Asian Markets End On A Mixed Note


Asian stocks ended mixed on Friday after an early-sell off as the death toll from China's virus epidemic neared 1,400, raising fears of more global contagion.


Nearly 64,000 people are now recorded as having been made ill by the virus in China, with the last two days showing a steep rise after a change in diagnostic methods.


Meanwhile, the United States and China have lowered tariffs on each other's goods today as part of the "Phase One" trade agreement.


Chinese stocks rose to post their first weekly gain in four on hopes the government will unveil more measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak and limit its economic impact.


The benchmark Shanghai Composite index inched up 10.93 points, or 0.38 percent, to 2,917.01 and ended the week up by 1.4 percent. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index rose 0.31 percent to 27,815.60.


Japanese stocks declined as investors continued to fret about the economic impact as well as spread of the coronavirus outbreak. The Nikkei average dropped 140.14 points, or 0.59 percent, to 23,687.59, while the broader Topix index closed 0.60 percent lower at 1,702.87.


A firmer yen weighed on export-related stocks, with Canon and Honda Motor losing around 1 percent. Panasonic shed 1.5 percent. Nissan Motor plunged 9.6 percent to its lowest in 10-1/2 years after the struggling automaker cut its annual operating profit forecast by 43 percent.


Toshiba Corp advanced 2.3 percent after the industrial conglomerate maintained its outlook for group operating profit for the fiscal year through March. Semiconductor silicon wafer maker Sumco Corp surged 6.9 percent.


Australian markets eked out modest gains as encouraging earnings news eclipsed underlying worries over the spread of coronavirus. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 index rose 27 points, or 0.38 percent, to 7,130.20, while the broader All Ordinaries index gained 22.50 points, or 0.31 percent, to finish at 7,227.10.


Commonwealth Bank of Australia rallied 2.6 percent to extend recent gains after posting better-than-expected cash earnings for the half year. National Australia Bank surged 3.3 percent after announcing it is considering a fresh share sale.


FAR slumped 8.8 percent after the oil explorer lost its long-running arbitration case to Woodside Petroleum. Shares of the latter declined 2.7 percent. Gold miners ended mostly lower despite gold prices rising overnight on safe-haven appeal.


Seoul stocks advanced on hopes of global measures to soften the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. The benchmark Kospi rose by 10.63 points, or 0.48 percent, to 2,243.59, led by technology companies. Market heavyweight Samsung Electronics advanced 1.8 percent while No. 2 chipmaker SK Hynix added 2.5 percent.


New Zealand shares ended modestly lower, with the benchmark NZX-50 index closing down 46.01 points, or 0.39 percent, to 11,834.83.


Food prices in New Zealand advanced a seasonally adjusted 0.6 percent sequentially in January, Statistics New Zealand said in a report. Unadjusted, food prices gained 2.1 percent.


Overnight, U.S. stocks fluctuated before finishing lower amid news of a jump in new coronavirus cases due to the adoption of new methodology for counting infections. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.4 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite slid 0.1 percent and the S&P 500 shed 0.2 percent.


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