Asian Markets Fall On Coronavirus Worries


Asian stock markets are in negative territory on Friday following the steep losses overnight on Wall Street amid lingering worries about the rapid spread of the coronavirus worldwide and its impact on the global economy.


The spread of the coronavirus has now accelerated in Europe, North America and Britain. According to the World Health Organization, the coronavirus has infected at least 95,270 people and killed more than 3,200 worldwide.


The Australian market is notably lower.


The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is declining 102.10 points or 1.60 percent to 6,293.60, after falling to a low of 6,271.80 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is down 106.30 points or 1.64 percent to 6,366.10. Australian stocks closed higher on Thursday.


In the banking space, National Australia Bank is losing almost 4 percent Westpac, ANZ Banking and Commonwealth Bank are lower in a range of 2.3 percent to 2.8 percent.


Among the major miners, Fortescue Metals is losing more than 2 percent, BHP is lower by almost 2 percent and Rio Tinto is declining more than 1 percent.


Oil stocks are also lower after crude oil prices extended losses overnight. Santos, Oil Search and Woodside Petroleum are all losing almost 2 percent each.


Bucking the trend, gold miners are higher after safe-haven gold prices rebounded sharply overnight. Newcrest Mining and Evolution Mining are rising more than 2 percent each.


On the economic front, the service sector in Australia continued to contract in February, and at a faster rate, the latest survey from the Australian Industry Group revealed on Friday with a Performance of Service Index score of 47.0. That's down from 47.4 in January, and it slipped further beneath the boom-or-bust line of 50 that separates expansion from contraction.


Australia will also see January numbers for retail sales today.


In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S. dollar on Friday. The local unit was quoted at $0.6616, down from $0.6628 on Thursday.


The Japanese market is sharply lower and the safe-haven yen surged amid lingering concerns about the coronavirus.


The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is losing 514.42 points or 2.41 percent to 20,814.70, after touching a low of 20,807.48 earlier. Japanese stocks posted their biggest single-day percentage gain in a month on Thursday.


Market heavyweight SoftBank is lower by 3 percent and Fast Retailing is declining more than 1 percent. In the tech space, Advantest is losing more than 2 percent and Tokyo Electron is lower by almost 2 percent.


The major exporters are weak on a stronger yen. Canon is losing 3 percent, while Panasonic, Sony and Mitsubishi Electric are declining more than 2 percent each.


Among auto stocks, Honda Motor is down almost 3 percent and Toyota Motor is declining more than 2 percent. In the oil sector, Japan Petroleum is losing almost 3 percent and Inpex is lower by more than 2 percent after crude oil prices extended losses overnight.


Among the few major gainers, Seven & I Holdings is gaining more than 5 percent. According to reports, Seven & I has abandoned plans to acquire Marathon Petroleum's Speedway gas stations in the U.S. for $22 billion.


On the flip side, Kobe Steel and JFE Holdings are losing almost 6 percent, Casio Computer is lower by more than 5 percent. Nippon Light Metal and Fuji Electric are declining almost 5 percent each.


In economic news, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said that the average of household spending in Japan was down 3.9 percent on year in January - coming in at 287,173 yen. That was in line with expectations following the 4.8 percent decline in December.


In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the lower 106 yen-range on Friday. The yen surged to a nearly five-month high of 106.23 overnight.


Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea is lower by more than 2 percent, while Indonesia and Hong Kong are losing 2 percent each. New Zealand is declining almost 2 percent, while Shanghai, Singapore and Taiwan are declining more than 1 percent each. Malaysia is also lower.


On Wall Street, stocks closed sharply lower on Thursday amid lingering concerns about the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak that has now spread worldwide, as confirmed cases reach more than 95,000 globally. California declared a state of emergency after a coronavirus-related death in the state, where there are at least 53 confirmed cases.


The Dow plunged 969.58 points or 3.6 percent to 26,121.28, the Nasdaq tumbled 279.49 points or 3.1 percent to 8,738.60 and the S&P 500 plummeted 106.18 points or 3.4 percent to 3,023.94.


The major European markets also showed significant moves to the downside on Thursday. While the French CAC 40 Index tumbled by 1.9 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the German DAX Index slumped by 1.6 percent and 1.5 percent, respectively.


Crude oil prices declined sharply on Thursday amid reports the OPEC has recommended an extension of current output cuts and reduce output by another 1.5 million barrels a day for the second quarter. WTI crude oil futures for April ended down $0.88, or nearly 2 percent, at $45.90 a barrel.

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