Asian Shares Tumble Despite ECB Stimulus

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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Asian Shares Advance As Virus Worries Ebb

Asian stocks advanced on Wednesday as anxiety ebbed over the spread of a deadly virus in mainland China and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell told Congress that the U.S. economy is in a good place, despite the potential threat from the coronavirus outbreak in China.

Chinese stocks rose for the seventh straight day as virus worries waned. The benchmark Shanghai Composite index climbed 25.22 points, or 0.9 percent, to 2,926.90 after officials reported the lowest daily increase in coronavirus infection cases in nearly two weeks, calming investor nerves over the epidemic’s economic impact. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index ended 0.9 percent higher at 27,823.66.

Japanese shares gained ground as a positive mood prevailed across global markets despite lingering concerns about the coronavirus outbreak. The Nikkei 225 Index climbed 175.23 points, or 0.7 percent, to 23,861.21, while the broader Topix finished marginally lower at 1,718.92.

Heavyweight SoftBank Group Corp soared 11.9 percent to become the country’s second-biggest company by market value after a U.S. federal judge approved a merger between its U.S. wireless unit Sprint Corp. and T-Mobile U.S. Inc.

Taiko Pharmaceutical Co. jumped 18.2 percent after the drug maker raised its operating profit forecast for the year ending in March. Tech stocks also posted strong gains, with Advantest surging 4.3 percent and Tokyo Electron adding 3.5 percent.

Meanwhile, Nissan Motor dropped 1.7 percent after temporarily halting production at its plant in Kyushu, southwestern Japan, due to a shortage of parts from China.

Australian markets advanced after positive offshore leads. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 32.90 points, or 0.5 percent, to 7,088.20, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended up 33.90 points, or 0.5 percent, at 7,185.30.

Lender Commonwealth Bank of Australia surged 4.1 percent after its half-year cash profit topped forecasts.

CSL shares advanced 0.8 percent. After reporting an 11 percent increase in first-half net profit, the biotech company raised its full-year profit outlook and interim dividend.

Online vehicle sales company rallied 8.3 percent after its statutory net profit for the half-year surged more than five-fold.

On the other hand, health supplements firm Blackmores slumped 12.8 percent as the company scrapped its dividend and warned that this year’s profit will more than halve because of adverse costs and the coronavirus outbreak.

Australia’s consumer confidence advanced in February but sentiment remained weak overall, survey data from Westpac showed today.

South Korea’s Kospi rose 15.26 points, or 0.7 percent, to 2,238.38 after Fitch Ratings affirmed the country’s sovereign ratings with a ‘stable’ outlook.

The agency said the 2020 budget, enacted in December, implemented significant fiscal stimulus to confront sluggish growth prospects. Korea also has the fiscal space to utilize near-term fiscal stimulus, Fitch said.

New Zealand shares advanced as the country’s central bank left its official cash rate unchanged at a record low of 1.00 percent but suggested the coronavirus outbreak was “a downside risk” to the domestic economy. The benchmark NZX-50 Index gained 0.5 percent to close at 11,898.24.

U.S. stocks edged up slightly overnight after a top Chinese health adviser said the coronavirus outbreak may be peaking and infections may be over by April.

Recent strong earnings announcements and economic data as well as fairly upbeat comments by Fed Chair Jerome Powell also offered some support.

The Dow ended flat with a negative bias, while the S&P 500 inched up 0.2 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rose 0.1 percent to reach fresh record closing highs.

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