Asian stocks mixed, with Nikkei a standout decliner as coronavirus, recession fears weigh

TOKYO — Asian shares were mixed on Wednesday, on continuing worries about the economic fallout from the pandemic as reports of coronavirus cases keep surging in various regions.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 NIK, +0.00% fell 4.%. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 XJO, -1.68% added 3.4%, while South Korea’s Kospi 180721, +0.03% fell 3.4%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng HSI, -0.18% lost 2.2%, while the Shanghai Composite SHCOMP, -0.59% slipped 0.1%. Singapore’s STI, -2.59% benchmark index fell, while stocks were up in Taiwan Y9999, -0.45% and Indonesia JAKIDX, +2.02% .

Adding to the damage was the Bank of Japan’s quarterly survey of business sentiment called “tankan,” which highlighted the gloom over a likely recession. The world’s third largest economy had already been lagging for months when the outbreak began taking its toll earlier this year.

Sentiment among Japan’s large manufacturers fell in the January-March period, marking the fifth straight quarter of decline, according to the central bank. The tankan measures corporate sentiment by subtracting the number of companies saying business conditions are negative from those responding they are positive.

The key index, which measures sentiment among large manufacturers, fell to minus 8 from zero in October-December, the worst result in seven years. Sentiment among non-manufacturers was also dismal as the service sector, tourism and other businesses have also been hit hard by the outbreak.

On Wall Street overnight, stocks plunged to close out their worst quarter since the most harrowing days of the 2008 financial crisis.

The S&P 500 SPX, +2.28% dropped a final 1.6%, bringing its loss for the first three months of the year to 20% as predictions for the looming recession caused by the coronavirus outbreak got even more dire. Stocks haven’t had this bad a quarter since the last time economists were talking about the worst downturn since the Great Depression, when the S&P 500 lost 22.6% at the end of 2008. The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +2.24% of 30 U.S. blue-chip stocks dropped 23.2% for its worst quarter since 1987.

The surge of coronavirus cases around the world has sent markets to breathtaking drops since mid-February, undercutting what had been a good start to the year.

U.S. benchmark crude CLK20, +4.18% gained 10 cents to $20.58 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 39 cents to $20.48 a barrel Tuesday. Brent crude BRNK20, -0.22% , the international standard, lost 42 cents to $25.94 per barrel.

The dollar USDJPY, +0.52% cost 107.87 Japanese yen, up from 107.52 yen on Tuesday. 


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