Asia markets continue to fall after US stocks tank again on fears of coronavirus

Deb Price

Asia stocks fell Wednesday after US markets tanked again overnight as US health authorities warned Americans to get ready for an inevitable coronavirus outbreak.

From Seoul to Sydney, from Singapore to Tokyo, markets fell in Asia.

The Shanghai Composite Index tumbled in late afternoon trading. It finished with a loss of 0.8 per cent at 2,987, marking its third straight day of declines. It is now down 2 per cent for the year.

Traders were spooked and sold some high fliers: Apple AirPod suppliers Luxshare Precision and GoerTek tumbled 6.7 per cent and 9.1 per cent, respectively.

The Hang Seng Index declined 0.7 per cent at 26,696.49, recovering some of its deeper morning losses.

Elsewhere in Asia, Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 of large cap stocks dropped 2.3 per cent, South Korea’s Kospi Index fell 1.3 per cent, while Japan’s Nikkei 225 declined 0.8 per cent.

The Jakarta Stock Price Index fell 1.5 per cent, while Singapore’s Straits Times Index fell 1.2 per cent.

In the US overnight, the Dow Jones Industrials fell 3.2 per cent, the S&P 500 Index tumbled 3 per cent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq dropped 2.8 per cent. Those losses came on the heels of earlier virus-sparked panic selling leaving all of the US major benchmarks in negative territory.

“People in the US are starting to worry about the spread of the virus, and the economic impact translating from China to all over the world,” said Alan Li, portfolio manager at Atta Capital.

“Most long funds are tending to be risk off and lowering positions on stocks with high valuation. In the meantime, hedge funds and retail investors are still enjoying the carnival,” he added.

Many of Hong Kong’s struggling retailers living on borrowed time

The pressure on Asian markets comes as the total death toll from the novel coronavirus topped 2,700 – including 40 outside mainland China, where it originated – and the number of infections rose to more than 80,000.

Global health authorities are concerned that the growing number of cases of infection and deaths elsewhere – from South Korea to Iran to Italy – could turn the health emergency from an epidemic largely confined to mainland China to a global pandemic.

Hong Kong, which was home to 299 of the about 700 deaths during the Sars respiratory disease outbreak in 2003, has been hammered by the coronavirus outbreak, which has forced the closing of schools, sparked panic buying of toilet paper and masks, and led to big losses for retailers, restaurants and exporters.

Hong Kong’s financial secretary Paul Chan Mo-po rolled out HK$120 billion relief package in the city’s annual budget on Monday to boost the economy hammered by the coronavirus epidemic and months of anti-government protests.

Every Hong Kong permanent resident aged 18 and older will receive a cash handout of HK$10,000 in the relief deal.

The US-China trade war has also hurt Hong Kong, which is in a recession.

In the US, a top health official warned Americans to get ready for the coronavirus to spread.

“We expect we will see community spread in this country. It’s not so much a question of if this will happen any more, but the rather more correct question to be asking is, ‘When this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness?’” said Nancy Messonnier of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hong Kong poised for property crisis as borrowers slide into negative equity

This week, Standard Chartered downgraded its 2020 gross domestic product forecast for Hong Kong, lowering it to negative 2.4 per cent from negative 1.5 per cent, as the virus shock hits an already weak economy.

“The downgrade is consistent with similar adjustments we have made in other key markets since the outbreak, particularly the 0.6 percentage point reduction in our China growth forecast,” said Standard Chartered’s Greater China senior economist Kelvin Lau along with global FX and macro strategist Mayank Mishra.

“We believe the spread of the coronavirus in mainland China is already slowing and will come to a halt sometime in March; but we expect its impact on Hong Kong’s GDP to extend beyond a sharp drop in Q1, with a much slower recovery than was seen following the SARS outbreak in 2003,” they wrote.

Standard Chartered sees a U-shaped recovery in Hong Kong due to weak underlying local demand, they wrote.

In Hong Kong, smartphone component makers were the biggest losers among blue chips.

Lens maker Sunny Optical fell 3.7 per cent to HK$128.4. AAC Technologies, which derives half of its revenue from Apple, fell 2.8 per cent to HK$55.4.

Index heavyweight Tencent shed 0.5 per cent to HK$399.60, missing its HK$400 price level.

Meanwhile, Alibaba, the e-commerce giant and parent company of the South China Morning Post, lost 1.7 per cent to finish at HK$203.

On the mainland, the biggest losers included electronic components, software, precious metals and medical industries, according to gauges.

Meanwhile, liquor distiller Kweichow Moutai fell 0.1 per cent to 1,073.70 yuan.

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