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Asian stocks follow Wall St lower amid virus worries

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Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

A currency trader watches monitors at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020. Asian stock markets followed Wall Street lower on Tuesday as surging coronavirus infections in the United States and some other countries tempered investor optimism about development of possible vaccines. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

Asian stock markets followed Wall Street lower on Tuesday as surging coronavirus infections in the United States and some other countries tempered investor optimism about development of possible vaccines.

Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul declined. Shanghai swung between gains and losses.

Overnight, Wall Street's benchmark S&P 500 index lost 0.2% as health care, financial and energy stocks declined.

Rising case numbers have fueled investor worries as some U.S. states and European countries reimpose travel and business curbs, threatening to drag down already shaky economic activity in what is expected to be a bleak winter.

“'Too much, too soon' was arguably the memo sent to market bulls,” said Mizuho Bank in a report. The surge in new U.S. cases “begs the question of whether vaccine euphoria was getting ahead of outbreak realities.”

The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo lost 0.3% to 26.475.11 and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong shed 0.7% to 26,331.93.

The Shanghai Composite Index was off less than 0.1% at 3,413.62 at mid-morning after opening higher following China's announcement of a 21.1% jump in November exports.

The Kospi in Seoul tumbled 1.3% to 2,708.28 while Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 advanced 0.2% to 6,685.50. New Zealand and Southeast Asian markets gained.

Shares in China’s biggest online health platform, JD Health, rose 40% in their first trading day in Hong Kong, reflecting investor enthusiasm for the fledgling industry as the country emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.

On Wall Street on Monday, the S&P 500 dropped to 3,691.96. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 0.5% to 30,069.79. The Nasdaq gained 0.4% to 12,519.95.

The S&P 500 had one of its best months in decades during November and added more to it last week.

Traders also are watching to see whether U.S. political leaders can agree on a new aid plan for the struggling economy after supplemental unemployment benefits that supported consumer spending expired.

On Monday, the United States reported 175,663 new virus cases and 1,113 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude lost 31 cents to $45.45 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract fell 50 cents on Monday to $45.76. Brent crude, used to price international oils, shed 37 cents to $48.42 per barrel in London. It declined 46 cents the previous session to $48.79.

The dollar advanced to 104.03 yen from Monday's 103.98 yen. The euro edged down to $1.2114 from $1.2120.