Asian stocks mixed after Wall St rally ahead of US debate

Asian stocks were mixed Tuesday after Wall Street recovered some of this month’s losses as investors looked ahead to a debate between President Donald Trump and his challenger in the November election, former Vice President Joe Biden.

Shanghai and Seoul advanced while Tokyo and Hong Kong declined. Sydney was little-changed.

Overnight, Wall Street’s benchmark S&P 500 index gained 1.6%, led by big tech stocks.

“This is welcome cheer, but does not redeem equities from a negative September,” Mizuho Bank said in a report. Its analysts questioned whether, without an obvious catalyst, the rise was driven by little more than “month-end short-covering,” or traders buying stocks to fulfill commitments to re-sell them.

The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.5% to 3,231.89 while the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo lost 0.3% to 23,433.82, pulled lower by reports that telecoms giant NTT Corp. plans to take its mobile carrier DoCoMo private, enabling it to cut rates in line with government policy.

The Hang Seng in Hong Kong shed 0.3% to 23,414.78.

The Kospi in Seoul advanced 0.8% to 2,325.33 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 was off less than 0.1% at 5,949.80. New Zealand declined while Singapore and Jakarta gained.

Tech stocks led an earlier rebound in global share prices, but investors began to worry they were overpriced, leading to a new sell-off.

Infusions of central bank credit into struggling economies and hopes for development of a coronavirus vaccine are supporting investor confidence.

However, the U.S. Congress still is arguing over the size of a new support package after additional unemployment benefits that helped to support consumer spending that powers the biggest global economy expired.

Investors were awaiting Tuesday’s 90-minute televised Trump-Biden debate. It comes amid trade tension with China and rising coronavirus deaths. Tens of millions of Americans are out of work.

Markets are watching the potential impact of the November election on tax policy and how long it might take to determine the winner.

The debate outcome is “not necessarily all that market relevant,” said Robert Carnell of ING in a report.

“With a reasonable polling lead, one could argue that Joe Biden has more to lose here than President Trump,” said Carnell. He said with some potential for gaffes or other colorful moments, the debate might be “cringe-worthy but unlikely to deliver an electoral car-crash for either side.”

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 rose to 3,351.60. The index is on track to close out September with a loss of 4.2% after five months of gains.

More than 90% of the stocks in the S&P 500 rose. Several companies announced mergers and acquisitions, helping to buoy prices.

Amazon climbed 2.5%, Apple rose 2.4% and Microsoft gained 0.8%.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 1.5% to 27,584.06. The Nasdaq composite climbed 1.9% to 11,117.53.

A monthly unemployment report due out Friday from the government could help to shed light on an economic recovery.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude lost 25 cents per barrel to $40.35 in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, used to price international oils, shed 23 cents to $42.64 per barrel in London.

The dollar declined to 105.47 yen from Monday’s 105.51 yen. The euro edged up to $1.1677 from $1.1676.