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Asian Markets Trade Lower As New Coronavirus Strain Weighs on Investor Sentiment

Shares in Asia-Pacific declined on Tuesday following investor jitters overnight on Wall Street over a new coronavirus strain in the U.K.

Mainland Chinese stocks fell on the day. The Shanghai composite shed 1.86% to 3,356.78 while the Shenzhen component fell 1.787% to 13,882.30. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index slipped 0.76%, as of its final hour of trading.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 declined 1.04% to close at 26,436.39 while the Topix index fell 1.56% to finish its trading day at 1,761.12. South Korea’s Kospi dropped 1.62% to close at 2,733.68.

Over in Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 fell 1.05% to close at 6,599.60. Australia’s retail sales jumped 7% in November as compared with October on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to preliminary figures released by the country’s Bureau of Statistics.

Following that data release, the Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7557, after an earlier high of $0.759.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dipped 0.96%.

Oil prices also dropped in the afternoon of Asia trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures shedding 1.71% to $50.04 per barrel. U.S. crude futures declined 1.94% to $47.04 per barrel.

Developments surrounding the coronavirus pandemic likely continued to weigh on investor sentiment, following the discovery of a new Covid strain in the U.K. that has prompted tighter lockdowns and travel restrictions across Europe.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 90.224 after seeing an earlier low of 90.09.

The Japanese yen traded at 103.43 per dollar, after strengthening from levels above 103.6 against the greenback yesterday.