Asian Stocks Mixed, Concerns About $1.9 Trillion “American Rescue Plan” Cost Arise By

© Reuters.

By Gina Lee – Asia Pacific stocks were mixed on Friday morning, with investors digesting U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s mega stimulus plan unveiled yesterday.

Japan’s was down 0.27% by 9:21 PM ET (2:21 AM GMT) and South Korea’s fell 1.84%. In Australia, the was up 0.25%

Hong Kong’s inched up 0.05%.

China’s gained 0.59% while the fell 0.83%. Tensions with the U.S. were up as the Trump administration added Xiaomi (OTC:) Corp (HK:) and China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC (NYSE:)) to its blacklist.

Smartphone maker Xiaomi was one of nine firms added to the Defense Department’s list of Chinese companies with links to the military. Another firm on the list is state-owned planemaker Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China Ltd., or Comac. Meanwhile, the Commerce Department blacklisted CNOOC., the nation’s main deepwater explorer, over the Chinese company’s drilling in disputed South China Sea waters.

Biden unveiled his “American Rescue Plan” on Thursday, which came with few surprises. The $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan includes a wave of new spending, more direct payments to households, an expansion of jobless benefits and an enlargement of vaccinations and virus-testing programs.

Although Biden’s announcement pushed U.S. shares into positive territory for much of the previous session, some investors expressed concerns about the plan’s cost.

“The concern is what it’s going to mean from a tax standpoint,” Inverness Counsel chief investment strategist Tim Ghriskey told Reuters.

“Spending is easy to do but the question is how are you going to pay for it? Markets often ignore politics, but they don’t often ignore taxes,” he added.

Meanwhile, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told attendees at a Princeton University virtual symposium that the central bank will raise interest rates “no time soon”, unless they see troubling signs of inflation. Powell added that policy makers would “let the world know” well in advance of any decision to taper bond purchases, and his comments further steepened the yield curve and saw breakeven rates climb.

“The Fed wants to talk down rates, and it would be interesting if it steps in to buy long-dated securities and if the bond market breaks because of that,” Inverness Counsel’s Ghriskey said.

Earnings season is also swinging into full gear as JPMorgan (NYSE:), Citigroup Inc (NYSE:) and Wells Fargo (NYSE:) announce their results later in the day. Investors will be looking to see if banks are starting to take down credit reserves, resume buybacks, and provide guidance that shows the economy is improving, Great Hill Capital chairman Thomas Hayes told Reuters.

“The markets want to see if they are showing confidence. If the guidance is strong, it shows we can sustain this move,” he added.

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