TOKYO – Asian shares were little changed in muted trading Monday amid widespread uncertainty over what the U.S. presidential election will portend for markets and economic policy.
Investors remain worried over surging cases and deaths related to COVID-19, especially in parts of the U.S. and Europe, and the implications for trade, tourism and economic activity.
Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 lost 2 points to to 23,514.41, while South Korea's Kospi lost 0.4% to 2,352.37. Australia's S&P/ASX gained 0.1% to 6,173.20. The Shanghai Composite index declined 0.7% to 3,254.54. Markets in Hong Kong, India and Malaysia were closed for holidays.
“Asia markets remain pacing the floor awaiting the U.S. presidential election passage, commencing with muted moves going into the start of the week,” said Jingyi Pan, market strategist with IG in Singapore.
U.S. stock indexes closed mostly higher last week. They bounced between small gains and losses, a familiar pattern recently as traders keep an eye on negotiations between Republican and Democratic leaders in Washington over more economic aid.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday she’s not giving up on passing another coronavirus relief economic package before the Nov. 3 election. She said she sent a list of concerns to the Trump administration on Friday and was told she would get answers on Monday.
At issue is a huge virus relief bill that would send another $1,200 direct payment to most Americans, restart bonus unemployment benefits, fund additional testing and vaccines, provide aid to schools and allocate money to state and local governments, a Democratic priority.
One major concern is that if the election's outcome is uncertain, that would further delay help for the economy as mounting numbers of coronavirus cases raise the likelihood of further disruptions for businesses. On Friday, the U.S. reported a record 83,757 newly confirmed cases. Another 83,718 new cases were reported on Saturday.
On Friday, the S&P 500 rose 0.3% to 3,465.39, its second straight gain. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.1%, to 28,335.57. The Nasdaq composite, which is heavily weighted with technology stocks, gained 0.4% to 11,548.28, while the Russell 2000 index rose 0.6% to 1,640.50.
In energy trading, U.S. benchmark crude lost 69 cents to $39.16 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 79 cents to $39.85 per barrel on Friday. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 68 cents to $41.09 a barrel.
The U.S. dollar inched up to 104.87 Japanese yen from 104.71 yen late Friday. The euro cost $1.1833, down from $1.1861.