Asia Pacific Stocks Post Decline as Australian Market Leads in Losses

Shares in Asia-Pacific fell in on Thursday following an overnight plunge on Wall Street as coronavirus cases continue to surge in the West.

The sustained increase in coronavirus cases seen in the U.S. as well as across Europe likely weighed on investor sentiment in Asia-Pacific on Thursday.

Stocks in Australia led losses among the region’s major markets, as the S&P/ASX 200 dropped 1.61% to close at 5,960.30. South Korea’s Kospi fell 0.79% on the day to 2,326.67. Shares of industry heavyweight Samsung Electronics declined 1.53% after the firm on Thursday predicted a fourth-quarter decline in profits.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index fell 0.44%, as of its final hour of trading.

Standard Chartered shares listed in the city fell about 2% after the lender announced a 40% year-on-year slide in its profit before taxation for the three months ended Sept. 30.

“Lower interest rates continue to impact income but we remain well-positioned to meet our financial targets, albeit with some delay,” Standard Chartered CEO Bill Winters said in the earnings release.

Mainland Chinese stocks bucked the overall trend regionally as they rose on the day, with the Shanghai composite 0.11% higher to around 3,272.73 while the Shenzhen component rose 0.983% to about 13,519.66.

Over in Japan, the Nikkei 225 declined 0.37% to close at 23,331.94 while the Topix index shed 0.1% to end its trading day at 1,610.93. Shares of Sony, however, surged 6.69% after the firm raised its annual profit outlook. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dipped 0.36%.

Meanwhile, as risk sentiment continued to weigh on investors, the dollar was still at elevated levels as compared to earlier this week, while spot gold continued to be lower.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 93.374 following levels below 93.2 seen earlier this week. The dollar is often seen as a safe-haven asset in times of uncertainty.

Spot gold was at $1,882.31 per ounce, following its decline from the $1,900 level earlier this week.

The Japanese yen traded at 104.30 per dollar, having strengthened from levels above 104.8 against the greenback earlier this week.

The Bank of Japan kept monetary policy steady on Thursday, in a widely expected decision. In the central bank’s quarterly report, its median forecast for real GDP was revised downward to a 5.5% decline in fiscal year 2020. That compared against a median expectation of a 4.7% fall projected in the previous report in July.

Japan’s retail sales fell 8.7% in September as compared to a year earlier, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s Preliminary Report on the Current Survey of Commerce released Thursday. That compared against a median market forecast for a 7.7% decline, according to Reuters.

Markets stateside had a sharp selloff overnight. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 943.24 points, or 3.4%, to close at 26,519.95 — its fourth straight negative session. The S&P 500 slipped 3.5% to end its trading day at 3,271.03 while the Nasdaq Composite fell 3.7% to close at 11,004.87.

Tuesday was the third consecutive day the U.S. set a record high of average daily Covid-19 cases. In Europe, Germany and France announced tough new restrictions on businesses Wednesday in a bid to stem the spread of the coronavirus as the countries deal with worsening outbreaks.

“The inability to control the “second wave” outbreak resulting in re-imposition of tighter social restrictions in Europe (led by Germany and France) is leading to grave concerns that the US and UK, with its similar pattern of resurgence, will have to follow suit,” Vishnu Varathan, head of economics and strategy at Mizuho Bank, wrote in a note.
Oil prices decline
Oil prices were lower in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures down 0.33% at $38.99 per barrel. U.S. crude futures dipped 0.24% to $37.30 per barrel.

The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7065 after yesterday’s sharp drop from above $0.712.

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