Asian shares fall as investors eye EU meeting on pandemic

Asian shares are lower as investors await the outcome of a summit of European leaders discussing the pandemic crisis

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 lost 0.4% in early trading to 22,616.23. South Korea's Kospi dipped 0.5% to 2,190.45, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 fell nearly 0.7% to 5,993.40. Hong Kong's Hang Seng edged 0.1% higher to 25,101.57, while the Shanghai Composite gained 2.6% to 3,298.50.

European Union leaders were headed to a fourth day of talks without reaching an agreement on an unprecedented 1.85 trillion-euro ($2.1 trillion) EU budget and coronavirus recovery fund to tackle the crisis.

Japan reported trade data showing exports fell 26.2% in June from a year earlier. Japan's trade-reliant economy has plunged into recession and its outbreaks of COVID-19 cases, while still fewer than the hardest hit nations, have been growing recently, especially in Tokyo.

“Asia markets are looking to a muted start to the week, caught between growing COVID-19 cases around the globe while looking to the series of earnings releases this week,” said Jingyi Pan, market strategist at IG in Singapore.

Corporate earnings and U.S. unemployment data are expected to draw the most attention in the coming week, analysts said.

Wall Street closed out its third straight winning week Friday, as hopes grew the economy can continue to steady itself despite a worsening of the pandemic and moves to close bars and some other venues to help curb rising infections.

The S&P 500 rose 0.3% to 3,224.73 after yet another day of wobbly trading. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 0.2% to 26,671.95, while the Nasdaq composite added 0.3%, to 10,503.19.

Reports showed a strengthening in U.S. home building activity but also a weakening in consumer sentiment. They’re the latest in a stream of data that has shown how uncertain the path is for the economy, as the continuing rise in coronavirus counts threatens to undo improvements that seemed to have taken root in the economy.

Improvements in U.S. hiring, retail sales and other parts of the economy, along with rising hopes for a COVID-19 vaccine have helped push share prices higher. Underpinning the rallies are massive aid for the economy and near-zero interest rates from the Federal Reserve.

Benchmark U.S. crude lost 20 cents to $40.39 a barrel. It slipped 16 cents to $40.59 a barrel on Friday. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 20 cents to $42.90 a barrel.

The U.S. dollar was trading at 107.38 Japanese yen, up slightly from 107.13 yen Friday. The euro inched up to $1.1420 from $1.1408.

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