Australian shares ended lower as the emergence of a fresh COVID-19 cluster means the country may not fully reopen its international borders this year.
The major Asia-Pacific stock indexes finished mixed on Monday with Hong Kong and China reversing earlier losses to close higher following the release of better-than-expected gross domestic product data from China. Samsung Group dominated the headlines in the region, however, after Reuters reported that Samsung heir Jay Y. Lee has received a 2-1/2 year jail term.

In the cash market on Monday, Japan’s Nikkei 225 Index settled at 28242.21, down 276.97 or -0.97%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index finished at 28862.77, up 288.91 or +1.01% and South Korea’s KOSPI Index closed at 3013.93, down 71.97 or -2.33%.
China’s Shanghai Index settled at 3596.22, up 29.85 or -0.84% and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 closed at 6663.00, down 52.40 or 0.78%.

Mainland Stocks Higher as China Reports GDP Growth in 2020
Mainland Chinese stocks moved higher after an early setback after China reported its GDP rose 2.3% last year as the world fought to contain the coronavirus pandemic. That compared against economists’ expectations for GDP expansion by just over 2%.

In other economic news out of China, property investment rose 7% year-on-year, industrial output rose 7.3% year-on-year while retail sales missed the forecast, contracting 3.9% for the year.

Reuters also reported that the Trump administration notified several suppliers to Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei – including chipmaker Intel – that it is revoking certain licenses to sell to the Chinese firm. That news comes just days ahead of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.
South Korea’s KOSPI Index Struggles as Samsung Group Plunges
Shares of firms related to South Korean conglomerate Samsung Group plunged in Monday’s trade after Reuters reported that Samsung heir Jay Y. Lee received a 2-1/2-year jail term.

Industry heavyweight Samsung Electronics plunged more than 4% before clawing back some of those losses, finishing their trading day 3.41% lower. Samsung C&T dived 6.84% while Samsung Heavy Industries declined 2.74%. The Seoul High Court found Lee guilty of bribery, embezzlement and concealment of criminal proceeds, according to Reuters.

Australia Shares End Lower as Fresh COVID-19 Cluster Emerges in Sydney
Australian shares ended lower on Monday, as the emergence of a fresh COVID-19 cluster in the state of New South Wales and news that the country may not fully reopen its international borders this year despite the vaccination drive dented sentiment.

As authorities investigated the source of the latest outbreak in the Sydney suburb, the head of Australia’s health department warned that the country may not fully reopen its international borders this year even if most of the population is vaccinated against coronavirus.

Dour sentiment drove mining stocks lower despite a rise in copper and iron ore prices, with heavyweights BHP Group and Rio Tinto shedding around 3% and 1.5%, respectively.

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