Australia, NZ shares fall sharply as virus outbreak raises fears about economic impact

Australia, NZ hit fresh closing peaks on positive global data, trade deal

* Over 80% of Australian benchmark constituents in the red

* Mining, energy stocks hit hard as oil, commodity prices fall

* Australian shares fall 1.8% intraday, most so far this year

By Nikhil Nainan

Jan 28 (Reuters) – Australian shares slumped nearly 2% on Tuesday as the fast-spreading coronavirus drummed up fears over its impact on economic growth and hammered oil and commodity prices.

The deadly virus has killed 100 people so far in China and restricted the movement of tens of millions as investors fret that the severity and spread of the outbreak could hurt economic growth in the world’s second-largest economy and beyond.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index plunged 1.8% to 6,964.7, its biggest intraday drop so far this year, with more than 80% of the constituents in the red. Markets were closed on Monday in observance of Australia Day.

“In the near-term, though it’s about hedging economic risk, and there is no doubt that there will be an impact on the Chinese economy,” said Chris Weston, Melbourne-based Pepperstone’s head of research.

The selloff compounded with sharp drops in oil and commodity prices as Australia is a resource-driven economy and heavily dependent on trade with China.

“The outbreak is developing too rapidly to predict with any confidence the final extent of the economic damage. But it is now certain that the outbreak will have a significant impact on China’s GDP this quarter,” Capital Economics wrote in a note on Monday.

Mining giants BHP Group and Rio Tinto slumped as much as 4.1% and 5.9%, respectively. Rio’s fall was its biggest intraday loss in nearly four years.

Oil stocks also fell, with Woodside Petroleum and Santos Ltd down nearly 3% each.

Oil Search plunged 7.7%, also dragged by an 11% drop in quarterly revenue.

Qantas Airways dived 6.4% at one point, only to recover slightly to trade 4% weaker.

The only major sector that managed to eke out gains was gold, which found support from higher bullion prices as investors jumped ship to the safe-haven.

The sector rose 1.6%, with Newcrest Mining adding 0.6%.

The country’s so-called big four banks also fell between 1.1% and 1.8%.

In New Zealand, travel and tourism-related stocks were the biggest losers and dragged the benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index down as much as 1.4% to 11,636.88.

Tourism Holdings slumped 6.1%, while Air New Zealand and Auckland International Airport were down over 1% each.

For more individual stocks activity click on (Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in Bengaluru; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu)

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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