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Asian markets back up on high hopes for limited virus impact

Asian markets back up on high hopes for limited virus impact

Asian markets rebounded on Wednesday as hopes the deadly new coronavirus will have only a short-term impact on corporate earnings and economic growth prevailed.

Falls on US and European markets – after Apple’s warning that it would miss its quarterly revenue forecast due to the epidemic – did not carry over to Asia as investors bet on policymakers doing what is needed to minimise the fallout.

The illness has disrupted supply chains and forced the cancellation of high-profile sporting and cultural events.

As stimulus measures are rolled out in China and elsewhere, “Asia seems confident that the region’s governments will ‘do what it takes’ to offset the coronavirus slowdown”, Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst for Asia at Oanda, said in a commentary.

After four straight sessions in the red, Tokyo’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index closed up 0.9 per cent.

Hong Kong put on 0.5 per cent but mainland China’s key Shanghai Composite Index was off 0.3 per cent.

Elsewhere, South Korea rose 0.1 per cent even as the number of confirmed cases of the virus jumped by nearly two-thirds.

Taipei gained 0.9 per cent and Sydney put on 0.4 per cent. The Cambodia Securities Exchange sank 2.09 per cent.

The more sanguine mood came as Chinese officials released a study showing most patients have mild cases of the coronavirus, and World Health Organisation officials said the mortality rate was relatively low.

IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva has said there could be a cut of around 0.1-0.2 percentage points to global growth but stressed there was much uncertainty about the virus’s economic impact.

Anne Anderson of UBS Asset Management in Sydney played down concerns.

“It’s important to contextualise the impact of the virus – we’re not expecting a permanent cut in global growth,” Anderson told Bloomberg TV.

“The combination of the fiscal-monetary and the belief that we will transition through this over the coming months mean we’re still on steady footing.”

The optimism flowed into European markets, with the major bourses opening higher.

London’s FTSE 100 was up 0.6 per cent, the Paris CAC added 0.3 per cent and Germany’s DAX put on 0.4 per cent.

Apple’s announcement that it would miss its March quarter revenue forecast while global iPhone supplies would fall jolted markets and sparked renewed demand for safe-haven assets such as gold.

Not everyone is convinced the economic impact will be fleeting, however, suggesting Wednesday’s gains could be temporary.

“The debate on whether [Covid-19] is a transient economic shock or worryingly a more longer-lasting global economic headwind appears to be shifting in favour of the latter following Apple’s admission,” said Rodrigo Catril of National Australia Bank.

China is the world’s biggest importer and consumer of oil, and crude prices have been particularly sensitive to the epidemic that has spread to nearly 30 countries and territories.

Brent Crude was up 0.8 per cent and West Texas Intermediate was 0.9 per cent higher.

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