SYDNEY- Asian shares retreated from a record peak on Monday after a Reuters report the United States was preparing to impose sanctions on some Chinese officials highlighted geopolitical tensions, while oil prices fell on surging virus cases.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.3 percent following four straight sessions of gains.
It is still up about 16 percent so far this year, the best since a 33 percent jump in 2017.
China’s blue-chip index dropped 0.6 percent while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng was down 1.2 percent.
Japan’s Nikkei declined 0.3 percent while Australian shares were up 0.5 percent. E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 were down 0.1 percent after starting higher.
The sell-off began after Reuters exclusively reported, citing sources, that the United States was preparing sanctions on at least a dozen Chinese officials over their alleged role in Beijing’s disqualification of elected opposition legislators in Hong Kong.
The move comes as President Donald Trump’s administration keeps up pressure on Beijing in his final weeks in office.
Asian markets had initially started the week on a positive note on hopes of a faster global recovery as coronavirus vaccines get rolled out, starting this week in Britain.
US authorities will also this week discuss the program before the expected first round of vaccinations this month.
Hopes the vaccines will help curb the pandemic which has so far killed more than 1.5 million people globally sent shares soaring in recent weeks.
On Wall Street, stock indexes reached fresh all-time highs on Friday with the Dow rising 0.8 percent, the S&P 500 gaining 0.9 percent and the Nasdaq adding 0.7 percent.
“The vaccine will break the link between mobility and infection rate, allowing for the strongest global GDP growth in more than two decades,” JPMorgan analysts wrote in a note, forecasting global growth of 4.7 percent in 2021.
“Tracking second waves through October and November, economic activity has surprised to the upside. This is true in both Europe and the US This may be why financial markets have largely ignored the spike in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.”