Asia report: Markets higher as investors shrug off coronavirus concerns
Most markets in Asia managed gains on Wednesday, as investors continued to weigh concerns around the spread of the Wuhan strain of coronavirus, which has infected hundreds in China and has been confirmed spread to the United States.
In Japan, the Nikkei 225 was up 0.7% at 24,031.35, as the yen weakened 0.08% against the dollar to last trade at JPY 109.96.
Automation specialist Fanuc was up 0.05% and technology conglomerate SoftBank Group rose 0.18%, while Uniqlo owner Fast Retailing was 0.24% weaker.
The broader Topix index was 0.53% higher by the close of trading in Tokyo, finishing its session at 1,744.13.
On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite was up 0.28% at 3,060.75, and the smaller, technology-heavy Shenzhen Composite was 0.72% firmer at 1,819.61.
South Korea’s Kospi was 1.23% ahead at 2,267.25, while the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong managed to rise 1.27% to 28,341.04.
Both of the blue-chip technology stocks were in the green in Seoul, with Samsung Electronics up 1.47% and chipmaker SK Hynix ahead 1.71%.
The Bank of Korea released fresh data during the day, showing that the country's economy grew by a seasonally-adjusted 1.2% in the fourth quarter of 2019, compared to the prior quarter.
That was well ahead of the 0.8% growth predicted by economists polled by Reuters.
Investors spent much of the Asian day anxiously watching for news of the coronavirus strain, which is believed to originate in the Wuhan area of China and was confirmed as being communicable between humans by authorities there earlier in the week.
Chinese health officials have confirmed 400 cases of the virus and a handful of deaths, while cases have also been confirmed in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.
Overnight, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also confirmed a case in the United States, where a traveller to China is understood to have brought the virus back with them.
“Despite the first case of the coronavirus being identified in the United States, the losses that were pinned on the illness on Tuesday failed to materialise this Wednesday,” said Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell.
“Part of the reason for these gains could be the positive noise made by Donald Trump and European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen, with reports of ‘a friendly exchange of views between allies’.
“That’s good given the trade tensions that have recently defined the relationship between EU and US, tensions that both appear to want to resolve.”
Oil prices were lower at the end of the region’s day, with Brent crude last down 0.66% at $64.17 per barrel, and West Texas Intermediate off 0.74% at $57.95.
In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 was 0.94% higher at 7,132.70, while across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s S&P/NZX 50 added 0.72% to reach a fresh record high of 11,889.68.
Both of the down under dollars were weaker on the greenback, with the Aussie last off 0.01% at AUD 1.4610, and the Kiwi retreating 0.07% to NZD 1.5169.