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Wednesday July 28th, 2021 3:11AM

Asia shares mixed ahead of China holiday, Trump-Biden debate

By The Associated Press
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TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares were mixed in muted trading Monday, ahead of the first U.S. presidential debate and a national holiday in China later in the week.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 rose 1.3% in afternoon trading to 23,511.62, while South Korea's Kospi added 1.4% to 2,310.85. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost earlier gains to slip 0.2% to 5,952.30. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 0.8% to 23,429.81, while the Shanghai Composite index inched less than 0.1% lower to 3,216.46.

China is celebrating its National Day and Mid-Autumn festival on Oct. 1, followed by a weeklong holiday through Oct. 8.

China's statistical bureau reported Sunday that industrial profits rose 19% in August from a year earlier, as the economy recovered from the pandemic downturn.

Regional markets are seeing signs of improvement in economic activity despite the coronavirus pandemic, as businesses strive to achieve a new normal with social distancing and mask-wearing.

Investors are hoping for additional fiscal stimulus measures from the U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she hopes to find common ground for agreement with Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin after the $2.4 trillion package under discussion failed to bridge the divide.

The chamber passed a $3.4 trillion rescue measure in May. Democrats cut their ambitions back by $1 trillion or so, while Senate Republicans have focused on a much smaller package in the $650 billion to $1 trillion range.

Bridging the overall topline gulf would be tough. Working out hundreds of legislative details just before the November election, amid a feud over filling Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat on the Supreme Court could be impossible. But there is pressure on both sides to do something to help the economy and the tens of millions of voters left unemployed thanks to the pandemic.

Also on investors' minds is the first presidential debate, set for Tuesday, between U.S. President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Joe Biden. It could influence the course of U.S. policies likely to affect share prices across the board.

“Heightened volatility appeared to have been the case as growth and U.S. election concerns mounted,” said Jingyi Pan, market strategist with IG in Singapore.

Wall Street shares finished solidly higher Friday, led by gains in technology and health care companies, although the S&P 500 still posted its fourth straight weekly loss, extending the market's September swoon.

The S&P 500 rose 1.6% to 3,298.46, flip-flopping between small gains and losses a few times in the early going. Stocks have been erratic this month, with indexes setting new highs to start the month and then falling sharply as investors worried that values for some of technology giants had risen too high.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 1.3% to 27,173.96. The Nasdaq composite climbed 2.3%, to 10,913.56. And the Russell 2000 index of small-cap stocks picked up 1.6%, to 1,474.91.

In energy trading, U.S. benchmark crude slipped 39 cents to $39.86 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, lost 36 cents to $41.56 a barrel.

The U.S. dollar fell to 105.31 Japanese yen from 105.57 yen on Friday. The euro was unchanged at $1.1632.

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