Asian Markets Decline as Coronavirus Concerns take Centre Stage

Shares in Asia-Pacific were mixed in Friday trade as investors monitored coronavirus developments.

Mainland Chinese stocks led losses among the region’s major markets, with the Shanghai composite closing 1.04% lower at about 3,278 while the Shenzhen component dropped 1.999% on the day to approximately 13,128.46. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index edged 0.46% higher, as of its final hour of trading.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 rose 0.18% to close at 23,516.59 while the Topix index advanced 0.34% to finish its trading day at 1,625.32. South Korea’s Kospi also rose 0.24% to close at 2,360.81.

Meanwhile, shares in Australia slipped, with the S&P/ASX 200 closing 0.11% lower at 6,167.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan was above the flatline.

Semiconductor-related stocks in Asia-Pacific were watched on Friday after chipmaker Intel reported mixed quarterly numbers.

In Japan, shares of Tokyo Electron dropped 2.74% while Advantest slipped 1.08%. In South Korea, industry heavyweight Samsung Electronics saw its stock rise 0.17% while chipmaker SK Hynix gained 0.72%.

On the coronavirus front, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved Gilead Sciences’ antiviral drug remdesivir for the virus. The intravenous drug has helped shorten the recovery time of some hospitalized Covid-19 patients.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday a deal on new coronavirus stimulus was “just about there” though she warned that passing it into law will take time as she and the Trump administration attempt to iron out remaining issues.

Overnight on Wall Street, the  Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 152.84 points higher, or 0.5%, at 28,363.66. The S&P 500 added 0.5% to finish its trading day at 3,453.49 while the Nasdaq Composite closed 0.2% higher at 11,506.01.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 93.022 following a recovery from levels below 92.8 in recent days.

The Japanese yen traded at 104.74 per dollar, having weakened from levels around 104.5 against the greenback yesterday. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7127 following its rise from levels below $0.705 earlier this week.

Oil prices were lower in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures shedding 0.24% to $42.36 per barrel. U.S. crude futures dipped 0.32% to $40.51 per barrel.

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