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Asian Stocks Mixed Over Fading Vaccine Optimism

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By Gina Lee – Asia Pacific stocks were mixed on Tuesday morning, giving up some earlier gains after optimism over the latest positive COVID-19 vaccine news fizzled.

Moderna Inc (NASDAQ:MRNA) became the latest pharmaceutical company to report a positive development when t said on Monday that its candidate mRNA-1273 had a 94.5% efficacy rate from the results of a large, late-stage phase III COVE study. The news follows Pfizer Inc's (NYSE:PFE) announcement during the previous week that its candidate, BNT162b, that is being co-developed with Germany’s BioNTech (F:22UAy), prevented more than 90% of symptomatic infections.

Moderna’s news saw the company’s shares climbed up to 15% and helped U.S. shares see record highs over hopes of a quick economic recovery.

As was the case after the Pfizer announcement, shares, particularly those for value and cyclical sectors hit by the pandemic such as aviation, initially rose over hopes of a global economic recovery and the possibility of re-openings in 2021.

However, worries over vaccine productions and delivery remain. The ever-increasing number of COVID-19 cases globally, particularly in Europe and the U.S., also dampened the enthusiasm.

“We might be transitioning from a defensive bull market to a more cyclically offensive one, but more clarity is required in terms of when social mobility will normalize. That isn’t clear yet. The euphoria created by the presidential election result and the vaccine announcement will give way to a more sober analysis of how long and smooth the road to recovery will be,” AXA Investment Managers Core Investments chief investment officer Chris Iggo said in a note.

Other investors remained more optimistic.

“This is a continuation of what we saw last week as the vaccine being a catalyst for a rotation into cyclical sectors such as energy, financials, and defense with expectations for renewed demand and travel … the light switch has really been turned on and this is the real deal unlike some months back,” Great Hill Capital managing member Thomas Hayes told Reuters

Japan’s Nikkei 225 edged up 0.20% by 11:27 PM ET (3:27 AM GMT).

South Korea’s KOSPI edged up 0.14%. Prime Minister Sye Kyun Chung announced tighter social distancing rules for the greater Seoul area earlier in the day. The country reported 230 COVID-19 cases as of midnight on Monday, the highest number since early September.

The increase to Level 1.5 means banning public gatherings of 100 people or more, limiting religious services and audiences at sporting events to 30% capacity, and requiring high-risk facilities, including clubs and karaoke bars, to increase the distance among guests.

In Australia, the ASX 200 was up 0.33% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index inched down 0.01%.

China’s Shanghai Composite edged down 0.19% and the Shenzhen Component slid 1.22%.

On the data front, the U.S. will release retail sales and industrial production data for October later in the day, following China’s release of its own positive October retail sales and industrial production data on Monday.

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