Asia Markets

Hong Kong stocks lead gains in Asia as investors weigh economic impact of coronavirus

Key Points
  • Shares in Asia Pacific saw gains on Tuesday.
  • Investors watched for developments on the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, where uncertainty remains over when work can resume at factories in China.
  • Markets in Japan were closed on Tuesday for a holiday.

Stocks in Asia Pacific saw gains on Tuesday as investors continued to weigh the economic impact of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak which has already taken more than 1,000 lives.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index led gains among major markets regionally as it surged 1.26% to close at 27,583.88, with shares of Chinese tech giant Tencent jumping 2.1%. Shares of automobile firm Geely soared 5.69% after the company announced it was in talks to strengthen ties with Volvo.

Mainland Chinese stocks saw gains on the day, with the Shanghai composite up 0.39% to around 2,901.67 and the Shenzhen component advancing 0.37% to 10,768,63. The Shenzhen composite rose marginally to approximately 1,758.02.

South Korea's Kospi gained 1% to close at 2,223.12 with shares of LG Chem surging 6.85%.

The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia finished its trading day 0.61% higher at 7,055.30 as almost all sectors gained. Shares of medical device firm Cochlear, however, tumbled 3.39% after the company reduced its outlook for fiscal year 2020 due to the outbreak's impact in the Greater China region, one of the main markets for the company.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index jumped 0.91%.

Markets in Japan were closed on Tuesday for a holiday.

Investors watched for developments on the ongoing coronavirus outbreak in China, where uncertainty remains over when work can resume at factories in China.

"The risk of a larger downgrade in Chinese GDP growth over Q1 20 and 2020 as a whole is gaining momentum," Richard Grace, senior currency strategist and head of international economics at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, wrote in a note.

"With China's economy accounting for some 17% of world GDP, but accounting for a significant contribution to growth in the global economy, the risk of a larger downgrade to global growth is clear," Grace said.

Shane Oliver, head of investment strategy and chief economist at AMP Capital Investors, told CNBC on Tuesday that "everyone's estimates are really just guesstimates at the moment."

"I'm assuming that we'll see a gradual let up in the lockdown in China as we get more confidence that the number of cases has peaked. And that within a month or so, a lot of the restrictions will have been lifted," Oliver told CNBC's "Street SIgns" on Tuesday.

Still, he acknowledged that "a lot of uncertainty" remains as there no clear evidence yet that the number of cases has peaked.

"The official numbers would suggest that, but there's a lot of debate about the reliability of ... the data in terms of the number of cases," Oliver said. ""If the data is giving us an accurate picture, it does give us some confidence that the hit to the Chinese economy in the current quarter will be limited."

The U.S. GDP could also be hit. A CNBC survey of 11 forecasters over the weekend finds first-quarter GDP estimates averaging just 1.2%, down nearly a point from the fourth quarter. Economists see a bounce back to 2% growth in the second quarter, depending on the severity of the virus both in China and in other countries.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 98.905 after seeing an earlier low of 98.825.

The Japanese yen traded at 109.91 per dollar, off levels below 108.6 seen last week. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6708 after touching an earlier low of $0.6679.

Oil prices jumped in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures up 0.98% to $53.79 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also gained 0.95% to $50.04 per barrel.

— CNBC's Steve Liesman and Saheli Roy Choudhury contributed to this report.