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Asia report: Japan stocks plunge as coronavirus outbreak spreads

By Josh White

Date: Tuesday 25 Feb 2020

Asia report: Japan stocks plunge as coronavirus outbreak spreads

(Sharecast News) - Markets in Asia finished mixed on Tuesday, with Japanese stocks plunging, as investors reacted to a sell-off in Europe and the US overnight amid the spreading outbreak of the Covid-19 strain of coronavirus.
In Japan, the Nikkei 225 was down 3.34% at 22,605.41, as the yen strengthened 0.22% against the dollar to last trade at JPY 110.48.

Of the major components on the benchmark index, automation specialist Fanuc was down 3.34%, fashion firm Fast Retailing lost 4.15%, and technology conglomerate SoftBank Group was 3.6% weaker.

Fujifilm went against the bourse's trend, rising 2.83% after local media claimed the Japanese government was considering using an anti-flu drug developed by one of its divisions.

The broader Topix index was 3.33% lower by the end of trading in Tokyo, settling at 1,618.26.

On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite was 0.6% weaker at 3,013.05, and the smaller, technology-heavy Shenzhen Composite managed gains of 0.51% to 1,943.17.

Chinese health authorities reported 508 new cases of coronavirus and another 71 deaths overnight, bringing the total there to 77,658 confirmed cases and 2,663 fatalities.

"It could be argued that the reaction of governments to the outbreak in closing borders and restricting movement is actually making things worse, as well as sowing confusion and fear amongst their populations," suggested CMC Markets' chief market analyst Michael Hewson.

"For now, there appears little prospect that financial markets look likely to settle down in the short term, which means investors will have to get used to an extended period of uncertainty and volatility."

South Korea's Kospi was up 1.18% at 2,103.61, while the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong rose 0.27% to 26,893.23.

The blue-chip technology stocks were mixed in Seoul, with Samsung Electronics up 1.94%, while chipmaker SK Hynix lost 1.51%.

A fresh 60 cases of coronavirus was reported in the country on Tuesday, bringing its total to 893, which is the largest of any nation outside of mainland China.

The number of fatalities stood at eight, Seoul said, with authorities there raising the health alert around the outbreak to the highest possible level over the weekend.

Consumer confidence reached a six-month low on the Korean peninsula, according to fresh data released during the session.

The Composite Consumer Sentiment Index fell 7.3 points month-on-month for February, for a reading of 96.9, according to the Bank of Korea.

Oil prices were lower by the end of the Asian day, with Brent crude last down 0.23% at $56.17 per barrel, and West Texas Intermediate falling 0.43% to $51.21.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 was 1.6% weaker by end-of-play in Sydney, closing at 6,866.60, while across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand's S&P/NZX 50 was off 1.16%, finishing its session at 11,719.23.

Both of the down under dollars were weaker on the greenback, with the Aussie last off 0.15% at AUD 1.5163, and the Kiwi retreating 0.3% to NZD 1.5820.

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