Asian Shares Rise As Coronavirus Spread Slows

Asian stocks rose on Tuesday amid signs of slowing coronavirus spread and on expectations of more central bank and government stimulus to counter the economic fallout from the pandemic.

China’s Shanghai Composite Index jumped 56.78 points, or 2.1 percent, to 2,820.76, as the country reported zero new Covid-19 deaths for the first time since January. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index surged up 504.17 points, or 2.1 percent, to 24,253.29.

The National Health Commission reported 32 new coronavirus cases across China, all of which were arrivals from another country. There were also 30 new asymptomatic cases,

Japanese shares ended a choppy session sharply higher as investors awaited the government’s decision to declare a state of emergency.

Investors also cheered reports suggesting that the Cabinet will approve a coronavirus stimulus package totaling 108 trillion yen, or equal to 20 percent of Japan’s GDP.

The Nikkei 225 ended up 373.88 points, or 2 percent, at 18,950.18, while the broader Topix closed 2 percent higher at 1,403.21.

Market heavyweight SoftBank climbed 2.8 percent and Fast Retailing added 1.4 percent. Tech stocks posted strong gains, with Advantest surging 12.7 percent and Tokyo Electron rising 5.7 percent.

The average of household spending in Japan fell an annual 0.3 percent in February, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications said in a report today. That beat expectations for a decline of 3.4 percent following the 3.9 percent annual drop in January.

Australian markets gave up early gains to finish modestly lower as the Reserve Bank kept the cash rate on hold and warned it expects a “very large economic contraction” in the current quarter, with the unemployment rate forecast to rise to “its highest level for many years.”

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index rose as much as 2.6 percent in early trading before pulling back to end the session down 34.50 points, or 0.7 percent, at 5,252.30. The broader All Ordinaries Index slid 22.30 points, or 0.4 percent, to 5,301.30.

The big four banks dropped 1-2 percent, while mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto ended narrowly mixed. Gold miner Evolution Mining rallied 3.3 percent and Newcrest Mining advanced 2.5 percent.

Oil Search shares entered a trading halt after the company launched a A$1.16 billion capital raising program, saying that its capital preservation measures and equity raising are intended to ensure it can withstand a prolonged period of lower oil prices.

On the economic front, a survey showed that the service sector in Australia continued to contract in March, and at a much faster rate, with a Performance of Service Index score of 38.7.

Separately, official data showed that Australia posted a seasonally adjusted merchandise trade surplus of A$4.361 billion in February, beating expectations for a surplus of A$3.750 billion.

South Korea’s Kospi climbed 31.72 points, or 1.8 percent, to 1,823.60 amid indications the coronavirus pandemic may be leveling off in New York and receding in European coronavirus hotspots such as Italy and Spain.

New Zealand shares advanced, with the benchmark NZX-50 Index ending up 46.03 points, or 0.5 percent, at 9,809.85. Auckland International Airport surged 6.9 percent after the company successfully raised $1 billion in a discounted placement to shore up its balance sheet.

New Zealand business confidence deteriorated notably in the first quarter, survey data from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research showed today. A net 67 percent of businesses expect deterioration in general economic conditions in the March quarter. The survey was conducted prior to the announcement of a lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Singapore’s Straits Times Index spiked 4.1 percent after the country announced an additional S$5.1 billion (US$3.6 billion) stimulus to save jobs and protect the livelihoods of people amid the spread of the coronavirus. This is the third stimulus package and covers wage subsidies and a cash payout.

U.S. stocks had their best day in two weeks on Monday after the reported death tolls in some of the world’s coronavirus hot spots showed signs of easing over the weekend.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average soared 7.7 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite jumped 7.3 percent and the S&P 500 surged 7 percent.

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