Investors Withdraw on Virus Fears, Stocks Slide

Shares in mainland China led losses among major Asia Pacific markets on Wednesday as investors withdrew amid concerns over the coronavirus outbreak beyond China.

The Nikkei 225 lost 179.22, or 0.8%, to 22,426.19. The Japanese yen traded at 110.36 against the U.S. dollar after touching an earlier high of 110.12.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index dropped 196.74 points, or 0.7%, to 26,696.49

The city unveiled its budget on Wednesday with measures worth 120 billion Hong Kong dollars (approx. $15.4 billion), as the Hong Kong economy has taken a hit from both the coronavirus outbreak as well as months of anti-government protests that have been at times violent.

Australian markets went south. The heavily weighted financial subindex was down 2% as shares of Australia’s so-called Big Four banks fell: Australia and New Zealand Banking Group dropped 2%, Commonwealth Bank of Australia shed 1.67%, Westpac declined 1.7% and National Australia Bank slipped 2.1%.

The moves came as an earlier data release showed the value of construction work done in the December quarter of 2019 declining. The seasonally adjusted estimate of the value of work done in total construction dropped 3% in the December quarter as compared to the previous period, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed.

The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6574 after seeing levels around $0.662 yesterday.

CHINA

The CSI 300 retreated 50.83 points, or 1.2%, to 4,073.02.

Investors watched for updates on the coronavirus outbreak that is spreading outside of China, with a top U.S. health official warning Tuesday it will likely become a global pandemic.

There has been a recent spike in coronavirus cases outside of China, where the disease was first reported. South Korean authorities have confirmed more than 900 cases within the country’s borders. Meanwhile, Italy has been the worst affected country outside of Asia, with more than 200 reported cases. Iran also confirmed at least 12 deaths.

In other markets

In Taiwan, the Taiex lumbered backward 106.61 points, or 0.9%, to 11,433.62

In Korea, the Kospi index slid 26.84 points, or 1.3%, to 2,076.77

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index withered 40.72 points, or 1.3%, to 3,117.52

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 dumped 185.37 points, or 1.6%, to 11,533.86

In Australia, the ASX 200 faltered 158.5 points, or 2.3%, to 6,708.10