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Asian stocks fall on virus worry, China stock rally pauses

Stanley White and John McCrank
Filed on July 10, 2020
A man walks past an electronic board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index and currency exchange rate at a securities firm in Tokyo on Friday. - AP

Asian stock markets followed Wall Street lower Friday on worries economic improvements might fade as coronavirus cases increase in the United States and some other countries.

Asian shares and US stock futures fell on Friday as record-breaking new coronavirus cases in several US states stoked concerns that new lockdowns could derail an economic recovery, while investors looked forward to earnings season.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.76 per cent. Australian stocks dropped 0.42 per cent, while Japanese stocks declined by 0.4 per cent.

Shares in China fell 0.72 per cent, the first decline in more than a week, as investors booked profits on a surge in equities to a five-year high.

E-mini futures for the S&P 500 erased early gains to trade down 0.01per cent.

The Antipodean currencies fell and the yen rose as traders shunned risk and sought safe havens.

More than 60,500 new Covid-19 infections were reported across the United States on Thursday, the largest single-day tally of cases by any country since the virus emerged late last year in China.

That heightened concerns that renewed lockdowns could hurt the economic recovery.

The number of Americans filing for jobless benefits dropped to a near four-month low last week, data showed.

But investors remained cautious as the report also said a record 32.9 million people were collecting unemployment checks in the third week of June, supporting expectations the labor market would take years to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Weakness in financial stocks, with the bank sub-index down 2.5 per cent, comes ahead of next week's Q2 reporting season that sees JP Morgan, Citigroup and Wells Fargo all report next Tuesday and following news that Wells Fargo is planning to cut 'thousands' of jobs starting later this year," said Ray Attrill, head of FX strategy at National Australia Bank.

On Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1.39 per cent and the S&P 500 dropped 0.56 per cent, but the tech-heavy Nasdaq rose 0.53 per cent to its fifth record closing high in six days.

Mainland China shares fell on Friday for the first time since June 29. Shares had surged to the highest since 2015 on Thursday, fuelled by retail investor enthusiasm and policy support, even as regulators cracked down on margin financing and as state media warned of market risks.

The rise in China's mainland equities has some similarities to the bubble there five years ago, but it is not yet close in scale, and prices could continue to inflate for some time, said Capital Economics economist Oliver Jones.

"That said, another boom-bust cycle in China's equities could have even greater knock-on effects for markets elsewhere than before, with foreign holdings far higher now than five years ago," he said.

Fueled by illegal margin lending, the 2015-16 market bubble saw the benchmark Shanghai index fall more than 40per cent from its peak in just a few weeks.

In the currency market, the yen edged up against the dollar and the euro as investors bought the traditional safe haven.

The Australian and New Zealand dollars , which are often traded as a liquid proxy for risk because of their close ties to China's economy, both fell against the greenback.

The Aussie also fell as local officials use lockdowns and border restrictions to contain a sudden increase in coronavirus cases.

US crude fell 0.23 per cent to $39.53 a barrel, while Brent crude edged 0.02per cent lower to $42.34 per barrel due to concerns about a long-term decline in global energy demand. - Reuters


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