Asia Staggers as Korea Hikes Rates

Asia-Pacific markets mostly declined on Thursday despite overnight gains on Wall Street, while South Korea became the first major economy to raise interest rates during the pandemic.

The Nikkei 225 regained 17.49 points, or 0.1%, to 27,742.29, The Japanese yen traded at 110.2, weakening from an earlier level around 109.90.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index tumbled 278.26 points, or 1.1%, to 25,415.69. as shares of Alibaba dropped 1.4%, Meituan declined about 1% and Apple supplier AAC Tech plunged 11%.

The Bank of Korea raised its base rate by 25 basis points to 0.75% for the first time in nearly three years.

The Korean won weakened against the U.S. dollar following the rate hike, trading at around 1,168.84.

Daily reported COVID cases shot up to more than 1,000 on Thursday in the state of New South Wales alone — Reuters reported it was the first time since the pandemic started that Australia’s daily COVID numbers surpassed 1,000 cases. Two major hospitals in Sydney had to set up emergency outdoor tents to cope with the surge in patients.

Shares of Australia’s flag carrier Qantas rose 3.49%, beating the broader benchmark, after CEO Alan Joyce said the airline plans to resume international travel by Christmas.

The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7264.

In other markets

In Shanghai, the CSI 300 slumped 96.55 points, or 2%, to 4,801.61.

In Korea, the Kospi index dumped 18.28 points, or 0.6%, to 3,128.53

In Singapore, the Straits Times eked up 1.93 points, or 0.1%, to 3,109.42

In Taiwan, the Taiex index gained 21.1 points, or 0.1%, to 17,066.96

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 slouched 121.86 points, or 0.9%, to 13,051.62.

In Australia, the ASX 200 docked 40.64 points, or 0.5%, at 7,491.23