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Asia stocks rise as investors assess omicron variant risk; Singapore travel stocks fall

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SINGAPORE — Shares in Asia-Pacific were higher in Wednesday trade as investors continued to assess the impact of the omicron Covid variant.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index gained 0.33%, paring earlier gains of more than 1%. Mainland Chinese stocks were higher, with the Shanghai composite hovering above the flatline and the Shenzhen component advancing 0.683%.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 sat 0.15% higher, paring earlier gains. The Topix index climbed 0.13%. South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.21%.

Elsewhere, the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia recovered from earlier losses as it advanced around 0.1%.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan gained 0.31%.

Singapore travel stocks hit

Singapore travel stocks fell in Wednesday trade after the country’s health ministry announced a freezing of new ticket sales for quarantine-free travel starting Thursday in a bid to limit exposure to imported omicron cases.

Shares of Singapore Airlines fell 0.82% while SATS declined 0.52%. The broader Straits Times index in Singapore hovered fractionally higher.

Those moves contrasted against gains largely seen elsewhere in the region for travel stocks. Japan Airlines shares in Japan surged 3.49% while ANA Holdings rose 1.75%. Australia’s Qantas Airways climbed 0.52%.

In Hong Kong, shares of Cathay Pacific were up 1.11% while China Eastern Airlines slipped 1.05%.

Tech shares in Asia rise

Technology shares in Asia rose in Wednesday trade.

In Hong Kong, shares of Chinese tech giants pared earlier gains but remained in positive territory. Alibaba was up 0.44% while Tencent gained 0.18% and Meituan advanced 0.96%. The Hang Seng Tech index traded 0.77% higher.

Over in Japan, Softbank Group’s stock gained 0.39% while South Korea-listed shares of chipmaker SK Hynix climbed 2.01% and Kakao Games added 2.72%.

Those moves followed similar gains by their U.S. counterparts overnight, with the Nasdaq Composite jumping 2.4% to 15,341.09.

Other major indexes on Wall Street also saw sizable gains as the Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 560.54 points to 35,492.70 while the S&P 500 gained 1.78% to 4,649.23.

Turkish lira watch

Investors monitored the Turkish lira on Wednesday following its recent wild swings after the country’s president announced a plan to support the currency and protect local deposits against market moves.

The lira was last at 12.4046 per dollar, still much stronger than the record low seen earlier this week when the currency was above the 18 level against the greenback.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 96.521 — above levels below 94 seen late last week.

The Japanese yen traded at 114.10 per dollar following a recent weakening from levels below 113.7 against the greenback. The Australian dollar was at $0.7127 after climbing from below 0.712 earlier this week.

Oil prices were higher in the afternoon of Asia trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures up 0.22% to $74.14 per barrel. U.S. crude futures climbed 0.41% to $71.41 per barrel.

— CNBC’s Natasha Turak contributed to this report.

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