Asian Shares End On Stable Note

Asian stocks ended Friday's session largely on a steady note after the World Health Organization (WHO) said the coronavirus outbreak in China did not yet constitute a global health emergency.

The death toll in China has now risen to 26, while the number of confirmed cases jumped to 830.

Markets in China, South Korea and Taiwan were closed for the Lunar New Year holidays. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index edged up 0.15 percent in a shortened trading session ahead of the Year of the Rat.

Japanese shares closed higher after the release of macroeconomic data. Japan's inflation accelerated in December but remained well below the 2 percent target, a government report showed. Consumer price inflation increased to 0.8 percent from 0.5 percent a month ago. This was above economists' forecast of 0.7 percent.

Separately, flash survey results from IHS Markit revealed that Japan's private sector rebounded at the start of 2020, driven by the expansion in services output. The corresponding index rose to 51.1 in January from 48.6 in December.

The services PMI advanced to 52.1 from 49.4 a month ago. The factory PMI also climbed in the month but held below 50.

The Nikkei average inched up 31.74 points, or 0.13 percent, to 23,827.18, while the broader Topix index closed marginally lower at 1,730.44.

Australian markets ended a volatile week in positive territory as healthcare stocks advanced, offsetting losses in the mining sector. Both the S&P/ASX 200 and the All Ordinaries index finished marginally higher at 7,090.50 and 7,203.20, respectively.

Biotechnology firm CSL and Ansell, which manufactures protective industrial and medical gloves, both rose about 1 percent amid the coronavirus outbreak. The big four banks rose between 0.4 percent and 0.6 percent.

Shares of Insurance Australia Group slumped 5.4 percent after the company lowered its fiscal 2020 insurance profit margin outlook.

Mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto lost 1.5 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively, while gold miner Newcrest Mining rose 1.2 percent. Energy stocks finished broadly higher despite oil prices hitting an eight-week low overnight.

Australia's private sector output declined at the sharpest pace since the survey began in May 2016, flash survey data from IHS Markit showed. Sharper reductions in output were seen across manufacturing and service sectors.

New Zealand shares fell slightly as the fast-spreading coronavirus took a toll on tourism-related companies and a flatter interest rate outlook sapped demand for high dividend payers such as utilities. The benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index dropped 23.3 points, or 0.2 percent, to 11,877.81.

New Zealand consumer price inflation rose 0.5 percent quarter-on-quarter in the fourth quarter, slower than 0.7 percent in the third quarter, data from Statistics New Zealand showed today. This was the lowest since first quarter, when inflation was 0.1 percent.

U.S. stocks recovered from an early slide to end mostly higher overnight after the World Health Organization (WHO) announced it was "a bit too early" to declare the coronavirus a global health emergency.

The Dow edged down 0.1 percent, while the Nasdaq Composite rose 0.2 percent and the S&P 500 inched up 0.1 percent.

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