Korea Plummets as Virus Alerts Raised

Stocks in South Korea led losses among major Asian markets on Monday after the country raised its coronavirus alert to the "highest level" following a rapid spike in cases over the weekend.

Markets in Japan were closed for holiday.

The Japanese yen traded at 111.54 per U.S. dollar following a weakening from levels below 110.4 in the previous trading week.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index plummeted 487.93 points, or 1.8%, to 26,820.88,

The Kospi was down as shares of automaker Hyundai Motor plunged 4.3%. The Korean won weakened to 1,219.22 per dollar following levels below 1,200 seen last week.

South Korea’s Korean Air Lines plunged 6.2% and Asiana Airlines also dropped 6.1%, Media reports circulated that both the South Korean airlines had announced they are suspending flights to Daegu — the country’s fourth-largest city with the largest number of coronavirus cases — for the time being.

Airline stocks in the rest of the region also fell amid the contagion fears. Australia’s Qantas Airways plummeted 7.5%, while Hong Kong-listed shares of China Eastern Airlines fell 2.7% and China Southern Airlines downgraded 3.7%, in afternoon trade.

On Monday morning, the Korea Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention reported that seven people have died from COVID-19. The number of cases has risen to 161 new cases, bringing the total to 763 nationwide — the country with the most cases outside the mainland.'

However, he said the overall effect of such a move would be unknown given that the “problem” has expanded beyond South Korea and China, where the outbreak was first reported.

Industry heavyweight Samsung Electronics announced Saturday that a coronavirus case had been confirmed at a mobile device factory complex in South Korea, resulting in the shutdown of the entire facility until Monday morning. The affected factory reportedly accounts for a small portion of Samsung’s total smartphone production. Samsung Electronics shares were down 4.1% on Monday.

Meanwhile, shares in Australia also fell, as almost all the sectors declined. The Australian dollar was at $0.6592 after declining from levels above $0.67 last week.

In other markets

The CSI 300 erased 16.65 points, or 0.4%, to 4,132.84.

In Taiwan, the Taiex tumbled 151.48 points, or 1.3%, to 11,534.87

In Korea, the Kospi index settled 83.8 points, or 3.9%, to 2,079.04

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index deleted 38.83 points, or 1.2%, to 3,142.20

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 dumped 216.22 points, or 1.8%, to 11,857.12

In Australia, the ASX 200 lost 160.69 points, or 2.3%, to 6,978.28