Asian Markets Bearish After Wall Street Extends Sell-off


Asian stock markets are mostly lower on Wednesday following the weak cues overnight from Wall Street amid continued fears that the coronavirus outbreak could escalate into a pandemic. The number of confirmed new coronavirus cases in South Korea topped 1,100 on Wednesday.


Adding to the fears, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that Americans should begin to prepare for community spread of the coronavirus in the U.S.


The Australian market is extending recent losses, with stocks lower across the board amid fears that the coronavirus outbreak could escalate into a pandemic.


The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 135.20 points or 1.97 percent to 6,731.40, after touching a low of 6,726.20 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is lower by 138.80 points or 2.00 percent to 6,815.00. Australian stocks tumbled for the second straight day on Tuesday.


Oil stocks are notably lower after crude oil prices tumbled overnight to a two-week low. Santos and Woodside Petroleum are lower by almost 3 percent each, while Oil Search is declining more than 2 percent.


The major miners are also weak. BHP is losing almost 2 percent, Rio Tinto is lower by more than 1 percent and Fortescue Metals is down 0.6 percent.


In the banking space, ANZ Banking, National Australia Bank, Westpac and Commonwealth Bank are declining in a range of 1.2 percent to 1.8 percent.


Gold miners are lower after safe-haven gold prices fell overnight. Newcrest Mining is losing 2 percent and Evolution Mining is declining more than 1 percent.


Woolworths reported a more than 7 percent decrease in profit for the first half despite higher revenue, and raised its estimate of staff underpayment to A$315 million from the prior estimate of A$200 million to A$300 million. The supermarket giant's shares are lower by more than 2 percent.


Nine Entertainment reported a 41 percent drop in first-half net profit while revenue rose following the company's merger with Fairfax. The media company's shares are gaining almost 6 percent, bucking the general downward trend.


Virgin Australia reported a net loss for the first half of the year and said it has cut back on flights amid falling travel demand caused by the coronavirus. The airline's shares are rising more than 4 percent.


On the economic front, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said that the total value of construction work done in Australia was down a seasonally adjusted 3.0 percent on quarter in the fourth quarter of 2019, coming in at A$49.773 billion. That missed forecasts for a decline of 1.0 percent following the 0.4 percent decline in the three months prior.


In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S. dollar on Wednesday. The local unit was quoted at $0.6600, compared to $0.6612 on Tuesday.


The Japanese market is extending losses from the previous session, while the safe-haven yen strengthened following the weak cues from Wall Street amid continued fears that the coronavirus outbreak could escalate into a pandemic. Concerns are also growing in Japan that the coronavirus outbreak could cancel the Tokyo Olympics.


The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is losing 407.31 points or 1.80 percent to 22,198.10, after touching a low of 22,183.23 earlier. Japanese stocks tumbled to hit a four-month low on Tuesday.


Market heavyweight SoftBank is lower by almost 2 percent, while Fast Retailing is declining more than 1 percent. In the tech space, Advantest is lower by more than 2 percent and Tokyo Electron is down more than 1 percent.


The major exporters are sharply lower on a stronger safe-haven yen. Sony and Canon are losing more than 2 percent each, Panasonic is lower by almost 2 percent and Mitsubishi Electric is declining more than 1 percent.


Among auto stocks, Honda Motor is down almost 2 percent and Toyota Motor is declining more than 1 percent. In the oil sector, Inpex is losing almost 4 percent and Japan Petroleum is declining more than 2 percent after crude oil prices tumbled to a two-week low overnight.


Among the few major gainers, Sky Perfect JSAT is rising more than 4 percent.


Conversely, IHI Corp. is losing more than 5 percent and Casio Computer is lower by almost 5 percent. Mitsui Mining & Smelting and Nippon Suisan Kaisha are falling more than 4 percent each.


In economic news, Japan will provide January figures for supermarket sales today.


In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the lower 110 yen-range on Wednesday.


Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea and New Zealand are declining more than 1 percent each, while Hong Kong is lower by almost 1 percent. Shanghai, Singapore, Indonesia and Taiwan are also lower. Bucking the trend, Malaysia is edging higher.


On Wall Street, stocks closed lower on Tuesday, extending the recent sell-off, as traders worried about the impact of the coronavirus outbreak that has spread far beyond China to Europe and the Middle East. Adding to the worries, MasterCard and United Airlines joined a growing list of companies that have warned about the potential financial impact of the outbreak. Traders largely shrugged off a report from the Conference Board showing a slight improvement in U.S. consumer confidence in the month of February.


The Dow plunged 879.44 points or 3.2 percent to 27,081.36, the Nasdaq plummeted 255.67 points or 2.8 percent to 8,965.61 and the S&P 500 slumped 97.68 points or 3 percent to 3,128.21.


The major European markets all moved sharply lower on Tuesday. The German DAX Index, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the French CAC 40 Index all tumbled by 1.9 percent.


Crude oil prices declined sharply on Tuesday to a two-week low, extending recent losses, amid concerns about the outlook for energy demand due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on global growth. WTI crude for April ended down $1.53, or about 3 percent, at $49.90 a barrel.

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