Asia Trades Mixed over Virus Worry

Asia-Pacific markets traded mixed on Friday as investors remained cautious over the short-term economic impact of the coronavirus as cases around the world continue to rise.

The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo lost 106.7 points, or 0.4%, to 25,527.37.

Data from Japan showed core consumer prices fell in October at their fastest pace annually in nearly a decade, raising deflation fears in an economy that is still grappling with the pandemic. The country’s factory activity decline also sped up in November.

The Japanese yen weakened traded at 103.76 against the U.S. dollar compared to an earlier level of 103.90.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index recovered 94.57 points, or 0.4%, to 26,451.54.

In Australia, the heavily-weighted financials sub-index finished up 0.2% while materials and energy sectors struggled for gains.

The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7298, climbing from an earlier low of $0.7264.

CHINA

In Shanghai, the CSI 300 gained 15.3 points, or 0.3%, to 4,943.29.

China kept its lending benchmark loan prime rate steady for the seventh straight month, in line with market expectations. The one-year rate was kept unchanged at 3.85% and the five-year rate remained at 4.65%.

China’s interbank bond market regulator said it will launch a probe into three banks — Industrial Bank, China Everbright Bank and Zhongyuan Bank — after a shock bond default last week by state-owned coal miner Yongcheng Coal & Electricity Holding Group.

The three banks were said to have helped the company issue bonds and on Nov. 10, Yongcheng defaulted on a one-billion yuan ($151.84 million U.S.) bond.

A series of high-profile defaults from state-owned enterprises have left investors rattled and sparked a selloff in the Chinese corporate debt market last week.

In other markets

In Korea, the Kospi index nicked higher 6.08 points, or 0.2%, to 2,553.50.

In Taiwan, the Taiex Index docked 5.99 points to 13,716.44.

In Singapore, the Straits Times Index moved higher 36.01 points, or 1.3%, to 2,813.01.

In New Zealand, the NZX 50 dropped 115.32 points, or 0.9%, to 12,441.81

In Australia, the ASX 200 subtracted 8.05 points, or 0.1%, to 6,539.17.