Japanese Stocks Plunge as Virus Fears Grow

Stocks in Japan saw sharp declines on Tuesday following an overnight plunge on Wall Street as fears of the economic impact from the coronavirus outbreak spread.

Markets in Japan returned from holiday as the Nikkei 225 shed 781.33, or 3.3%, to finish Tuesday at 22,605.41, as shares of index heavyweight Fast Retailing dropped 4.2%. Earlier in the session, the index had plummeted almost 4%.

Shares of Fujifilm bucked the overall trend to gain 2.8% after local media reports that the Japanese government was considering the use of an anti-flu drug developed by a unit of the firm to treat the coronavirus.

The Japanese yen traded at 110.84 per U.S. dollar after strengthening from levels above 111.2 yesterday

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng Index recovered 72.35 points, or 0.3%, to 26,893.23,

Korean markets rebounded following sharp losses seen on Monday as the country witnessed a spike in the number of coronavirus cases in recent days.

On Tuesday, the country reported 60 new cases, bringing the number of infected cases to 893, to become the country with the most cases outside mainland China. Total fatalities now stand at 8. Seoul raised the coronavirus alert to the “highest level” over the weekend.

Shares of Korean Air Lines rose 1.6% on Tuesday despite the airline announcing Tuesday that a cabin crew member had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Consumer confidence in South Korea dropped in February to a six-month low, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported Tuesday. The Composite Consumer Sentiment Index for February fell to 96.9, declining 7.3 points from its reading in January, according to data from the Bank of Korea.

The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6617 following its decline from levels above $0.67 last week.

CHINA

The CSI 300 dropped 8.99 points, or 0.2%, to 4,123.85.

In China, where the outbreak was first reported, 508 new cases and 71 additional deaths were reported as of Feb. 24. That brings the country’s total to 77,658 confirmed cases, and 2,663 deaths. Concerns over the economic impact of disruptions caused by the virus outbreak have sent jitters across markets in recent weeks as some factories in China continue to remain shut due to containment measures.

One bank spokesperson told the media on Tuesday that China’s first quarter GDP is expected to deteriorate “very materially” to only 2.8% while the full-year projection was at 5.5%

In other markets

In Taiwan, the Taiex inched forward 5.36 points, or 0.1%, to 11,540.23

In Korea, the Kospi index regained 24.57 points, or 1.2%, to 2,103.61

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index restocked 16.04 points, or 0.5%, to 3,158.24

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 dumped 137.89 points, or 1.2%, to 11,719.23

In Australia, the ASX 200 lost 111.67 points, or 1.6%, to 6,866.60