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By Gina Lee

Investing.com – Asia Pacific stocks were mostly up on Monday morning, but a worsening COVID-19 pandemic and prospects for U.S. stimulus measures remain challenges to global economic recovery.

Hong Kong’s rose 1.43% by 9:24 PM ET (2:24 AM GMT). The city’s first ever lockdown, affecting around 10,000 people living in the Jordan and Yau Ma Tei areas, was lifted earlier in the day as a COVID-19 testing program was completed.

China’s was up 0.39% while the was down 0.30%, with the country continuing to deal with its latest COVID-19 outbreak. The National Health Commission recorded 124 cases on Jan. 24, up from 80 today earlier and the worst wave of new infections seen since March 2020.

Japan’s gained 0.45% and South Korea’s jumped 1.54%. In Australia, the was up 0.41%.

Despite stocks’ positive start to the week, the global economy is facing a tougher-than-anticipated start to 2021 thanks to numbers of new COVID-19 cases globally that show no signs of slowing down and lags in COVID-19 vaccine rollouts. Doubts are also starting to creep in on whether U.S. President Joe Biden will muster Republican support to pass his proposed $1.9 trillion stimulus package through Congress.

The number of global COVID-19 cases is fast approaching 100 million, with the number of deaths surpassing 2 million as of Jan. 25, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Vaccine rollouts have been hampered by delays in consignments by Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:) and AstraZeneca PLC (LON:) of their respective vaccines, described by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte as “unacceptable” in a Facebook (NASDAQ:) post. Further bad news came as U.K. health minister Matt Hancock warned on Sunday that existing vaccines could be less effective against new COVID-19 variants.

“There was one negative COVID-19 news story after another on Friday and which equity investors ultimately couldn’t ignore,” National Australia Bank (OTC:) head of forex strategy Ray Attrill.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will speak at the World Economic Forum’s “The Davos Agenda 2021” online event later in the day. Topics to be discussed at the event include fair economic and social systems, as well as digitization and the climate crisis.

On the central bank front, People’s Bank of China Governor Yi Gang and European Central Bank Chief Economist Philip Lane are both due to speak at a conference later in the day. The Federal Reserve is also due to hand out its policy decision on Wednesday, amid hopes that Fed Chairman Jerome Powell will reassure investors that $120 billion worth of monthly bond purchases won’t be reduced any time soon.

The U.S. is due to release a slew of data during the week, starting with the and indexes on Tuesday, followed by , and data will be released on Thursday.

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