Coronavirus infection cases in focus

Asia Pacific markets fell Friday as investors remained cautious due to the growing number of coronavirus cases around the world.

Australia’s benchmark ASX 200 erased some of its earlier losses but still traded down 0.13%. The heavily-weighted financials subindex traded down 0.11% while the energy subindex declined 1.81%. 

The Nikkei 225 in Japan was down 0.2% while the Topix index fell 0.59%. In South Korea, the Kospi index was down 0.55%. 

Chinese mainland markets traded mixed: The Shanghai composite was down 0.62%, the Shenzhen composite traded up 0.5% while the Shenzhen component added 0.22%.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index fell 0.44%. 

“Coronavirus anxiety dominated market sentiment in a day where major economic releases were scarce,” Kishti Sen, an economist at ANZ Research, wrote in a morning note about the overnight session. 

“That left the focus on the high frequency data and daily COVID-19 news,” Sen said. 

Friday’s session followed a mixed overnight on Wall Street where coronavirus concerns pushed investors into tech stocks. 

Infection cases in the United States rose with California and Florida among 12 states hitting record-breaking, seven-day averages for daily new cases, a CNBC analysis showed. 

The World Health Organization said that though the virus, which has infected more than 12 million globally, can be brought under control, it’s “getting worse” in most of the world. 

In the currency market, the U.S. dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of its peers, rose 0.13% from the previous session to 96.824. 

The Japanese yen changed hands at 107.01 per dollar, strengthening from earlier levels around 107.26. The Australian dollar slipped 0.26%, trading at $0.6945. 

Oil prices wavered Friday morning during Asian hours following more than 2% declines on Thursday. 

Global benchmark Brent erased earlier gains to trade down 0.4% at $42.18 while U.S. crude slipped 0.58% to $39.39. 

Vivek Dhar from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia said in a morning note that a stronger U.S. dollar and concerns “linked directly to the spread and impact of COVID‑19 in the US,” weighed on oil overnight. 

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