Asia report: Markets mixed as Australian stocks sink further

(Sharecast News) – Markets in Asia finished mixed on Wednesday, with investors in Australia suffering another dire day, as sentiment continued to be crushed by the ongoing, and spreading, Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.
In Japan, the Nikkei 225 closed down 1.68% at 16,726.55, as the safe-haven yen strengthened 0.23% against the dollar to last trade at JPY 107.45.

It was another red day for the benchmark’s major components, with automation specialist Fanuc down 5.6%, Uniqlo owner Fast Retailing falling 6.58%, and technology conglomerate SoftBank Group sliding 10.9%.

The broader Topix index managed gains of 0.19% by the end of trading in Tokyo, to close at 1,270.84.

In fresh data out of the country, exports from Japan were down 1% year-on-year in January, according to the Ministry of Finance’s provisional numbers.

That was still better than the 4.3% fall anticipated by economists polled by Reuters.

On the mainland, the Shanghai Composite was down 1.83% at 2,728.76, and the smaller, technology-heavy Shenzhen Composite was 1.55% weaker at 1,678.25.

South Korea’s Kospi slid 4.86% to 1,591.20, while the Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong lost 4.18% to settle at 22,291.82.

Both of the blue-chip technology stocks were under the cosh in Seoul, with Samsung Electronics down 3.59%, and chipmaker SK Hynix sliding 9.08%.

Fiscal stimulus was again the name of the game on Wednesday, with investors in the region waking up to the news that the White House was mulling a package worth between $850bn and $1trn, which could feature payments directly to Americans.

It comes as countries globally continue to take unprecedented measures to try and slow down the virus’s spread, with the European Union closing its external borders to most foreign nationals for a period of 30 days.

In Asia, Malaysia said it would close its borders from Wednesday until the end of the month, along with its schools and most businesses.

Almost 185,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 coronavirus have been reported globally, with more than 7,500 people losing their lives thus far.

“The wash-up has been some signs of green shoots of risk appetite emerging, and some further concerning aspects,” noted Pepperstone Group’s Chris Weston.

Weston said he was not going to call a bottom in the risk story “by any means” at this stage.

Oil prices were lower once more at the end of the Asian day, with Brent crude last down 3.61% at $27.73 per barrel, and West Texas Intermediate sliding 6.35% to $25.34.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 was down 6.43% by the end of trading, clawing back just a few of its earlier losses in late trading, to end the session at 4,953.20.

Across the Tasman Sea, New Zealand’s S&P/NZX 50 kept its head above water, even though it gave up most of its earlier gains after lunch, closing up 0.22% at 9,454.89.

Payments technology company Pushpay Holdings rose 21.5% after raising its earnings guidance, on the back of the idea that its church clients will encourage congregations to move towards digital giving as their physical gatherings are cancelled.

Both of the down under dollars continued their slide against the greenback, with the Aussie losing 1.27% to AUD 1.6883, and the Kiwi retreating 1.23% to NZD 1.7046.

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