Asian shares rise after China eases more COVID rules

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian stocks rose Tuesday after China announced it would ease more pandemic restrictions even as the widespread outbreak of COVID-19 is straining its medical system and disrupting business.

China’s National Health Commission said Monday that travelers arriving from abroad will no longer need to be quarantined starting Jan. 8. They still need to have a negative virus test within 48 hours of departure and wear a mask while flying.

But it was the latest step toward abandoning once-strict virus containment measures that severely restricted travel in and out of the world’s second-largest economy.

China joins other countries in treating cases rather than trying to stamp out infections, waiving or easing rules on testing, quarantine and mobility as it tries to reverse the recession. But the shift has already flooded hospitals with feverish, wheezing patients, and authorities are going door-to-door to pay for COVID-19 vaccines for people over 60.

The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.8 percent to 3,089.39. Markets in Hong Kong and Australia were closed for a holiday.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 rose 0.2 percent to 26,447.87 and Seoul’s Kospi rose 0.7 percent to 2,332.79.

In Bangkok, the SET index rose 0.8 percent, while Mumbai’s Sensex rose 1.2 percent.

Asian markets were mostly higher after U.S. and European markets were closed for a holiday on Monday.

On Friday, the S&P 500 closed up 0.6%. It’s down 19.3% this year and is on the cusp of a bear market.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.5%, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq edged up 0.2%. The Russell 2000 gained 0.4%.

Solid U.S. consumer spending and a strong job market are keeping the economy growing, but they also raise the risk that the Fed will need to stick with raising rates and keep them high to curb inflation.

After last week’s latest report, the last major report of the year, investors will focus on corporate earnings that may offer insights into how the economy is developing.

The pace of price increases has slowed, but the Federal Reserve has signaled it will keep raising rates to curb inflation. Its key overnight rate is at its highest level in 15 years after hitting a record low near zero earlier this year. The key lending rate, known as the federal funds rate, is in a range of 4.25% to 4.5%, with Fed policymakers forecasting a range of 5% to 5.25% by the end of 2023 and no cuts until 2024.

Higher interest rates create the risk that the economy could stall and slip into recession by 2023. They have also been weighing heavily on the prices of stocks and other investments.

In other trading on Tuesday, U.S. benchmark crude rose 69 cents to $80.25 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It rose $2.07 to $79.56 before the holiday markets closed for the Christmas long weekend.

Brent crude, the pricing basis for international trades, also rose 73 cents to $85.23 a barrel.

In foreign exchange trade, the dollar fell to 132.82 yen against the yen from 132.89 yen late on Monday. The euro rose to $1.0666 from $1.0638.

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