By Swati Pandey and John McCrank
SYDNEY/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Asian stocks dithered on Wednesday as an increase in new coronavirus cases in some parts of the world cast doubts over the economic recovery while oil prices eased on oversupply fears.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan were a tad lower after hitting a 4-1/2 month high just on Tuesday.
Chinese shares flickered between green and red. Australian shares were down 0.4% as were indexes for New Zealand and South Korea. was off 0.1% and Hong Kong’s was slightly firmer.
E-mini futures for the S&P 500 added 0.18%.
Overnight, U.S. stocks fell, halting a five-day winning streak by the benchmark S&P 500 index, its longest this year and driven by better-than-expected economic data.
Following the recent rally, the declines looked like a consolidation, with the markets largely in “wait and see mode” ahead of the upcoming earnings session, said NAB economist Tapas Strickland.
Second-quarter earnings season will begin in earnest from next week.
“It will be important to watch the number of U.S. deaths in coming weeks and whether greater questions will be asked about the extent of necessary restrictions,” Strickland added.
California reported more than 10,000 coronavirus cases on Tuesday, a record rise for a single day that also surpassed the number of contact tracers recently trained by the state to detect and prevent potential outbreaks.
Coronavirus cases were also on the rise in the Australian state of Victoria, which led to lockdown measures being reimposed in Melbourne, the country’s second-biggest city.
“The second wave of infection will see Victorian economic activity fall sharply and it will continue to lag the rest of Australia,” said NAB economist Kaixin Owyong.
Victoria makes up around a quarter of Australian economic activity, she said.
Citi analysts predicted global equities would hang around current levels in twelve months’ time.
“We expect bullish and bearish forces to cancel each-other out,” they said in a note. “We would not chase markets higher from current levels, but would prefer to wait for the next dip.”
Citi has “overweight” positions on U.S. and Emerging Markets equities.
Most major currencies were trapped in a range.
The U.S. dollar was 0.15% higher on the Japanese yen at 107.65.
The risk sensitive Australian and New Zealand dollars were a shade weaker at $0.6940 and $0.6544, respectively.
The euro was barely changed at $1.1273.
In commodities, gold hovered near a recent 8-1/2 year peak as investors preferred safe-haven assets. was last a shade weaker after two straight days of gains at 1,792.5 per ounce.
futures fell 8 cents, or 0.2%, to $43 a barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures slipped 6 cents, or 0.15%, to $40.56 a barrel.