Asian Shares Fall Amid Coronavirus Anxiety

Asian stocks ended deep in the red on Wednesday as investors grappled with the possibility of a virus-induced global recession.

The global economy is set to see a recession this year due to the severe economic shock caused by the coronavirus, and the risks remain on the downside, S&P Global said Tuesday.

As recession worries mount, investors ignored news that the Trump administration is considering a fiscal stimulus package that could exceed $1 trillion to combat the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

China’s Shanghai Composite index fell 50.88 points, or 1.83 percent, to 2,728.76 after Goldman Sachs cut its estimate for China’s first-quarter gross domestic product growth to a 9 percent contraction, from a previous forecast of 2.5 percent growth, and warned the recovery in Chinese economic activity is likely to be constrained. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index tumbled 4.18 percent to 22,291.82.

Japanese stocks gave up early gains to end sharply lower for the day. The Nikkei average ended down 284.98 points, or 1.68 percent, at 16,726.55, a fresh three-year low. The broader Topix index bucked the weak trend to end 0.19 percent higher at 1,270.84 after the release of upbeat trade data for February.

Japan posted a merchandise trade surplus of 1,109.845 billion yen in February, the Ministry of Finance said. That beat forecasts for a surplus of 916.7 billion yen following the 1,312.6 billion yen deficit in January.

Exports were down 1.0 percent on year, exceeding expectations for a drop of 4.2 percent after sliding 2.6 percent in the previous month. Imports tumbled an annual 14.0 percent versus forecasts for a drop of 14.1 percent following the 3.6 percent decline a month earlier.

Market heavyweight SoftBank tumbled 10.9 percent and Fast Retailing lost 6.6 percent. Oil company Inpex declined 4.7 percent and Japan Petroleum plummeted 9.1 percent.

Exporters ended on a mixed note. Panasonic fell about 2 percent, while Honda Motor rose 1.7 percent, Sony advanced 2.7 percent and Canon added 2.6 percent.

Australian markets fell sharply amid worries about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the Australian economy.

Sentiment was also dampened as more companies withdrew their earnings guidance, the Australian government imposed travel restrictions and airlines cancelled flights due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 tumbled 340.20 points, or 6.43 percent, to 4,953.20, while the broader All Ordinaries index slumped 334 points, or 6.26 percent, to 4,998.80.

Woodside Petroleum, Santos, Oil Search and Origin Energy plummeted 8-14 percent after crude oil prices plunged to a four-year low overnight.

The big four banks dropped 5-10 percent, while miners BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group declined 3-4 percent.

Gold miner Evolution Mining jumped 8.8 percent, Norther Star Resources climbed 7.8 percent and Regis Resources added 5.8 percent after safe-haven gold prices snapped a five-session losing streak overnight.

Virgin Australia climbed 6.4 percent after the airline said it would suspend all its international flights from March 30 to June 14, and further cut domestic capacity amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Qantas Airways gave up 11.5 percent.

Property developer Mirvac Group plunged 14.8 percent after scrapping its earnings outlook.

Seoul stocks gave up earlier gains to end deep in the red as foreigners and institutions both turned net sellers on concerns about the economic fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak. The benchmark Kospi slumped 81.24 points, or 4.86 percent, to 1,591.20.

New Zealand shares eked out modest gains as government packages designed to blunt the economic pain from the pandemic offered some support. The benchmark NZX 50 index edged up by 20.47 points, or 0.22 percent, to 9,454.89.

New Zealand had a seasonally adjusted current account deficit of NZ$1.9 billion in the fourth quarter of 2019, Statistics New Zealand said in a report. The seasonally adjusted goods deficit narrowed to NZ$845 million, while the services surplus widened to NZ$1.1 billion.

U.S. stocks rose sharply overnight after President Trump pledged to support industries that have been hit particularly hard by the virus outbreak.

While the Fed announced a special lending program “to support the flow of credit to households and businesses,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that the administration is hoping to get cash into Americans’ pockets “immediately.”

The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 5.2 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite rallied 6.2 percent and the S&P 500 climbed 6 percent.

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