Australia and South Korea stocks drop more than 5%

Australia and South Korea stocks drop more than 5%

Stocks in Asia Pacific saw significant declines in Monday morning trade as fears over the economic impact of the global coronavirus outbreak continue to weigh heavily on investor sentiment.

Over in Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 plunged 7.9% as the sectors mostly fell. The heavily weighted financial subindex dived more than 10%, with shares of the country’s so-called Big Four banks all selling off steeply: Australia and New Zealand Banking Group fell 7.49%, Commonwealth Bank of Australia dropped 6.68%, Westpac declined 8.81% while National Australia Bank slipped 8.75%.

South Korea stocks were also among the biggest losers among major regional markets, with the Kospi falling 5% in morning trade. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index dropped 3.95% in early trade. In Southeast Asia, the Straits Times Index in Singapore plunged 6.61%.

Mainland Chinese stocks were also lower, with the Shanghai composite down more than 2% while the Shenzhen composite shed 2.403%.

The Nikkei 225 in Japan bucked the overall trend regionally as it edged 0.55% higher, while the Topix index declined 0.79%.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index fell 4.11%.

“The economic costs of the COVID-19 outbreak are beginning to reveal themselves,” Richard Yetsenga, chief economist at ANZ, wrote in a note. “We have substantially revised our G3 growth forecasts lower, with the US likely to record its weakest performance since 1946.”

The global coronavirus outbreak continues to spread rapidly across the world, with the number of infected now over 294,000 and more than 12,900 lives taken, according to data from the World Health Organization. 

“It’s fair to say that Asian markets will continue to trade off negative sentiment coming out of Europe and the U.S.,” James Sullivan, head of Asia ex-Japan equity research at J.P. Morgan, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Monday. Still, he added: “We would be selectively adding to exposure here.”

Sullivan outlined two “key components to a buy case in trying to find a bottom in markets” at present. Firstly, he highlighted “aggressive fiscal implementation” by governments around the region, citing efforts in Hong Kong as well as Australia.

“The other is a market structure conversation,” Sullivan said. “You saw significant liquidity impacts across global markets as we’ve worked our way through this crisis, we do see this as one of the sharpest, but also on our numbers at least, one of the shortest global downturns that we’ve seen in the history of markets.”

Stateside, U.S. stock futures plunged on Sunday night. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell more than 800 points, or 4.5%, along with S&P 500 and Nasdaq-100 futures. Futures briefly hit ‘limit down’ earlier, meaning they cannot fall any lower. 

That came as a coronavirus stimulus bill failed a key Senate procedural vote. The number of infected in the U.S. has risen dramatically in recent weeks, with New York state alone now accounting for more coronavirus cases as compared to other countries facing challenges in managing their own caseloads such as France and South Korea.

Oil prices were mixed in the morning of Asian hours on Monday as international benchmark Brent crude futures fell 2.67% to $26.26 per barrel. U.S. crude futures, on the other hand, recovered from an earlier drop to rise 0.97% at $22.85 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 102.537 after breaching the 100 level last week.

The Japanese yen traded at 110.40 per dollar after weakening from levels below 108 last week. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.5721 following highs above $0.6 seen last week.

— CNBC’s Fred Imbert contributed to this report.

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