Asian Shares Decline On Virus Concerns




Asian stocks fell broadly on Monday as worries about coronavirus outweighed the boost from strong U.S. employment data.


With the virus outbreak showing no signs of slowing, the head of the World Health Organization has warned about the potential for more cases beyond China.


Chinese shares advanced as authorities lifted some work and travel restrictions, helping businesses to resume operations after long delays.


The benchmark Shanghai Composite index rose by 14.52 points, or 0.51 percent, to 2,890.49, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index shed 0.59 percent to finish at 27,241.34.


Japanese stocks fell notably, with coronavirus concerns and weak corporate earnings weighing on markets ahead of a holiday on Tuesday. The Nikkei average fell 142 points, or 0.60 percent, to 23,685.98, while the broader Topix index closed 0.72 percent lower at 1,719.64.


E-commerce company Rakuten fell 1.5 percent after reports of a raid by the country's antitrust officials. Toray Industries declined 2.3 percent after the manufacturer of fibres and plastics cut its annual profit outlook. Camera maker Nikon plummeted 5.8 percent on positing weak earnings.


Leopalace21 soared over 15 percent after the scandal-tainted apartment builder reported a recovery in occupancy.


On the data front, official data showed that Japan posted a current account surplus of 524.0 billion yen in December, up 12.8 percent from last year. That exceeded expectations for a surplus of 464.7 billion yen following the 1,436.8 billion yen surplus in November.


Australian markets fell slightly, dragged down by miners and energy companies as deaths from the coronavirus outbreak crossed 900.


The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index slid 10.10 points, or 0.14 percent, to 7,012.50, while the broader All Ordinaries index ended down 13.40 points, or 0.19 percent, at 7,108.


Mining heavyweight BHP lost about 1 percent while rival Rio Tinto ended marginally lower. Energy stocks such as Oil Search, Woodside Petroleum and Origin Energy fell between 0.6 percent and 1.7 percent. The big four banks ended with modest losses.


JB Hi-Fi shares soared 11.5 percent as a strong Christmas helped the electronics retailer lift first-half profit and boost its interim payout to shareholders.


Boral plunged 10.7 percent after the company said an investigation had found inflated earnings at its North American window-making business.


Healthcare giant CSL gained 0.9 percent ahead of its earnings announcement due later in the week.


Gold miner Evolution Mining jumped as much as 7.7 percent, Newcrest Mining rallied 2.2 percent and Northern Star Resources rose 1.2 percent as gold climbed for a fourth straight day after a blunt warning from the head of the World Health Organization about the potential for more cases beyond China.


Rail freight operator Aurizon Holdings climbed 2.6 percent as it reported a 19 percent increase in net profit for the first half of the year.


Seoul stocks ended lower as investors continued to fret about the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak in China that has killed more than 900 people. The benchmark Kospi ended down 10.88 points, or 0.49 percent, at 2,201.07.


New Zealand shares ended lower, with utilities and industrial companies bearing the brunt of the selling. The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index dropped 58.29 points, or 0.50 percent, to 11,702.59. Both Meridian Energy and Auckland International Airport fell over 1 percent.


U.S. stocks moved lower on Friday as renewed concerns over the coronavirus overshadowed stronger-than-expected U.S. payroll report.


U.S. employment jumped by 225,000 jobs in January following a revised increase of 147,000 jobs in December. The unemployment rate, however, inched up to 3.6 percent from 3.5 percent in December.


The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.9 percent, while the S&P 500 and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index shed around half a percent each.

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