Australia stocks drop more than 4% as Chinese markets jump

Australia stocks drop more than 4% as Chinese markets jump

Shares in Asia Pacific were mixed in Wednesday afternoon trade as stocks on Wall Street bounced back overnight on hopes of stimulus as the country grapples with the coronanvirus outbreak.

Australia stocks led losses among the region’s major markets, with the S&P/ASX 200 dropping 4.64% as majority of the sectors fell.

Meanwhile, shares in mainland Chinese saw robust gains, The Shenzhen component was up 2.66% while the Shenzhen composite added 2.637%. The Shanghai composite gained 1.26%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was fractionally higher.

In Japan, shares remained in positive territory as the Nikkei 225 gained 0.84% while the Topix index surged 2.86%.

Japan’s exports declined 1% in February as compared to a year earlier, according to provisional data released by the country’s Ministry of Finance on Wednesday. That compared against a 4.3% drop expected by economists in a Reuters poll.

South Korea’s Kospi traded 0.14% lower.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index was 0.47% lower.

Developments surrounding the global coronavirus outbreak are likely to continue to dominate investor sentiment on Wednesday.

The White House is weighing a fiscal stimulus package worth anywhere from $850 billion to more than $1 trillion, part of which could include direct payments to Americans, a source familiar with the matter told CNBC. 

“Chuck money at this, forget about debt, forget about deficits, no one’s actually going to be hauling you to task for keeping to some sort of ridiculous prudent metric of 3% deficit targets or anything like that,” Rob Carnell, regional head of research Asia-Pacific at ING, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday.

“What countries are facing right now is the loss of large chunks of their economic output unless they underwrite that,” Carnell said. “You can end up with coming out of this with a smaller debt but your debt to GDP ratio — because your GDP is halved — will be massive. So, the right thing to do know is to spend a lot of money to target that.”

Governments across the world have taken drastic measures as they seek to slow the spread of the virus, with European Union member nations agreeing to close the EU’s external borders to most people from other countries for 30 days. In Asia, Malaysia will close its borders, schools and most businesses from Wednesday until March 31.

Globally, more than 190,000 have been infected by the coronavirus while at least 7,894 lives have been taken, according to John Hopkins University.

Overnight stateside, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 1,048.79 points higher at 21,237.31. The S&P 500 ended its trading day 6% higher at 2,529.19 while the Nasdaq Composite gained 6.2% to close at 7,334.78.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 99.29 after rising from levels around 98 yesterday.

The Japanese yen traded at 107.22 per dollar following a weakening from levels below 107 yesterday. The Australian dollar was at $0.6016 after declining from levels above $0.61 yesterday.

Oil prices were higher in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures up 1.08% at $29.04 per barrel. U.S. crude futures was slightly higher at $26.96 per barrel.

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