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Asia-Pacific stocks bounce as investors assess omicron Covid variant concerns; oil prices jump 2%

SINGAPORE — Major markets across Asia-Pacific bounced back on Wednesday, following losses the day before that were triggered by renewed uncertainty on the omicron Covid variant.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index led gains among the region’s major markets, rising 1.16% after falling the day before. However, mainland Chinese stocks were lower, with the Shanghai composite down about 0.1% and the Shenzhen component shedding 0.261%.

South Korea’s Kospi also saw robust gains, rising 1.07% after a tumble of more than 2% on Tuesday.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 climbed 0.76%, attempting to recover following multiple sessions of losses. The Topix index advanced 0.62%.

The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia bucked the trend, dipping 0.48%. Australia’s economy shrank 1.9% in the September quarter, official data showed Wednesday. That was above market forecasts for a 2.7% decline, according to Reuters.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan traded 0.65% higher.

China’s factory activity data

A private survey released Wednesday showed Chinese factory activity shrinking in November, with the Caixin/Markit manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index coming in at 49.9 for that month. That was a decline from October’s reading of 50.6.

China’s official manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index for November came in at 50.1 on Tuesday, above expectations by analysts in a Reuters poll for a reading of 49.6.

PMI readings below 50 represent contraction while those above that level signify expansion. PMI readings are sequential and represent month-on-month expansion or contraction.

Shares stateside dropped overnight, with the S&P 500 falling 1.9% to 4,567, amid fears over the recently discovered omicron Covid variant. The Dow Jones Industrial Average also plunged 652.22 points to 34,483.72 while the Nasdaq Composite slipped 1.55% to 15,537.69.

Meanwhile, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank will discuss speeding up the bond-buying taper at its December meeting.

Oil jumps more than 2%

Oil prices were higher in the morning of Asia trading hours, after tumbling the day before. International benchmark Brent crude futures up 2.5% to $70.96 per barrel. U.S. crude futures rose 2.15% to $67.60 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 96.003 after a recent drop from above 96.5.

The Japanese yen traded at 113.48 per dollar after a recent weakening from below 113 against the greenback. The Australian dollar was at $0.7134, off levels above $0.715 seen recently.

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