Asian shares boosted by stronger China factory data

Asian shares are mostly higher, buoyed by optimism over further signs of recovery in China’s manufacturing sector

TOKYO — Asian shares were mostly higher on Monday buoyed by further signs of recovery in China’s manufacturing sector.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 added 1.4% to 23,303.42 in morning trading, while South Korea’s Kospi gained nearly 0.9% to 2,287.17. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 0.4% to 5,952.40. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng edged up 0.7% to 24,277.75, while the Shanghai Composite inched down less than 0.1% to 3,221.78.

The Caixin manufacturing PMI, a major indicator for China’s manufacturing sector, rose in October, showing that domestic demand is holding up. But if coronavirus cases continue to rise in the U.S. and Europe, that’s likely to hurt China’s exports.

Still, a resurgence of outbreaks of COVID-19 has investors worried, on top of uncertainty over the U.S. presidential election.

The government’s top infectious diseases expert has cautioned that the U.S. will have to deal with “a whole lot of hurt” in the weeks ahead due to surging coronavirus cases. Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a Washington Post interview that the U.S. “could not possibly be positioned more poorly” to stem rising cases as more people gather indoors during the colder fall and winter months.

Aside from pandemic and election concerns, market players are looking ahead to a slew of earnings reports expected from Japan and the rest of the region, including automakers and video-game maker Nintendo Co.

“With voters in the U.S. going to the polls this week, or more accurately, not going to the polls, having already cast their postal votes in huge numbers, Asia will be looking nervously westwards this week, wondering what the outcome will be, and that it will mean for them,” said Robert Carnell, regional head of research for ING.

The focus is on U.S. China relations, but investors aren’t sure what change either outcome might bring on that issue. Although Democratic candidate Joseph Biden might go easier on tariffs, say he is unlikely to soften U.S. policy on other issues such as human rights, Carnell said in a report.

Last week proved punishing for Wall Street, with the S&P 500 posting its first back-to-back monthly loss since the coronavirus pandemic first gripped the economy in March.

Investors have been cashing in gains from the recovery in the past several months, moving to lock in profits ahead of the election.

The S&P 500 dropped 1.2% to 3,269.96, ending the week with a 5.6% loss, its worst in seven months. Sharp drops in big technology stocks drove much of the selling, reflecting worries that expectations built too high for some of the market’s biggest stars, including Apple and Amazon.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.6% to 26,501.60. The Nasdaq composite gave up 2.5% to 10,911.59.

In energy trading on Monday, benchmark U.S. crude slipped $1.33 to $34.46 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 38 cents to $35.79 per barrel on Friday. Brent crude, the international standard, fell $1.30 to $46.64 a barrel.

The U.S. dollar was unchanged at 104.66 Japanese yen. The euro cost $1.1645, down slightly from $1.1648.