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SINGAPORE: Japanese rubber futures inched lower on Tuesday, tracking losses in the Shanghai market, as concerns over the impact of surging COVID-19 cases in China weighed on sentiment, although losses were capped by a weaker yen.

The Osaka Exchange rubber contract for May delivery was down 0.5 yen, or 0.2%, at 227.3 yen ($1.66) per kg, as of 0200 GMT. The rubber contract on the Shanghai futures exchange for May delivery was down 195 yuan, or 1.5%, at 12,725 yuan ($1,823) per tonne. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei share average opened 0.07% higher.

China reported its first COVID-related deaths in weeks on Monday amid rising doubts over whether the official count was capturing the full toll of a disease that is ripping through cities after the government relaxed strict anti-virus controls.

Mainland China’s Health Commission reported five new COVID-19 deaths for Dec 19, compared with two a day earlier. The US dollar was quoted around 137.27 yen, gaining about 0.3%.

A weaker yen makes yen-denominated assets more affordable when purchased in other currencies. Asian share markets were trading mostly in negative territory on Tuesday, as investors anticipated a somewhat rocky road for China’s unwinding of COVID restrictions and the prospect that US interest rates will rise higher than expected in 2023.

The front-month rubber contract on Singapore Exchange’s SICOM platform for January delivery last traded at 134.4 US cents per kg, down 0.5%.

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