Asian Shares Mostly Lower After IMF Warning

Asian stocks fell broadly on Wednesday after the International Monetary Fund said the global economy will likely contract by about 3 percent in 2020 amid the spread of the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19.

As countries implement necessary quarantines and social distancing practices to contain the pandemic, the contraction of the economy is expected to be more severe than the recession of 2008 and 2009, the IMF said.

Chinese shares fell despite the country’s central bank cutting the interest rate on its medium-term funding for financial institutions to a record low in an attempt to combat the economic fallout from the coronavirus health crisis.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index ended down 16.11 points, or 0.6 percent, at 2,811.17, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 1.2 percent to 24,145.34.

Japanese shares fell as the yen strengthened against the dollar and reports suggested Prime Minister Sinzo Abe is considering a request made by a coalition partner to pay a cash handout of 100,000 yen per person.

The Nikkei 225 Index dropped 88.72 points, or 0.5 percent, to 19,550.09 after rising over 3 percent the previous day. The broader Topix finished marginally higher at 1,434.07.

Mining and marine transportation companies paced the decliners, while air transportation and land transportation firms ended on a positive note. Market heavyweight SoftBank lost 2 percent and oil company Inpex gave up 4 percent.

Australian markets ended lower after a measure of consumer confidence in the country declined the most on record in April, taking the indicator beyond the global financial crisis lows.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index dropped 21.40 points, or 0.4 percent, to 5,466.70 after the IMF warned Australia could be one of the worst-hit economies in the Asia-Pacific, shrinking by 6.7 percent this year. The broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 19.20 points, or 0.4 percent, at 5,523.30.

Oil and gas stocks were the biggest drag after crude futures in New York plummeted more than 10 percent on Tuesday amid rising oversupply in the global market and worries about plunging demand. Worley, Beach Energy and Santos tumbled 4-6 percent.

Infant formula specialist Bubs Australia soared 5.2 percent. The company reported its highest quarterly gross revenue as sales in China more than doubled in the quarter ended March 31 from the year-ago period.

The South Korean market was closed as the country heads to the polls for parliamentary elections.

New Zealand shares soared after the government said it was confident the country had passed the peak of the coronavirus and that it would unveil further fiscal stimulus this week. With the infection rate slowing in the country, it is expected that lockdown conditions will be eased next Wednesday.

The benchmark NZX 50 Index rallied 250.92 points, or 2.5 percent, to 10,409.94. Vista Group International jumped over 20 percent, Air New Zealand climbed 13.5 percent and Kathmandu Holdings surged 11.6 percent.

U.S. stocks rose sharply overnight to reach their best closing levels in over a month as investors cheered signs of a flattening of the coronavirus curve and reports suggested that ten U.S. states began working on plans to reopen for business.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied 2.4 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite spiked 4 percent and the S&P 500 surged 3.1 percent.

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