composite index gave up early gains, losing 0.2% to 3,088.35.
Tokyo's Nikkei 225 lost 0.4% to 26,340.50 after the government reported that Japan's industrial production fell for a third straight month in November and was likely to fall further in December. The Kospi in Seoul declined 2.2% to 2,280.45.
In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.3% to 7,086.40.
On Wall Street, the S&P 500 fell 0.4% to 3,829.25 on Tuesday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average eked out a 0.1% gain, closing at 33,241.56. The Nasdaq dropped 1.4% to 10,353.23.
The Russell 2000 index dropped 0.7% to 1,749.52.
Technology and communication services companies accounted for a big share of the decliners in the S&P 500. Apple fell 1.4% and Netflix lost 3.7%.
Airlines stocks fell broadly. A massive winter storm caused widespread delays and forced several carriers to cancel flights over the weekend. Delta Air Lines closed 0.8% lower, American Airlines dropped 1.4% and JetBlue slid 1.1%.
Southwest Airlines slid 6% after the company had to cancel roughly two-thirds of its flights over the last couple of days, which it blamed on problems related to staffing and weather. The federal government said it would investigate why the company lagged so far behind other carriers.
Tesla fell 11.4% for the biggest decline among S&P 500 stocks. The electric vehicle maker temporarily suspended production at a factory in Shanghai, according to published reports.
Treasury yields mostly rose as the U.S. bond market reopened from Christmas holidays. The yield on the 10-year Treasury, which influences mortgage rates, rose to 3.85% from 3.75% late Friday.
Trading on Wall Street is expected to be relatively light this holiday-shortened week as investors look ahead to 2023 after a dismal year for stocks.
Uncertainty about how far the Federal Reserve and other central banks would go to fight the highest inflation in decades has kept investors on edge. The Fed raised its key interest rate seven times this year and has signaled more hikes to come in 2023, even though the pace of price increases has been easing.
The high rates, which weigh heavily on prices for stocks and other investments, have fueled concerns that the economy could slow too much and slip into a recession next year.
The benchmark S&P 500 index set an all-time high at the beginning of January, but is now down nearly 20% for the year. The tech-heavy Nasdaq is down nearly 34%.
In other trading Wednesday, U.S. benchmark crude oil shed 25 cents to $79.28 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 3 cents on Tuesday to $79.53 per barrel.
Brent crude, the pricing basis for international trading, declined 17 cents to $84.51 per barrel.
The U.S. dollar rose to 134.01 Japanese yen from 133.43 yen. The euro was trading at $1.0649, up from $1.0640.