Asian Markets Mostly Lower

Asian stock markets are mostly lower on Wednesday following the negative cues overnight from Wall Street amid worries about the rising death toll across the globe due to the coronavirus pandemic. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo revealed that coronavirus deaths in his state on Monday reflected the biggest one-day increase.

The Australian market is declining following the negative cues overnight from Wall Street as well as on weak commodity prices.

Banks are sharply lower after the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority or APRA urged the lenders to suspend their dividends amid the coronavirus pandemic, while Fitch downgraded their ratings on coronavirus risks.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 94.50 points or 1.80 percent to 5,157.80, after falling to a low of 5,121.90 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is lower by 90.50 points or 1.71 percent to 5,210.80. Australian stocks gave up early gains to close modestly lower.

Among the big four banks, Westpac, ANZ Banking and National Australia Bank are lower in a range of 5.0 percent to 5.9 percent. Commonwealth Bank is lower by almost 4 percent.

Fitch has downgraded the big four banks' ratings to 'A+' from 'AA-' to reflect the rating agency's expectations of the significant impact from measures taken to slow the spread of the coronavirus outbreak in the lenders' core markets.

Bank of Queensland reported a 10 percent decline in cash earnings for the first half of 2020 and said it will defer payment of dividends to shareholders after the APRA urged banks to consider doing so amid the coronavirus pandemic. The regional lender's shares are lower by more than 4 percent.

Insurance Australia Group said its chief executive Peter Harmer will retire by the end of 2020, while chief financial officer Nick Hawkins has been named deputy CEO with immediate effect. The insurance giant's shares are losing almost 3 percent.

In the mining space, Rio Tinto is losing almost 2 percent, BHP is lower by more than 1 percent and Fortescue Metals is declining almost 1 percent.

Among gold miners, Evolution Mining is losing 2 percent and Newcrest Mining is lower by more than 1 percent after safe-haven gold prices declined overnight.

In the oil sector, Woodside Petroleum is declining almost 2 percent and Santos is down 0.7 percent after crude oil prices tumbled more than 9 percent overnight.

Treasury Wine Estates said it is considering a demerger and spin-off of its Penfolds brand by the end of 2021.The wine maker's shares are gaining more than 9 percent.

On the economic front, Australia will provide February numbers for home loans today.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is lower against the U.S. dollar on Wednesday. The local unit was quoted at $0.6144, compared to $0.6184 on Tuesday.

The Japanese market is rising in choppy trade following the negative cues from Wall Street. Upbeat local economic data helped boost investor sentiment.

On Tuesday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared a state of emergency in the country's major metropolitan areas.

The benchmark Nikkei 225 Index is adding 80.38 points or 0.42 percent to 19,030.56, after touching a low of 18,730.80 earlier. Japanese shares rose notably in a choppy session on Tuesday.

Market heavyweight SoftBank is losing almost 3 percent, while Fast Retailing is advancing more than 1 percent.

WeWork's owner, We Company, has filed a lawsuit against SoftBank Group for the Japanese conglomerate's decision to terminate a $3 billion tender offer for shares in the office-space sharing company.

The major exporters are mostly lower on a stronger yen. Panasonic and Canon are declining more than 1 percent each, while Sony is down almost 1 percent. Mitsubishi Electric is advancing more than 1 percent.

In the tech space, Advantest is losing more than 2 percent and Tokyo Electron is lower by 0.3 percent. Among automakers, Honda is declining more than 1 percent and Toyota is edging down 0.1 percent.

In the oil sector, Inpex is losing more than 4 percent and Japan Petroleum is lower by almost 3 percent after crude oil prices tumbled more than 9 percent overnight.

Among the other major gainers, M3 is gaining almost 6 percent, while Kirin Holdings and ANA Holdings are rising more than 4 percent each. Tobu Railway is higher by almost 4 percent.

On the flip side, Cyberagent and JFE Holdings are tumbling more than 6 percent each, while Mitsui Fudosan is lower by almost 6 percent.

In economic news, the Cabinet Office said that core machine orders in Japan rose a seasonally adjusted 2.3 percent on month in February, standing at 858.5 billion yen. That exceeded expectations for a decline of 2.9 percent following the 2.9 percent increase in January.

The Ministry of Finance said that Japan had a current account surplus of 3,168.8 billion yen in February, up 21.2 percent on year. That beat forecasts for a surplus of 3,067.2 billion yen and was up from 612.3 billion yen in January.

The trade balance reflected a surplus of 1,366.6 billion, exceeding expectations for 1,215.0 billion yen following the 985.1 billion shortfall in the previous month. Exports were up 0.4 percent on year to 6,332.2 billion yen, while imports tumbled an annual 14.6 percent to 4,965.6 billion yen.

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar is trading in the upper 108 yen-range on Wednesday.

Elsewhere in Asia, Indonesia is losing almost 3 percent, Singapore is declining more than 2 percent and Hong Kong is down almost 1 percent. Shanghai, South Korea, and Malaysia are also lower. Meanwhile, Taiwan is adding almost 1 percent and New Zealand is edging higher.

On Wall Street, stocks closed lower on Tuesday after seeing initial strength amid signs that the spread of the coronavirus is slowing in hot spots such as New York. Stocks subsequently gave back ground in afternoon trading as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo revealed that coronavirus deaths in his state spiked by 731 on Monday, reflecting the biggest one-day increase. Cuomo cautioned that the number of deaths is a lagging indicator, noting that the pace of growth in hospitalizations and intensive-care admissions has still slowed in recent days.

The Dow rose more than 900 points in early trading to reach its best intraday level in nearly month, but ended the day down 26.13 points or 0.1 percent at 22,653.86. The Nasdaq also fell 25.98 points or 0.3 percent to 7,887.26 and the S&P 500 slipped 4.27 points or 0.2 percent to 2,659.41.

The major European markets also showed another substantial move to the upside on Tuesday. While the German DAX Index spiked by 2.8 percent, the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index and the French CAC 40 Index surged up by 2.2 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively.

Crude oil futures started off on a firm note Tuesday, but turned south and ended sharply lower after the Energy Information Administration, or EIA, lowered its forecast for crude oil prices for the year. WTI crude for May ended down $2.45 or about 9.4 percent at $23.63 a barrel, after surging to a high of $27.24 a barrel earlier in the day. 

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