NEW YORK/SYDNEY- Asian equities slipped on Wednesday as halted COVID-19 vaccine trials and an impasse in US fiscal aid package talks soured risk appetite, while the greenback held on to gains as demand firmed for safe-harbor assets.
Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday said it was pausing a COVID-19 vaccine trial due to a study participant’s unexplained illness.
Eli Lilly and Co later said it too had paused the clinical trial of its COVID-19 antibody treatment due to a safety concern, leading the US equity market to deepen losses.
J&J shares lost 2.3 percent, while Eli Lilly closed down nearly 3 percent.
“That just spoke to the fact that a vaccine could take longer to be delivered than what the market’s expectations are calibrated towards,” said CommSec market analyst Tom Piotrowski in Sydney.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside of Japan fell 0.2 percent. Japan’s Nikkei dipped 0.2 percent while Australia’s benchmark index was off a touch and South Korea stumbled 0.7 percent.
Chinese shares opened red too with the bluechip CSI300 down 0.3 percent.
Overnight on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.5 percent, the S&P 500 lost 0.63 percent and the Nasdaq Composite eased 0.1 percent.
Also weighing on sentiment, hopes for the passage of a new coronavirus relief package faded as US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected a $1.8 trillion relief proposal from the White House.
“US stimulus talks are still going nowhere dimming the prospect of a new round of support this side of the election,” said Sydneybased NAB strategist Rodrigo Catril.