Asian Shares Plunge On Virus Worries, Oil Price Crash

Asian shares crashed on Monday amid selling across the board, with weak China exports data, plunging oil prices and fears surrounding the coronavirus weighing on markets.

China’s Shanghai Composite Index tumbled 91.22 points, or 3 percent, to 2,943.29, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index plummeted 1,106.21 points, or 4.2 percent, to 25,040.46.

China’s exports plunged in the January to February period as the outbreak of the coronavirus and the extended Lunar New Year holiday weighed on global supply chains and overall business activity.

Exports decreased 17.2 percent in January and February, data released by the General Administration of Customs revealed over the weekend.

This was in contrast to a 7.9 percent annual expansion seen in December. Economists had forecast a decrease of 16.2 percent.

Similarly, imports declined 4 percent versus 16.5 percent growth in December. Imports were expected to fall 16.1 percent.

Consequently, the trade deficit totaled $7.09 billion compared to the expected surplus of $38.8 billion.

Japanese shares hit a 14-month low in response to the spread of the coronavirus outbreak and the oil price plunge. The Nikkei 225 Index ended down 1,050.99 points, or 5.1 percent, at 19,698.76 after hitting as low as 19,472.26 earlier in the session. The broader Topix closed 5.6 percent lower at 1,388.97, its lowest closing since November 11, 2016.

Market heavyweight SoftBank plunged 10.4 percent and Fast Retailing declined 3 percent. In the tech space, Tokyo Electron and Advantest ended down more than 5 percent. Oil company Inpex nosedived 13 percent and Japan Petroleum declined 12.7 percent.

In economic news, the Cabinet Office said that Japan’s gross domestic product saw a downward revision to -7.1 percent year on year in the fourth quarter of 2019. That was worse than expectations for -6.6 percent after last month’s preliminary reading suggested a decline of 6.3 percent.

Another report showed that Japan had a current account surplus of 612.3 billion yen in January, up 6.6 percent on year. That was shy of expectations for 623.5 billion yen and up from 524.0 billion yen in December.

Australian markets took a $136 billion hit in one day as investors fretted about the rapid spread of the coronavirus and an oil price war.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index slumped 455.60 points, or 7.3 percent, to 5,760.60, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 465.10 points, or 7.4 percent, at 5,822.40.

Energy stocks were among the hardest hit after oil prices plunged more than 30 percent amid a price war in the global market. Origin Energy, Woodside Petroleum, Santos and Oil Search ended down between 18 percent and 35 percent.

Miners BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue Metals Group fell 6-14 percent. Gold miners ended mostly lower despite investors turning to gold as a safe-haven. The big four banks lost 6-9 percent.

South Korea’s Kospi tumbled 85.45 points, or 4.2 percent, to 1,954.77 as investors went on a selling spree amid renewed fears over the coronavirus and a crash in oil prices after Saudi Arabia started a price war with Russia.

Market bellwether Samsung Electronics plunged 4.1 percent and No. 2 chipmaker SK Hynix slumped 6.2 percent.

New Zealand shares slumped amid a global selloff. The benchmark NZX-50 Index plunged 334.09 points, or 2.9 percent, to 11,091.81, with utilities pacing the decliners.

Mercury NZ, Meridian Energy and Genesis Energy gave up 3-7 percent. Air New Zealand lost 5.3 percent to hit a four-year low after scrapping its annual earnings guidance.

U.S. stocks tumbled on Friday as mounting concerns over the spread of coronavirus cases overshadowed an outstanding jobs report showing much stronger than expected job growth in February and a drop in the unemployment rate.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 1 percent, the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite plunged 1.9 percent and the S&P 500 gave up 1.7 percent.

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