Asian stocks ended flat to slightly lower on Friday as coronavirus cases around the world soared past one million and oil prices shed some of their massive gains.
The number of confirmed Spanish cases passed the 110 000 mark even as the rate of new infections continued a downward trend.
The peak of the United Kingdom’s coronavirus outbreak will be slightly sooner than previously thought and will come in the next few weeks, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.
The U.S. reported more than 6,000 deaths, taking the global death toll due to the virus past 50,000.
The Asian Development Bank cut its growth projection for developing Asia due to the effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
In the Asian Development Outlook, the lender forecast developing Asia to grow 2.2 percent in 2020 compared to the previous projection of 5.2 percent.
Assuming that the outbreak ends and activity normalizes, growth is expected to rebound to 6.2 percent in 2021.
Although China’s growth will slow sharply to 2.3 percent this year due to the coronavirus outbreak, the economy is set to rebound to an above normal 7.3 percent next year. Earlier, the bank had projected China to grow 5.8 percent in 2020.
In India, the ADB said measures to contain the spread of the virus and a weaker global environment this year will offset the benefits from recent tax cuts and financial sector reforms.
Growth in India is forecast to slow to 4.0 percent in fiscal year 2020 before strengthening to 6.2 percent in FY 2021.
Chinese shares ended lower amid fear of a potential second wave of infections in the country. The benchmark Shanghai Composite index slid 0.6 percent to 2,763.99.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index declined 0.19 percent to close at 23,236.11. The country’s private sector economy continued to contract in March, albeit at a slightly slower pace, the latest survey from IHS Markit showed with a PMI score of 34.9 up from 33.1 in February.
Japanese shares ended flat with a positive bias after four days of losses. The Nikkei average finished marginally higher at 17,820.19, with underlying sentiment helped by a weaker yen and a rebound in oil prices on hopes the oil price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia could soon ease.
The broader Topix index closed 0.36 percent lower at 1,325.13. Oil company Inpex surged 2.6 percent and Japan Petroleum added 2.1 percent.
In economic news, the services sector in Japan continued to contract in March, and at a much steeper rate, the latest survey from Jibun Bank revealed. The corresponding PMI dropped to 33.8 from 46.8 in February.
Individually, output fell at a near-record pace as the COVID-19 pandemic hit demand. Employment declined as operating requirements slumped.
Australian markets gave up strong early gains to end sharply lower for the day.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 fell 86.80 points, or 1.68 percent, to 5,067.50, while the broader All Ordinaires index ended down 81.80 points, or 1.58 percent, at 5,106.90.
The big four banks fell 2-3 percent. Energy stocks posted modest gains, though Oil Search gained as much as 4.6 percent. Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto rose 1.6 percent and 1.8 percent, respectively while smaller rival Fortescue Metals Group soared 5.7 percent.
Treasury Wine Estates surged 4.7 percent. The company said it has been sued by Slater + Gordon on behalf of shareholders who bought shares before it revised guidance in January.
On the economic front, a survey showed that the construction sector in Australia continued to contract in March, and at a faster rate, with a seasonally adjusted Performance of Construction Index score of 37.9, down from 42.7.
Another report showed that retail sales in Australia rose a seasonally adjusted 0.5 percent month on month in February – beating expectations for an increase of 0.4 percent following the 0.3 percent decline in January.
New Zealand shares advanced after Tourism Holdings said it reached a deal to exit its international technology joint venture, Togo Group. The benchmark NZX 50 index rose by 64.62 points, or 0.65 percent, to 9,935.18, while shares of the rental campervan operator soared 7.5 percent.
Singapore’s Straits Timex index was down as much as 2.4 percent. Singapore’s private sector economy continued to contract in March, and at a much steeper pace, the latest survey from IHS Markit showed with a record low PMI score of 33.3. The country’s retail sales also declined at the fastest pace in February.
U.S. stocks rose sharply overnight as investors reacted to news about rising
coronavirus cases, record jobless claims in the U.S., and a whopping rise in crude oil prices amid reports suggesting a likely end to the price war in the oil market.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied 2.2 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite surged 1.7 percent and the S&P 500 added 2.3 percent.
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