Asian markets were mixed Monday with traders increasingly pessimistic that US lawmakers will pass a new stimulus package before next week's election, while spiking virus cases fanned worries about the economic impact of new containment measures.
Despite months of arduous talks in Washington, there appears to be little chance Republicans and Democrats will hammer out a rescue deal to help hard-strapped Americans, with both sides blaming each other for the impasse.
Analysts said investors had essentially given up hope of an agreement being made any time soon, and were now betting on Joe Biden and a Democratic sweep of Congress that would open the way for an even bigger spending package in the new year.
"There is very limited incentive on both sides to get a deal done," Joseph Shaposhnik, a portfolio manager at TCW, told Bloomberg TV.
"The market has baked that in, has baked in the election and is looking out six months and thinking what are the odds life begins to normalise, a vaccine is introduced."
Adding to the negative sentiment is a surge of coronavirus cases across the United States and Europe, with the World Health Organization on Sunday reporting a third straight day of record new infections globally.
The virus has now claimed the lives of 1.1 million people and infected more than 42 million globally.
The new wave has already forced governments in several countries including Britain, Germany and France to reimpose tough restrictions to prevent the disease from spreading.
"The US stimulus stalemate is now getting amplified through concerns about rising virus cases that could ultimately result in more stringent mobility restrictions and could even force additional business closures, which will most certainly put the economic recovery on the back foot into year-end," said Axi strategist Stephen Innes.
Tokyo, Sydney and Singapore were barely moved while Shanghai, Seoul and Manila dropped into negative territory. Taipei and Jakarta edged up. Hong Kong was closed for a holiday.
Traders are also keeping tabs on a key policy-setting meeting of China's Communist Party this week, which is expected set the course for the world's second-biggest economy for the next several years with an eye on US relations.
Tokyo - Nikkei 225: FLAT at 23,514.41 (break)
Shanghai - Composite: DOWN 0.6 percent at 3,256.90
Hong Kong - Hang Seng: Closed for holiday
Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1844 from $1.1859 at 2100 GMT Friday
Dollar/yen: UP at 104.83 yen from 104.69 yen
Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.3038 from $1.3043
Euro/pound: DOWN at 90.84 pence from 90.89 pence
West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 1.5 percent at $39.24 per barrel
Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 1.5 percent at $41.15 per barrel
New York - Dow: DOWN 0.1 percent at 28,335.57 (close)
London - FTSE 100: UP 1.3 percent at 5,860.28 (close)
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