Asia Pacific Markets Lower as ‘Coronavirus Anxiety’ Weighs Market Sentiments

Asia Pacific markets fell across the board Friday as investors remained cautious due to the growing number of coronavirus cases around the world.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 2.26% in late-afternoon trade. Reuters reported the city will suspend all schools from Monday following a recent spike in coronavirus cases.

Australia’s benchmark ASX 200 ended the session down 0.61% at 5,919.20. The heavily-weighted financials subindex declined 0.72% while the energy subindex fell 1.98%.

The Nikkei 225 in Japan dropped 1.06% to 22,290.81 while the Topix index fell 1.42% to 1,535.20. In South Korea, the Kospi index was down 0.81% at 2,150.25.

Mainland Chinese markets also fell: The Shanghai composite was down 1.95% at 3,383.32, the Shenzhen composite was down 0.3% at 2,251 while the Shenzhen component was down 0.61% at 13,671.24.

Friday’s session followed a mixed overnight on Wall Street where coronavirus concerns pushed investors into tech stocks.

“Coronavirus anxiety dominated market sentiment in a day where major economic releases were scarce,” Kishti Sen, an economist at ANZ Research, wrote in a morning note about the overnight session.

“That left the focus on the high frequency data and daily COVID-19 news,” Sen said.

Infection cases in the United States rose with California and Florida among 12 states hitting record-breaking, seven-day averages for daily new cases, a CNBC analysis showed.

The World Health Organization said that though the virus, which has infected more than 12 million globally, can be brought under control, it’s “getting worse” in most of the world.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of its peers, rose 0.23% to 96.922.

The Japanese yen changed hands at 106.84 per dollar, strengthening from earlier levels around 107.26. The Australian dollar slipped 0.56%, trading at $0.6924.

Oil prices fell Friday during Asian hours following more than 2% declines on Thursday.

Global benchmark Brent traded down 1.61% at $41.67 while U.S. crude fell 1.89% to $38.87 a barrel.

Vivek Dhar from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia said in a morning note that a stronger U.S. dollar and concerns “linked directly to the spread and impact of COVID‑19 in the US,” weighed on oil overnight.

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