Asian markets continue to pull back fears of growing global outbreak

Asian markets declined in early trading Wednesday following another sharp selloff on Wall Street as the global spread of the coronavirus outbreak continued to rattle traders.

Japan’s Nikkei NIK, -0.88%  sank 0.7%, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index HSI, -0.65%  dipped 0.5%. The Shanghai Composite SHCOMP, +0.35%  edged up 0.3%, while the smaller-cap Shenzhen Composite 399106, -0.80%  fell 0.8%. South Korea’s Kospi 180721, -1.13%  retreated 1%. Stocks ticked up in Malaysia FBMKLCI, +0.32% , but fell in Taiwan Y9999, -0.89% , Singapore STI, -0.96%  and Indonesia JAKIDX, -1.08% . Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 XJO, -2.31%  tumbled 2.3%.

Among individual stocks, SoftBank 9984, -1.10% , Sony 6758, -1.84% and Inpex 1605, -3.20% dropped in Tokyo trading. In Hong Kong, AAC 2018, -2.98%  and Sunny Optical 2382, -3.53%  fell, along with China Mobile 941, -2.40% . Samsung 005930, -2.25%  declined in South Korea, while Beach Energy BPT, -4.02%  and Rio Tinto RIO, -1.83%  fell in Australia.

“The picture is not a good one,” Jeffrey Halley, senior Asia-Pacific market analyst at Oanda, wrote in a note. “Asian stocks will continue to remain under pressure, remaining acutely vulnerable to new negative virus headlines. Europe is to some extent, still playing virus catch-up, with European stock likely to endure a harsh morning session.”

New cases continued to rise sharply in South Korea, where the first U.S. soldier tested positive for the COVID-19 illness. More than 1,100 cases have been confirmed in South Korea, with at least 11 deaths, according to the Associated Press.

China, the epicenter of the outbreak, continued to add new cases — though at a slower pace in recent days — with more than 78,000 total cases and 2,700 deaths. But concern grew about outbreaks away from Asia, from Iran to Italy to the Canary Islands.

Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it’s just a matter of time before the virus impacts the U.S. “It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen — and how many people in this country will have severe illness,” she said.

U.S. stocks closed Tuesday with the Dow registering its worst two-day loss on record. The Dow Jones Industrial AverageDJIA, -3.15%  slid 879.44 points, 3.2%, to settle at 27,081.3, while the S&P 500 SPX, -3.03%  lost 97.68 points, 3%, to close at 3,128.21. The Nasdaq Composite COMP, -2.77%  fell below 9,000, shedding 255.67 points, or 2.8%, to end at 8,965.61.

After settling at two-week lows Tuesday, West Texas Intermediate crude for April delivery CLJ20, +0.70%  rose to $50.26 per barrel in electronic trading, while Brent crude, the global benchmark BRNJ20, +0.53% , ticked up to $55.25 a barrel.

The dollar USDJPY, +0.18%  edged up to 99.12 Japanese yen.

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