Asia Markets

Asia stocks mostly rise as investors mull virus impact; Singapore flags risk of recession

Key Points
  • Stocks in Asia were mostly higher on Friday.
  • Investors continued to watch for developments on the coronavirus outbreak following Thursday's spike in the number of cases reported after Hubei changed the way cases are diagnosed.
  • China was also set to halve tariff rates on certain U.S. products worth $75 billion with effect on Friday, as previously announced by Beijing in early February.

Stocks in Asia were mostly higher on Friday as concerns around the ongoing coronavirus outbreak continued to weigh on investor sentiment.

Mainland Chinese stocks gained on the day, with the Shanghai composite rising 0.38% to about 2,917.01 and the Shenzhen component up 0.48% to 10,916.31. The Shenzhen composite also added 0.441% to around 1,779.43. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was 0.39% higher, as of its final hour of trading.

In Japan, however, the Nikkei 225 closed 0.59% lower at 23,687.59 as shares of index heavyweight Fast Retailing dropped 1.8%. The Topix index also declined 0.6% to end its trading day at 1,702.87. Shares of automaker Nissan plunged 9.64% after the company cut its annual operating income forecast by more than 40%.

South Korea's Kospi rose 0.48% on the day to 2,243.59. Meanwhile, the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia advanced 0.38% to close at 7,130.20.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan rose 0.25%.

Investors continued to watch for developments on the coronavirus outbreak following Thursday's spike in the number of cases reported after authorities in Hubei introduced a new method for tabulating case totals. On Friday, the province reported an additional 116 deaths and 4,823 new confirmed cases as of the end of Feb. 13.

"I think markets are looking at the playbook of SARS and what we found there was, it was a big hit ... to growth in the countries that were most affected but it was a V-shaped recovery," Rob Subbaraman, head of global macro research at Nomura, told CNBC's "Street Signs" on Friday. A V-shaped recovery describes downturns that see a steep fall before recovering sharply.

"What we think markets might be missing is the depth of the V could be worse than people think," Subbaraman cautioned. "The economic data we start getting for February could be a lot worse than people think."

On Friday, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the coronavirus' economic impact on the island nation's economy has already exceeded that of SARS in 2003, according to a report by local publication The Straits Times. Singapore has been among the countries worst hit by the disease as it has one of the highest reported number of confirmed cases outside of China.

The Straits Times index in Singapore was last trading largely flat in the afternoon.

Meanwhile, China was set to halve tariff rates on certain U.S. products worth about $75 billion with effect on Friday, as previously announced by Beijing in early February.

Retaliatory tariffs on some U.S. goods will be cut from 10% to 5%, and from 5% to 2.5% on others, according to a statement from China's Ministry of Finance earlier this month. The adjustments was set to take effect from 1:01 p.m on Feb. 14, it said, without specifying which time zone it was referring to.

On the corporate earnings front, shares of Japan's Toshiba jumped 2.27% despite posting a 145.626 billion yen loss attributable to shareholders of the company ($1.326 billion) in the nine months ended Dec. 31.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 99.113 after seeing an earlier low of 99.087.

The Japanese yen traded at 109.78 per dollar after seeing levels around 109.9 yesterday. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6722 after touching an earlier low of $0.6707.

Oil prices were higher in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with the international benchmark Brent crude futures contract up fractionally to $56.37 per barrel. U.S. crude futures were 0.12% higher at $51.48 per barrel.