Asia report: Most markets fall on renewed coronavirus concerns
Most markets in Asia finished in the red on Thursday, as a spike in new cases of coronavirus in China’s Hubei province dented sentiment.
In Japan, the Nikkei 225 was down 0.14% at 23,827.73, as the yen strengthened 0.35% against the dollar to last trade at JPY 109.70.
Of the major components on the benchmark index, automation specialist Fanuc was up 0.03% and fashion firm Fast Retailing rose 2.33%, while technology conglomerate SoftBank Group slid 5.09%.
SoftBank reported a near-total crumbling of its quarterly profit on Thursday, one day after its shares surged on the news that its majority-owned US mobile subsidiary Sprint had won approval to merge with rival T-Mobile US.
The broader Topix index ended the session weaker, falling 0.34% to settle at 1,713.08.
On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite was off 0.71% at 2,906.07, and the smaller, technology-focussed Shenzhen Composite lost 0.77% to close at 1,771.61.
Officials in the Hubei province of China, which is at the heart of the ongoing outbreak of the ‘Covid-19’ strain of coronavirus, reported a spike in new cases of the virus during the day.
The officials said it was down to a change in the method used to calculate the total, explaining that they were now including “clinically diagnosed” cases in their figures.
Market sentiment was more positive earlier in the week, as the data had appeared to show a slowing in the number of new cases of the virus, and authorities in Beijing launched a number of plans to keep a lid on the economic hit expected to be caused by the outbreak.
“Arguably the main driver of Wednesday’s growth was the hopes that the outbreak in China was being contained,” said Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell.
“Changes to the way in which authorities calculate figures surrounding the illness revealed a worse situation than first thought, with a 242 person jump in the number of deaths and a 15,000 surge in total cases.
“Understandably this spooked investors.”
South Korea’s Kospi was 0.24% lower at 2,232.96, while the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong slipped 0.34% to 27,730.00.
Both of the blue-chip technology stocks were in positive territory in Seoul, with Samsung Electronics up 0.33% and chipmaker SK Hynix 2% firmer.
Oil prices were lower at the end of the Asian day, with Brent crude last down 1.14% at $55.16 per barrel, and West Texas Intermediate off 0.67% at $50.83.
In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 was the region’s odd one out, going against the trend and rising 0.21% to 7,103.20.
Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s S&P/NZX 50 was off 0.15% to end its trading day at 11,880.84.
Specialist dairy producer Synlait Milk was Wellington’s big loser, plunging 18% after it revised its outlook for the year to flat profits at best.
It cited a weak global market for infant formula, and the risks posed by the coronavirus outbreak in China - one of its primary markets - as the reasons for the profit warning.
Both of the down under dollars were weaker on the greenback, with the Aussie last off 0.13% at AUD 1.4862, and the Kiwi retreating 0.16% to NZD 1.5490.