SINGAPORE — Shares in Asia-Pacific slipped in Friday trade, with Japanese stocks leading losses regionally as fears of a new Covid variant weighed on investor sentiment.
The Nikkei 225 in Japan dropped 2.69% while the Topix index fell 2.09%. Shares of SoftBank Group plummeted around 5% following a Bloomberg report that Chinese regulators have asked Didi, which the Japanese conglomerate holds a sizable stake in, to delist from the U.S.
Those losses came after World Health Organization officials said Thursday they are monitoring a new variant with “a large number of mutations.” A special meeting is scheduled for Friday to discuss its implications for vaccines and treatments.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index also saw sharp losses falling 1.98%. The variant has been detected in Hong Kong, according to South Africa’s Minister of Health Joe Phaahla.
South Korea’s Kospi dipped 1.12%.
The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia fell 1.45%. Australia’s retail sales in October jumped 4.9% month-on-month, seasonally adjusted, according to official estimates released Friday. That was far higher than the 2.5% increase predicted in a Reuters poll.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan traded 1.45% lower.
Travel stocks slammed
Travel stocks in Asia-Pacific fell in Friday trade amid the renewed Covid fears.
In Australia, Qantas Airways shares dropped 4.91% while Hong Kong-listed shares of Cathay Pacific slipped 2.98%. Shares of Japan Airlines in Japan plunged 4.91% while Singapore Airlines’ stock in Singapore declined 1.71%.
Markets in the U.S. were closed on Thursday for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Oil falls at least 2%
The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 96.715 — still above levels below 96.5 seen earlier in the trading week.