Asian stocks fell on Thursday as a European Central Bank plan to spend more than $800 billion to buy bonds and the passage of a bipartisan funding and relief package in the U.S. as part of the nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic failed to ease investor fears that the world is heading for a virus-fueled economic catastrophe.
The 750-billion-euro ($820-billion) program is temporary and will be halted when the coronavirus crisis is judged to be over “but in any case not before the end of the year”, the ECB said as countries around the world scrambled to prevent wider transmission of COVID-19, which has now infected more than 200,000 people and killed almost 9,000.
China’s Shanghai Composite index dropped nearly 1 percent to 2,702.13, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index tumbled 2.61 percent to 21,709.13.
Japanese shares hit a 3-1/2-year low as panic selling over the coronavirus pandemic overshadowed a massive shot of stimulus from the world’s major central banks. The Nikkei average gave up early gains to end the session down 1.04 percent at 16,552.83, its lowest close since November 2016.
Market heavyweight SoftBank Group Corp plunged over 17 percent. Fujifilm Holdings Corp declined 8.5 percent after the company said it expects no direct earnings impact from potential sales growth of Favipiravir in China for now.
Australia’s benchmark S&P/ASX 200 lost 3.44 percent to finish at 4,782.90 even as the Reserve Bank made a historic foray into quantitative easing, saying it would do “whatever is necessary” to ensure funding costs are low and credit is freely available. Following an out-of-schedule meeting, the central bank slashed its cash rate to an all-time low of 0.25 percent.
New Zealand’s benchmark NZX-50 index tumbled 3.6 percent to 9,114.53 after Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the country’s borders will be closed to everyone but citizens and residents from tonight.
Seoul stocks extended recent losses on worries that the economic stimulus measures announced by major economies around the globe is not enough to revitalize financial markets.
The benchmark Kospi crashed 133.56 points, or 8.39 percent, to 1,457.64 as the country reported 152 new cases of the new coronavirus today, up from 93 new cases a day earlier, bringing the nation’s total infections to 8,565. Tech heavyweights Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix fell around 6 percent while battery maker Samsung SDI plunged over 17 percent.
Philippine shares plunged by nearly 25 percent only moments after the Manila stock exchange resumed trade after a two-day halt. Markets later cut losses and were down 12 percent.
Overnight, U.S. stocks tumbled again as the number of coronavirus infections kept climbing, creating more uncertainty about how badly the economy is getting hit. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slumped 6.3 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite shed 4.7 percent and the S&P 500 lost 5.2 percent.
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