SINGAPORE — Shares in Asia-Pacific mostly fell on Tuesday afternoon as investors in the region continued to track developments surrounding the omicron variant.
Major markets in the region fell after Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel told the Financial Times that he expects existing vaccines to be less effective against the new variant. Bancel told CNBC on Monday that it could take months to develop and ship an omicron specific vaccine.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index led losses among the region’s major markets, falling nearly 3% in afternoon trade.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 dropped 1.37% while the Topix index shed 0.79%.
Data released Tuesday showed Chinese factory activity unexpectedly growing in November, with China’s official manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index for November coming in at 50.1. That was above expectations by analysts in a Reuters poll for a reading of 49.6.
PMI readings below 50 represent contraction while those above that level signify expansion. PMI readings are sequential and represent month-on-month expansion or contraction.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.7%.
Oil prices were lower in the afternoon of Asia trading hours, reversing earlier gains. International benchmark Brent crude futures were down 2.48% to $71.62 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also dropped 2.42% to $68.28 per barrel.
The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 96.07 after rising to around 96.4 recently.
The Japanese yen traded at 113.14 per dollar, as compared with levels around 113.9 seen earlier against the greenback. The Australian dollar was at $0.7103, still struggling to recover after last week’s drop from above $0.725.