Asian markets started positively on Monday

Hong Kong (AFP) - Asian stocks started the week on a positive note Monday, buoyed by gains on Wall Street last week, although spiralling Covid-19 cases in China weighed on sentiment in thin holiday trade.

Several markets were closed, including Hong Kong, Sydney and Singapore, but benchmark indexes in Shanghai, Tokyo, Mumbai and Seoul saw modest gains.

China’s surging Covid-19 cases were a key concern for investors.

But their ability to assess the pandemic’s impact on the world’s second-largest economy has been constrained by the National Health Commission’s announcement on Sunday that it would no longer publish daily case numbers.

Trade remained predictably cautious on Monday with investors steering clear of aggressive share-buying ahead of the year-end holidays, but Tokyo and Shanghai closed up over half a percent, while Seoul ended slightly higher.

A set of fresh data last week indicated a slowing of US inflation, although many investors kept their guard high, predicting sluggish overall growth next year.

However, the personal consumption expenditures price index, eyed closely by the Federal Reserve as a gauge of inflation, increased 0.1 percent from October to November and 5.5 percent from November last year.

But analysts expected caution to rule the day until more concrete signs emerged that inflation was under control.

“While inflation may be receding… investors will likely remain sufficiently sceptical until we see a more sustained and pronounced deceleration,” Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management said in a commentary.

“The final week of key US economic releases for the year contained more lumps of coal than holiday presents in the stocking, hinting that it is dead slow ahead as all signs point to slower growth next year.”

Oil prices had surged more than two percent on supply concerns Friday after a senior official said Russia could cut up to seven percent of its production next year but commodities trade was suspended for a holiday on Monday.

The yen climbed slightly against the dollar, with the Bank of Japan mulling an interest rate hike next year after an unexpected adjustment last week to monetary policy.

European markets and Wall Street will be closed on Monday.

- Key figures around 0730 GMT -

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.65 percent at 26,405.87 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.7 percent at 3,065.56 (close)

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 132.62 from 132.82

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0631 from $1.0619

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2063 from $1.2047

Euro/pound: UP at 88.13 pence from 88.11

Brent North Sea crude: UP 3.6 percent at $83.92 per barrel (on Friday)

West Texas Intermediate: UP 2.7 percent at $79.56 per barrel (on Friday)

New York - Dow: UP 0.5 percent at 33,203.93 (close)

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.1 percent at 7,473.01 (close)