A rally in global stocks lost momentum as investor optimism over a potential coronavirus vaccine faded.
Japan’s benchmark Topix index rose 0.5 per cent on Wednesday morning, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dropped 0.2 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.4 per cent and China’s CSI 300 index of Shanghai- and Shenzhen-listed stocks fell 0.3 per cent.
Overnight, US stocks swung lower in the final hour of trading after healthcare news website Stat published a report questioning the strength of data from a clinical trial for a possible Covid-19 vaccine. The trial, by biotechnology company Moderna, had helped drive gains for equity markets at the start of the week.
The S&P 500 finished Tuesday down 1.1 per cent after spending most of the day in positive territory.
Robert Carnell, head of Asia-Pacific research at ING, said that while “doubts appear to be growing . . . it is worth bearing in mind that this US firm is just one of many developing a vaccine worldwide and there are some promising signs elsewhere”.
Futures markets pointed to gains for US stocks when Wall Street begins trading later in the day, with the S&P 500 tipped to rise 0.6 per cent. London’s FTSE 100 was expected to shed 0.2 per cent.
The rise in Japanese shares came after data showed that core machinery orders — viewed as an advance indicator of capital spending in the coming months — fell less than analysts expected in April.
Oil prices were little changed, as energy consultancy Wood Mackenzie estimated that national oil companies would cut exploration budgets by more than a quarter on average in 2020.
“Exploration budget cuts, while necessary today, will impact companies’ future growth and sustainability,” said Wood Mackenzie analyst Huong Tra Ho. “We expect [companies] to revitalise their exploration programmes as the sector recovers.”
Brent crude, the international benchmark, was up 0.1 per cent at $34.71 a barrel while US marker West Texas Intermediate was flat at $31.96 a barrel.