Japan drops about 4% as investors assess economic impact of coronavirus pandemic

Japan drops about 4% as investors assess economic impact of coronavirus pandemic

Stocks in Asia fell in morning trade on Monday as investors continue to assess the economic impact of the global coronavirus pandemic that continues to spread rapidly.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 fell 3.84% as shares of index heavyweight and conglomerate Softbank Group dropped 7.74% while the Topix index slipped 4.37%. Over in South Korea, the Kospi shed 2.44%. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong also declined 2.02%.

Mainland Chinese stocks rose in early trade, with the Shanghai composite down about 1.4% while the Shenzhen composite shed 1.946%.

Meanwhile, shares in Australia rose, with the S&P/ASX 200 up 2.14%. That followed a more than 5% drop on Friday.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index traded 1.33% lower.

Investors continue to watch for developments on the global coronavirus outbreak, which has already infected more than 720,000 worldwide and taken at least 33,925 lives, according to the latest data compiled by John Hopkins University. Markets have been volatile in recent weeks, seeing sharp movements in both directions as authorities across the globe announced vast amounts of stimulus to stem the economic impact of the virus.

“The big question for markets is whether the huge stimulus introduced so far across the globe will be enough to help the global economy withstand the economic shock from the COVID-19 containment measures,” Rodrigo Catril, a currency strategist at National Australia Bank, wrote in a note.

“To answer this question one needs to know the magnitude¬†of the containment measures and for how long they will be implemented,” Catril said. This was “unknown” at this point, he said, and suggests that markets are “likely to remain volatile” until the uncertainty is resolved.

Oil prices plunged in the morning of Asian hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures down 5.78% to $23.49 per barrel while U.S. crude futures dropped 4.37% to $20.57 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 98.493 after declining from levels above 100 last week.

The Japanese yen, often seen as a safe-haven currency, traded at 107.42 per dollar after strengthening from levels above 110 last week. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6149 after rising from levels below $0.6 in the previous week.

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