TOKYO (REUTERS) – Asian shares edged lower on Tuesday (Jan 5) amid uncertainty about Senate runoffs in Georgia, which could have a big impact on incoming US President Joe Biden’s economic policies.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.12 per cent, pulling back from a record high hit in the previous session. Australian stocks fell 0.16 per cent.
Japanese shares lost 0.47 per cent after a media report that the government will curb business hours in Tokyo and surrounding cities from Thursday.
US S&P 500 stock futures edged up 0.09 per cent.
Oil futures extended declines in Asian trading after major producers delayed a decision on whether to increase output.
In the United States, control of the Senate is at stake with Tuesday’s dual runoff elections in Georgia.
A Democratic victory in both races could tip control of the Senate away from Republicans, but both contests are very tight and the results may not be immediately known, which could lead to a repeat of the chaotic vote re-counts after the US presidential election last year.
“2021 starts with a bang with pivotal political and economic news for markets to digest. The undisputed highlight will be the result of the Senate seat run-off elections in Georgia,” James Knightley, chief international economist at ING, wrote in a research memo.
“If the Democrats win both seats this should lead to the most substantial 2021 fiscal stimulus. Nonetheless, it could be the excuse for a near-term consolidation in risk markets after a strong post-election rally.”
Uncertainty about the Georgia vote and worries about rising coronavirus infections sent Wall Street sharply lower on Monday.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.27 per cent, the S&P 500 lost 1.49 per cent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq dropped by 1.48 per cent.
Outgoing Republican President Donald Trump’s call to pressure Georgia’s top election official to “find” votes to overturn his loss to President-elect Biden in the state as also unnerved some investors.
The MSCI’s broadest gauge of global stocks eased by 0.09 per cent in Asia on Tuesday, also pulling back from a record reached in the previous session.
Increased risk aversion helped support the dollar against most currencies, but moves were subdued at the start of the year.
US crude futures fell 0.46 per cent to US$47.40 a barrel. Major oil producers will meet later on Tuesday to decide on output levels for February after talks broke down the previous day.
Gold was slightly lower. Spot gold fell 0.12 per cent to US$1,939.26 per ounce.