Coronavirus Fears Grips Markets

Stocks in mainland China dropped on Thursday, leading losses among major markets regionally as the death toll rises in China due to a pneumonia-causing virus outbreak.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index plummeted 235.91 points, or 1%, to 23,795.44.

Japanese trade data released Thursday showed exports falling more than expected in December. Japanese exports for December fell 6.3% in December as compared to a year before, data from country’s Ministry of Finance data showed. That was far lower than expectations of a 4.2% decrease expected by economists.

The Japanese yen traded at 109.58 per U.S. dollar after strengthening from levels above 110 yesterday.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index dumped 431.92 points, or 1.5%, to 27,909.12,

Australian markets lost ground, as data on Thursday showed that jobs growth smashed expectations. On a seasonally-adjusted basis, 28,900 jobs were created in Australia in December, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. That was far above expectations of a 15,000 increase from surveys.

The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6869 after seeing an earlier low of $0.6836.

CHINA

In Shanghai, the CSI 300 shed 128.03 points, or 3.1%, to 4,003.90.

Investor sentiment has taken a hit this week as the mysterious coronavirus that has infected hundreds in China spreads. The World Health Organization postponed a decision Wednesday over whether to declare the disease a global health emergency.

Beginning Thursday morning Beijing time, all public transportation was suspended in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the outbreak is believed to have started.

The Lunar New Year period is set to kick off on Saturday, with hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens expected to travel domestically or abroad during the period.

Amid concerns over the coronavirus outbreak, both the onshore and offshore Chinese yuan continued to see weakness, with each trading at 6.9277 against the dollar.

In other markets

In Taiwan, the Taiex Index returned from a long weekend to gain 28.42 points, or 0.2%, to 12,118.71

In Korea, the Kospi index slipped 21.12 points, or 0.9%, to 2,246.13

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index retreated 19.37 points, or 0.6%, to 3,234.13

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 gained 11.43 points, or 0.1%, to 11,901.11

In Australia, the ASX 200 let go of 44.76 points, or 0.6%, to 7,087.96