Asian shares lose ground amid surge in coronavirus cases
Singapore/New York — Asia’s stock markets slipped, bonds rose and the US dollar was firm on Thursday as surging US coronavirus cases, global trade tensions and an IMF downgrade to economic projections knocked confidence in a recovery.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.7%, Tokyo’s Nikkei slumped 1.4% and Australia’s ASX 200 tumbled 1.8%. US stock futures also declined 0.7% following on from an overnight slide on Wall Street.
Markets in Hong Kong and mainland China are closed for public holidays on Thursday.
Florida, Oklahoma and South Carolina reported record increases in new cases on Wednesday. Seven other states had record highs earlier in the week and Australia posted its biggest daily rise in infections in two months.
The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut ordered travellers from nine other states to quarantine on arrival, a worry for investors who had mostly been expecting an end to pandemic restrictions.
Texas is also facing a “massive outbreak” and authorities are considering localised restrictions, governor Greg Abbott said in a television interview.
Australian airline Qantas said on Thursday it doesn’t expect sizeable international operations until at least July 2021, as the carrier announced plans to sack a fifth of its workforce and raise $1.3bn to stay afloat.
The IMF said it now expects a deeper global recession, with output to shrink 4.9% in 2020, much sharper than the 3.0% contraction predicted in April.
“There is a little bit of reality bites coming,” said Damian Rooney, senior instructional salesman at stockbroker Argonaut in Perth.
“I don’t think there was a particular straw that broke the camel’s back, but people are a little bit twitchy — there are a lot of reasons to be pretty cautious.”
Oil prices, a proxy for global energy consumption and economic growth, nursed losses after a 5% tumble overnight as US crude storage hit another record and demand worries resurfaced.
The dollar clung on to broad overnight gains that had lifted it from near a two-week low.
Yields on benchmark 10-year US treasuries fell to a one-week low of 0.6724%.
US jobless claims
Worries were even more pronounced on Wall Street overnight, and pulled major indexes back to flat for the month.
The S&P 500 fell 2.6% overnight and the Nasdaq Composite snapped eight sessions of gains and slipped 2.2%.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled 2.72% with retail-investor darlings in the travel sector hammered.
Anxiety in markets is likely to remain heightened ahead of US jobless claims data due at 12.30pm GMT, along with virus case figures, and confidence could be dented by disappointment on either count.
“Any improvement in jobs might be counteracted if there is another pickup in the caseload in the United States,” said Kyle Rodda, market analyst at brokerage IG in Melbourne.
“It’s a potential handbrake on the growth rebound story.”
On top of virus concerns, worrying signals on the trade front have unnerved investors.
The US has added items valued at $3.1bn to a list of European goods eligible to be hit with import duties, as it seeks to keep the pressure on in a long-running dispute over aircraft subsidies.
The Trump administration has also determined that Chinese firms, including Huawei and video surveillance company Hikvision, are owned or controlled by the Chinese military, laying the groundwork for sanctions and fresh Sino-US tension.
That has stalled a rally in riskier currencies, and dropped the Australian dollar under 69 cents to $0.6864, and had the kiwi stalled around 64 cents.
Gold steadied at $1,764.07/oz.
US crude futures rose by 6 cents a barrel or 0.1% to $38.07 and Brent crude futures were flat at $40.30.