GLOBAL MARKETS-Asia markets to open lower on pandemic worries, shrugging off U.S. equities upswing

NEW YORK, July 21 (Reuters) - Asia shares were set to open lower on Wednesday after U.S. President Donald Trump’s comments regarding the country’s surge in novel coronavirus cases outweighed a slight rally on Wall Street.

Australian S&P/ASX 200 futures lost 1.06% in early trading. Japan’s Nikkei 225 futures added 0.24%, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index futures lost 0.34%.

E-mini futures for the S&P 500 rose 0.13%.

Speaking at his first White House briefing focused on the pandemic in months, Trump said the virus will probably get worse before it gets better. Cases have been rising across the United States, with now nearly 141,000 deaths recorded from the disease.

Also weighing on markets were comments made earlier in the day by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the United States wants to build a global coalition to counter China, which he accused of exploiting the coronavirus pandemic to further its own interests.

“Markets focused on the positives overnight,” Hayden Dimes of ANZ Research wrote on Wednesday. “However, the main near-term question for the U.S. economy is … what damage has been done in July, as COVID-19 cases have surged.”

U.S. equity markets had been higher for most of the session on Tuesday, as investors cheered the European Union’s creation of a 750-billion-euro recovery fund and U.S. regulators continued hammering out a new stimulus agreement.

U.S. Republicans and Democrats remained far apart, however, on how much to spend on coronavirus relief, as Democrats called Republicans’ $1-trillion-proposal insufficient.

The U.S. benchmark S&P 500 index turned positive for the year, hitting its highest level since Feb. 21.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 159.53 points, or 0.6%, to 26,840.4, the S&P 500 gained 5.46 points, or 0.17%, to 3,257.3 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 86.73 points, or 0.81%, to 10,680.36.

Gold soared to a nine-year peak on Tuesday, boosted by a dollar sell-off. Spot gold rose 1.5% to $1,842.52 per ounce, its highest since September 2011. U.S. gold futures settled up 1.5% at $1,843.9.

The U.S. dollar, viewed as safe-haven rival to bullion, hit more than a four-month low.

The Australian dollar rose 0.01% versus the greenback at $0.713.

Oil prices also hit their highest level in more than four months, although prices pared gains in post-settlement trade on news that U.S. crude inventories grew last week by more than expected. (Reporting by Elizabeth Dilts Marshall; Editing by Lincoln Feast)