Major Asian bourses were closed for the New Year’s holidays Thursday while the handful that remained open was mixed.
Australia’s S&P/ASX fell 1.4% to 6,587.10, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.3% to 27,231.13. The Shanghai Composite gained 1.2% to 3,455.55. Trading was closed in Tokyo and South Korea.
The Tokyo exchange marked the end of trading for the year Wednesday, with the Nikkei falling 0.5%, and trading will not reopen until Monday next week. Global markets will be closed New Year’s Day Friday.
Focus has been on the continuing vaccine development around the globe, with China’s Sinopharm becoming the latest to release encouraging study results. Investors are optimistic about more vaccines gaining approval in coming weeks.
“Surely, I am not the only one who had massive doubts, but miraculously, we have about made it over the year-end finishing line in one piece,” said Stephen Innes, chief global market strategist at Axi.
On Wall Street, stocks eked out modest gains overnight, keeping the major stock indexes on Wall Street at or near record highs.
Energy and materials companies led the gains. Industrial and financial stocks also had a strong showing. Small-company stocks again outpaced their larger rivals, a sign that investors are feeling more optimistic about the economy.
The S&P 500 index rose 5 points, or 0.1% to 3,732.04. The Dow gained 73.89 points, or 0.2%, to 30,409.56. The Nasdaq composite picked up 19.78 points, or 0.2%, to 12,870. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies climbed 20.63 points, or 1.1%, to 1,979.99.
Ahead of the final day of trading in 2020, the S&P 500 is up 15.5% this year, while the Nasdaq is up 43.4%.
The modest gains came as the effort to develop and distribute vaccines to fight the virus pandemic intensifies. Britain has authorized the use of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University. The vaccine is considered easier to store and handle than others hitting the market. Earlier in December, both the U.K. and U.S. approved a vaccine made by Pfizer.
In energy trading, benchmark U.S. crude slipped 7 cents to $48.33 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, gained 25 cents to $51.34 a barrel.
In currency trading, the U.S. dollar inched down to 103.15 Japanese yen from 103.33 yen. The euro cost $1.2294, up from $1.2260.