Asia Markets

Stocks in Australia surge almost 6% with Asia markets mixed; Philippines suspends trading

Key Points
  • Stocks in Australia led gains among the region's major markets. The S&P/ASX 200 closed 5.83% higher after plummeting nearly 10% on Monday.
  • Overnight on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 2,997.10 points to close at 20,188.52 — its worst decline since its "Black Monday" crash three decades ago when it fell more than 22%.

Stocks in Asia Pacific were mixed on Tuesday as they seesawed after shares on Wall Street plunged to their biggest day drop in more than three decades overnight, and the Philippines shut its markets temporarily.

Stocks in Australia led gains among the region's major markets as they attempted to recover from the plunge a day earlier. The S&P/ASX 200 closed 5.83% higher at 5,293.40 after plummeting nearly 10% on Monday.

In a Tuesday release of minutes from the Reserve Bank of Australia's (RBA) meeting in early March, the central bank said: "In considering the policy decision, members observed that it was becoming increasingly clear that COVID-19 would cause major disruption to economic activity around the world." The RBA cut its cash rate by 25 basis points in March to 0.5%, a new record low.

Meanwhile, shares in mainland China ended their trading day lower. The Shanghai composite slipped 0.34% to around 2,779.64 while the Shenzhen composite edged 0.425% lower to approximately 1,704.74. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index advanced 0.61%, as of its final hour of trading.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 closed slightly higher at 17,011.53. The Topix index surged 2.6% to end its trading day at 1,268.46.

South Korea's Kospi, on the other hand, closed 2.47% lower at 1,672.44.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index slipped 0.12%.

Meanwhile, Philippines halted trading at its stock exchange "until further notice." In a statement on the Philippine Stock Exchange website, it said trading was suspended "to ensure the safety of employees and traders in light of the escalating cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19)." On Monday, the country's benchmark PSE Composite Index plunged almost 8%.

Investors watched the rapidly evolving situation surrounding the global coronavirus outbreak, which has infected more than 168,000 across the world and taken at least 6,610 lives, according to the World Health Organization. Fears over the economic impact of the virus have triggered strong moves in global markets in recent days.

"Drastic measures by the Fed and other Central Banks have failed to appease markets with investors still running towards the exit door of risk assets as governments step up their radical measures to contain the COVID-19 outbreak," Rodrigo Catril, senior foreign exchange strategist at National Australia Bank, wrote in a note.

The U.S. Federal Reserve announced on Sunday a massive monetary stimulus, in an emergency move. On Monday, several central banks in Asia also announced measures to combat the impact of the coronavirus.

"The problem is that we have an uncertainty that the market is finding it hard to parameterize," Timothy Moe, co-head of Asia macro research at Goldman Sachs, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Tuesday. "The economic impact of this viral outbreak is still hard to fully determine and the numbers keep moving around a lot."

"I think as long as there is uncertainty about ... how to, you know, price and evaluate … the economic effect, the market is likely to remain in … quite a jittery mode," Moe said.

Overnight on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 2,997.10 points to close at 20,188.52. The S&P 500 dropped 12% to end its trading day at 2,386.13 — hitting its lowest level since December 2018. The Nasdaq Composite closed 12.3% lower at 6,904.59 in its worst day ever.

Monday's losses put the Dow down 31.7% from its all-time high and the S&P 500 and Nasdaq more than 29% below their records last month. The Dow fell to its lowest point since 2017. The Dow's drop was the worst decline since its "Black Monday" crash three decades ago when it fell more than 22%.

In the afternoon of Asian trading hours, oil prices attempted to bounce back from their Monday losses. International benchmark Brent crude futures were up 2.53% at $30.81 per barrel. U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures jumped 4.6% to $30.02 per barrel.

Oil prices plunged on Monday, with WTI dropping 9.5% to settle at $28.70 per barrel, while Brent fell 11.2% to settle at $30.05 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 98.224 after an earlier high of 98.234.

The safe-haven Japanese yen traded at 106.74 per dollar after seeing an earlier high of 105.85. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6081 after seeing levels above $0.64 last week.

— CNBC's Fred Imbert contributed to this report.