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Asia report: Markets mixed as Sydney bourse tumbles

By Josh White

Date: Friday 27 Mar 2020

Asia report: Markets mixed as Sydney bourse tumbles

(Sharecast News) - Markets in Asia finished mixed on Friday, with stocks in Australia plunging more than 5%, as investors digested some painful data on China's industrial sector.
In Japan, the Nikkei 225 was up 3.88% at 19,389.43, as the safe-haven yen strengthened 0.81% against the dollar to last trade at JPY 108.69.

Of the major components on the benchmark index, automation specialist Fanuc was up 2.25%, Uniqlo owner Fast Retailing added 1.44%, and technology conglomerate SoftBank Group rose 2.89%.

The broader Topix index was also in the green at the end of trading in Tokyo, closing up 4.3% at 1,459.49.

On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite managed gains of 0.26% to settle at 2,772.20, and the smaller, technology-focussed Shenzhen Composite fell 0.46% to 1,693.35.

Fresh data out of China showed the country's industrial profits plummeted 38.3% for the January and February period on a year-on-year basis, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

The period in question covered the peak of China's infection period in terms of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, and the subsequent authoritarian lockdowns ordered on the country by officials in Beijing, which led to a serious slowdown in trading across sectors.

South Korea's Kospi was 1.87% firmer at 1,717.73, while the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong was ahead 0.56% at 23,484.28.

Both of the blue-chip technology stocks were firmer in Seoul, with Samsung Electronics rising 1.05% and SK Hynix adding 3.22%.

Covid-19 understandably remained the theme of the Asian session, amid reports during the day that the United States had now overtaken China - where the disease originated - in total case numbers, as confirmed patients there surged on Thursday.

There are now more than half a million confirmed infections globally, with at least 24,000 lives claimed by the virus, as an unprecedented number of countries have ordered businesses to close and residents to remain indoors in a bid to put a lid on the spread.

"Against this sort of backdrop it is still way too early to sound the all clear," said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson.

"While yesterday's rebound was welcome it takes no account of the fact that the infection count and death rate is likely to continue to rise sharply in the coming weeks, and that in any subsequent recovery, consumer incomes and confidence will take some time to recover."

Oil prices were lower still as the region entered the weekend, with Brent crude last down 3.95% at $25.34 per barrel, and West Texas Intermediate falling 3.39% to $21.86.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 tumbled 5.3% by the end of the day in Sydney, to close at 4,842.40, leading the region's losses as the country moved towards more restrictive lockdowns.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's S&P/NZX 50 turned negative in afternoon trading to finish down 0.79% to 9,556.73.

Both of the down under dollars were weaker on the greenback, with the Aussie last off 0.53% at AUD 1.6587, and the Kiwi retreating 0.76% to NZD 1.6905.


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