Asian Shares Tumble On Virus Worries

Asian stocks fell on Monday and safe-haven assets such as gold and the dollar rose as investors fretted about a surge in the number of new coronavirus cases reported outside China and the potential impact on the global economy. The Japanese markets were closed for the Emperor’s Birthday.

South Korea raised its coronavirus alert to the highest level, while Italy and Iran confirmed an uptick in coronavirus infections.

China’s Shanghai Composite Index fell 8.44 points, or 0.3 percent, to 3,031.23 despite assurances from the government that it would step up efforts to help cushion the blow to its economy from the coronavirus outbreak. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index tumbled 487.93 points, or 1.8 percent, to 26,820.88.

Australian stocks tumbled, with weak global cues and disappointing corporate earnings dampening investor sentiment. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index plummeted 160.70 points, or 2.3 percent, to 6,978.30, while the broader All Ordinaries Index plunged 165 points, or 2.3 percent, to 7,065.40.

Qantas Airways slumped 7.5 percent amid the contagion fears. Woodside Petroleum, Santos, Origin Energy and Oil Search plunged 3-6 percent after oil prices fell more than 2 percent in Asian trading.

Miners BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group declined 2-3 percent, while gold miner Evolution Mining rose 1.1 percent, Newcrest Mining climbed 5 percent and Northern Star Resources rallied 3.3 percent.

The big four banks fell between 0.9 percent and 1.5 percent. BlueScope Steel plummeted 7.9 percent after a warning that the coronavirus outbreak will heavily impact its China business.

NIB Holdings tumbled 7.1 percent as the health insurer reported a 23 percent decrease in first-half profit. Outdoor advertiser oOh!media lost 3.4 percent after reporting a 54 percent drop in statutory profit for the full year.

Seoul stocks nosedived, with the benchmark Kospi plummeting 83.80 points, or 3.9 percent, to close at 2,079.04 after South Korea raised its coronavirus alert to the “highest level” for the first time in a decade, following a rapid spike in cases over the weekend.

Airline stocks succumbed to heavy selling pressure, with Korean Air Lines and Asiana Airlines falling more than 6 percent after both suspended flights to the city of Daegu amid the contagion worries.

Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics tumbled 4 percent after confirming a coronavirus case at its mobile device factory complex in the southeastern city of Gumi.

New Zealand shares fell sharply as reports of surging coronavirus infections in South Korea, Italy and Iran dashed hopes the outbreak might be contained. The benchmark NZX 50 Index ended down 216.22 points, or 1.8 percent, at 11,857.12.

The total volume of retail sales in New Zealand gained a seasonally adjusted 0.7 percent sequentially in the fourth quarter of 2019, Statistics New Zealand said today.

That was shy of expectations for an increase of 0.8 percent and down from the upwardly revised 1.7 percent gain in the three months prior (originally 1.6 percent).

Singapore’s Straits Times Index slumped 1.2 percent. A government report showed that Singapore’s consumer price inflation rose 0.8 percent year-on-year in January, the same as seen in December. Economists had expected a 0.9 percent increase.

Malaysia’s KLSE Composite Index tumbled 2.7 percent amid political turmoil surrounding potential changes in the ruling government coalition.

U.S. stocks tumbled on Friday to extend losses from the previous session as the spread of the coronavirus inside and outside of China fueled worries about the impact on supply chains and global economic growth.

Disappointing manufacturing and service sector readings as well as tepid housing data also weighed on markets.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.8 percent, the S&P 500 declined 1.1 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite shed 1.8 percent.

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