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Asia shares trend higher; Japan data offsets Wall St losses

Shares are mostly higher in Asia, shrugging off a weak close last week on Wall Street after Japan reported a strong improvement in business sentiment

Shares were mostly higher in Asia on Monday, shrugging off a weak close last week on Wall Street as hopes for a new round of aid for American workers and businesses faded.

Benchmarks rose in Tokyo, Shanghai and Sydney. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng declined. U.S. futures were higher.

The tankan measures corporate sentiment by subtracting the number of companies saying business conditions are negative from those responding they are positive.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index added 0.3% to 26,732.44. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng shed 0.5% to 26,377.37. The Shanghai Composite index rose 0.7% to 3,369.12 and South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.3% to 2,762.20. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.3% to 6,660.20.

U.S. markets ended last week on a downbeat note. Benchmarks pulled further away from their recent highs Friday as prospects for another aid package from Washington faded, while a surge in virus cases is threatening to inflict more damage on an already battered economy.

The proposed $900 billion aid package from a bipartisan group of lawmakers has essentially collapsed because of continued partisan bickering. But there were reports that talks may continue on Monday after President Donald Trump signed a temporary government-wide funding bill into law, averting a federal shutdown at midnight and buying Congress time for the on-again, off-again negotiations on COVID-19 aid.

“Given these talks have been running since July, the market may be bored to tears, but if the stimulus door slam shut before Christmas, it could still change the positive vaccine mood music,” Stephen Innes of Axi said in a commentary.

The S&P 500 slipped 0.1% to 3,663.46 on Friday, its third-straight decline since it set a record high on Tuesday. It ended the week 1% lower after two weeks of solid gains.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average got a boost from Disney, which hit a new high after giving investors an encouraging update on subscriber growth and future plans for its Disney Plus streaming service. The index rose 0.2%, to 30,046.37. The tech-heavy Nasdaq lost 0.2% to 12,377.87. The Russell 2000 small-cap index gave up 0.6% to 1,911.70.

Treasury yields fell broadly, a signal that traders were seeking to lessen their exposure to riskier holdings. On Monday, the yield on the 10-year Treasury was at 0.91%, up from 0.89% on Friday.

Investors are watching for updates on the rollout of coronavirus vaccines that might help beat back surging infections that threaten to derail recoveries from business shutdowns and other pandemic-related shocks.

The first of many freezer-packed COVID-19 vaccine vials made their way to distribution sites across the United States on Sunday, as the nation’s pandemic deaths approached the horrifying new milestone of 300,000.

Widespread vaccination will take months and the virus pandemic is prompting tighter restrictions on businesses. An already slow economic recovery appears to be stalling in the wake of the latest surge and unemployment is rising.

Wall Street is also waiting for a special election in Georgia in early January, which could potentially switch the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.

In other trading, benchmark U.S. crude oil gained 55 cents to $47.12 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 11 cents to $46.57 per barrel on Friday. Brent crude, the international standard, picked up 60 cents to $50.57 per barrel.

The dollar weakened to 103.97 Japanese yen from 104.03 yen late Friday. The euro rose to $1.2144 from $1.2115.

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