by AFP/ pic by AFP
HONG KONG – Asian markets fell again on Thursday as coronavirus infections surged outside China with more new countries reporting cases and analysts warning of more pain ahead for investors.
Donald Trump looked to ease concerns about the crisis Wednesday, telling reporters in a rare White House briefing he did not think it “inevitable” that COVID-19 would continue to spread throughout the US.
That came a day after the nation’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned: “It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen.”
Investors are growing increasingly fearful about the economic impact with several big-name companies including Apple, Microsoft and drinks giant Diageo expecting sales to be hit.
The virus continues to spread around the world, with Brazil reporting Latin America’s first case, while Greece, Georgia, Norway and Pakistan following suit.
Around 40 countries have now been affected and the global death toll now stands at about 2,800 with more than 80,000 infected.
China on Wednesday announced its fewest daily deaths in almost a month, while for the first time more people were reported to have come down with the virus outside China than inside.
Equity markets in Europe and the US ended Wednesday on a mixed note, having been hammered the previous two days, mainly supported by bargain-buying.
But Asia continued to fall, with Tokyo leading the pack down 1.8 percent by the break. Hong Kong shed 0.9 percent with traders unmoved by a big-spending budget from the city’s finance chief aimed at shoring up the struggling economy.
Shanghai was off 0.1 percent and Sydney shed one percent. Seoul was down 0.9 percent after authorities in South Korea said a total of 1,595 had been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the country, the highest outside China.
Singapore, Taipei, Wellington and Jakarta were also well down.
And observers warned of worse to come.
“There’s more room potentially to go with this correction,” Katie Koch, at Goldman Sachs Asset Management, said. “There is still so much more uncertainty around how coronavirus is going to spread, particularly in the US.”
The panic-selling has seen investors rush into safe havens with the yield on 10-year and 30-year Treasuries around record lows, while oil is being battered by concerns about plunging demand. Both main contracts are down about a fifth this year and are sitting at more than 12-month lows.
“The spread beyond China’s borders has been at the core of the market’s worries since the weekend news flow pointed to a potential super spreader around the globe and saw risk U-turn lower,” said AxiCorp’s Stephen Innes.
On currency markets the yen remains buoyed by its safe-haven status against the dollar, while the greenback was also sitting around one-year highs against the Australian dollar.
The South Korean won, which has been slammed as Seoul struggles to contain the crisis, enjoyed some rare buying after the country’s central bank surprisingly kept interest rates on hold despite the expected hit to the already-faltering economy.
Key figures around 0230 GMT
- Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 1.8 percent at 22,025.05 (break)
- Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 0.9 percent at 26,462.29
- Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.1 percent at 2,984.23
- Dollar/yen: DOWN at 110.29 from 110.45 at 2140 GMT
- Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0902 from $1.0884
- Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2916 from $1.2906
- Euro/pound: UP at 84.42 pence from 84.33 pence
- Brent Crude: DOWN 1.5 percent at $52.64 per barrel
- West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 1.7 percent at $47.91
- New York – Dow: DOWN 0.5 percent at 26,957.59 (close)
- London – FTSE 100: UP 0.4 percent at 7,042.47 (close)