Tokyo, Aug 21: Asian shares were higher Friday on hopes for the development of a coronavirus vaccine, although worries remained about long-term economic damage from the pandemic.

The rise in regional benchmarks echoed the gains on Wall Street, which were led by big technology companies that are benefiting from people staying home during the outbreak.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 gained 0.4 per cent in early trading to 22,979.27. South Korea’s Kospi edged up 0.7 per cent to 2,290.04.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was little changed at 6,115.60. Hong Kong‘s Hang Seng added 0.5 per cent to 24,923.09, while the Shanghai Composite rose 0.4 per cent to 3,376.48.

Reports that Pfizer’s vaccine is on track to seek October regulatory review boosted sentiments despite ongoing uncertainty about global growth, said Jingyi Pan, market strategist at IG in Singapore.

Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech said they will take their COVID-19 vaccine candidate with the fewest side effects into final-stage testing. It’s one of a handful of experimental vaccines to reach end-stage tests around the world.

Asia markets have broadly tailed Wall Street with gains, aided also by the latest vaccine news boost to sentiment,” Pan said.

The S&P 500 rose 0.3 per cent after rallying back from an earlier 0.6 per cent loss as investors weighed new government data showing an increase in the number of Americans who sought unemployment aid last week.

The discouraging report helped send two out of every three stocks in the S&P 500 lower. Energy producers and financial companies had some of the sharpest drops. But tech stocks in the S&P 500 nevertheless rose 1.4 per cent, continuing a remarkable run of resilience.

The S&P 500 was up 10.66 points to 3,385.51. The gains kept the benchmark index close to its record level. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 46.85 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 27,739.73.

The strength in tech stocks helped lift the Nasdaq composite up 118.49 points, or 1.1 per cent, to 11,264.95, a record high. Smaller companies didn’t fare as well. The Russell 2000 index lost 7.76 points, or 0.5 per cent, to 1,564.30.

In the US, Uber and Lyft bounced higher after an appeals court said the ride-hailing giants can continue treating their drivers as independent contractors in California while an appeal works its way through the court. Uber jumped 6.8 per cent and Lyft gained 5.8 per cent.

Benchmark US crude oil fell 35 cents to USD 42.58 a barrel. Brent crude, the international standard, gained 13 cents to USD 45.03 a barrel.

The US dollar inched down to 105.70 Japanese yen from 105.87 yen Thursday. The euro cost USD 1.1867, up slightly from USD 1.1842.(AP)