Asian stocks gain after Trump criticizes economic aid bill

AP Business

People walk by an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Monday, Dec. 21, 2020. Asian shares retreated on Tuesday, Dec. 22, extending losses on growing worries over a new, potentially more infectious strain of the coronavirus that is countering good news over U.S. economic stimulus and vaccines. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stock markets rose Wednesday after President Donald Trump suggested he may veto a $900 billion economic aid package.

Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong and South Korea advanced in light trading ahead of this week’s Christmas holiday.

Overnight, Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index lost 0.2% after Trump criticized the aid plan approved by Congress. He urged lawmakers to raise payments to the public.

“Hopes for an unambiguous ‘Santa rally’ have been tragically hijacked,” said Mizuho Bank in a report.

Meanwhile, investor nerves were rattled by the emergence of a new variant of the coronavirus in Britain that spreads more easily. That has prompted some 40 governments to ban travelers from Britain.

The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.8% to 3,382.08 and the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo added 0.1% to 26,470.94. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong gained 0.2% to 26,180.10.

The Kospi in Seoul climbed 0.6% to 2,751.30 and Australia’s S&P-ASX 200 was 0.5% higher at 6,630.30. New Zealand advanced while Singapore and Indonesia declined.

Investors are hoping a new aid package from Congress can prop up the economy until the rollout of coronavirus vaccines allows business and consumer activity to revive.

Congress, after months of wrangling, approved a plan Monday night that would send $600 to most Americans, give $300 per week to the unemployed and deliver other aid to businesses.

Trump, however, complained on Twitter that the measure did too little for ordinary Americans. He urged legislators to increase payments to as much as $4,000 per couple and “get rid of the wasteful and unnecessary items from this legislation and to send me a suitable bill.”

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 declined to 3,687.26. About 65% of the companies in the index fell. Communication services, financial and other companies accounted for much of the selling. Tech companies rose.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 0.7% to 30,015.51. The Nasdaq composite rose 0.5% to a record 12,807.92.

Even without the variant form of the virus, the resurgent pandemic has already been dragging on the U.S. economy.

Two reports Tuesday added to discouraging economic data.

One showed consumer confidence fell more than expected this month. Another showed the red-hot housing market is slowing.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude lost 67 cents to $46.35 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 72 cents on Tuesday to $47.02. Brent crude, the basis for pricing international oils, declined 68 cents to $49.48 per barrel in London. It shed 83 cents the previous session to $50.08 a barrel.

The dollar declined to 103.48 yen from Tuesday’s 103.67. The euro gained to $1.2186 from $1.2161.

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