Asia Markets

China stocks rise as Beijing says work resumption is speeding up

Key Points
  • Mainland Chinese stocks rose on the day while shares in South Korea led losses among major regional markets.
  • Investors continued to watch for developments on the ongoing coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) outbreak, with the World Health Organization's Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus telling reporters on Thursday that the low number of cases outside of China "may not stay the same for long."
  • A spokesperson from China's Ministry of Commerce said Friday at a press conference that the resumption of work has been rapidly increasing in major foreign trade provinces such as Guangdong and Jiangsu. 

Stocks in Asia were mixed on Friday as concerns lingered over the economic impact of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

In mainland China, shares jumped on the day. The Shenzhen component was up 1.05% to 11,629.70 while the Shenzhen composite jumped 1.125% to 1,907.35. The Shanghai composite rose 0.31% to about 3,039.67.

China's Ministry of Commerce said Friday the resumption of work has been rapidly increasing in major foreign trade provinces such as Guangdong and Jiangsu. Guangdong was the top source of China's exports by far in 2019, followed in order by Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Shanghai and Shandong, according to official data accessed through Wind Information.

Elsewhere, stocks in South Korea led losses among major markets in the region, with the Kospi falling 1.49% to close at 2,162.84 as shares of SK Hynix dropped 0.96%. The chip maker said Thursday that 800 of its workers had quarantined themselves after a trainee was found to have had contact with a virus patient, according to Reuters.

On Thursday, the country reported its first coronavirus death. The number of new confirmed cases in South Korea has also risen sharply in recent days, with the country now having one of the highest number of cases outside mainland China.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index slipped 1.1% as of its final hour of trading, with shares of conglomerate Ping An Insurance shedding 0.93% following the release of its earnings on Thursday for the year ended Dec. 31, 2019.

Over in Japan the Nikkei 225 closed 0.39% lower at 23,386.74 as shares of index heavyweight and conglomerate SoftBank Group gained 2.4%. The Topix index ended its trading day largely flat at 1,674.

Meanwhile, shares in Australia were lower, with the S&P/ASX 200 down 0.33% to close at 7,139 as shares of Wesfarmers dropped 1.96%.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index was 0.92% lower.

In corporate news, shares of major contract manufacturer and iPhone maker Hon Hai Precision Industry, better known as Foxconn, fell about 1.33% on Friday. The firm said Thursday it is cautiously restarting production at its main plants in China and warned revenue would be hurt by the virus, according to Reuters.

Markets in India were closed on Friday for a holiday.

Investors continued to watch for developments on the ongoing coronavirus — also known as COVID-19 — outbreak, with the World Health Organization's Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus telling reporters on Thursday that the low number of cases outside of China "may not stay the same for long."

"Anxiety over potential COVID-19 outbreaks outside China is now emerging as a growing concern for investors amid news of a rise in infection numbers outside of China while a change in virus diagnostic in China along with reports of rising number of infections in Beijing did not help the mood either," Rodrigo Catril, senior foreign exchange strategist at National Australia Bank, wrote in a Friday note.

ANZ Chief Economist Richard Yetsenga told CNBC's "Street Signs" on Friday that the "shock" to economic growth and business activity from the virus should "ultimately be finite." This gives banks, regulators and business an "incentive" to try to smooth through the process, he said.

"It just seems to me that what we can see across the region is that's all being handled very maturely and I think that's a very, very good sign," said Yetsenga, who is also head of research at ANZ.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 99.835 after seeing lows around 99.5 yesterday.

The Japanese yen traded at 111.92 after weakening from levels around 111.2 yesterday. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6595 after dropping steeply from levels above $0.664 yesterday.

Oil prices were lower in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures down 1.13% to $58.64 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also declined 0.97% to $53.36 per barrel.

— CNBC's Evelyn Cheng contributed to this report.