Asia Markets

Australia stocks plunge more than 6% as Asia markets fall

Key Points
  • Shares in Asia Pacific mostly fell in another day of turbulent trade on Wednesday as the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak globally continued to weigh on investor sentiment.
  • The White House is weighing a fiscal stimulus package worth anywhere from $850 billion to more than $1 trillion, part of which could include direct payments to Americans, a source familiar with the matter told CNBC.

Shares in Asia Pacific mostly fell in another day of turbulent trade on Wednesday as the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak globally continued to weigh on investor sentiment.

Australia stocks led losses among the region's major markets, with the S&P/ASX 200 dropping 6.43% to close at 4,953.20 as majority of the sectors fell.

South Korea's Kospi also saw significant losses as it dropped 4.86% to close at 1,591.20 while the Kosdaq index plunged 5.75% to 485.14. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was also 3.49% lower, as of its final hour of trading.

Meanwhile, shares in mainland Chinese shed earlier gains to close lower, The Shenzhen component slipped 1.7% to 10,029.57 while the Shenzhen composite declined 1.554% to around 1,678.25. The Shanghai composite fell 1.83% to about 2,728.76.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 shed earlier gains as it dropped 1.68% to close at 16,726.55 while the Topix index ended its trading day 0.19% higher at 1,270.84.

Japan's exports declined 1% in February as compared to a year earlier, according to provisional data released by the country's Ministry of Finance on Wednesday. That compared against a 4.3% drop expected by economists in a Reuters poll.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index dropped 3.25%.

The White House is weighing a fiscal stimulus package worth anywhere from $850 billion to more than $1 trillion, part of which could include direct payments to Americans, a source familiar with the matter told CNBC

"Chuck money at this, forget about debt, forget about deficits, no one's actually going to be hauling you to task for keeping to some sort of ridiculous prudent metric of 3% deficit targets or anything like that," Rob Carnell, regional head of research Asia-Pacific at ING, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Wednesday.

"What countries are facing right now is the loss of large chunks of their economic output unless they underwrite that," Carnell said. "You can end up with coming out of this with a smaller debt but your debt to GDP ratio — because your GDP is halved — will be massive. So, the right thing to do know is to spend a lot of money to target that."

Governments across the world have taken drastic measures as they seek to slow the spread of the virus, with European Union member nations agreeing to close the EU's external borders to most people from other countries for 30 days. In Asia, Malaysia will close its borders, schools and most businesses from Wednesday until March 31.

Globally, more than 184,000 have been infected by the coronavirus while at least 7,529 lives have been taken, according to the latest figures from the World Health Organization.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 99.333 after rising from levels around 98 yesterday.

The Japanese yen traded at 106.97 per dollar following an earlier low of 107.70. The Australian dollar was at $0.60 after declining from levels above $0.61 yesterday.

Oil prices shed earlier gains and fell in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures down 1.18% at $28.39 per barrel. U.S. crude futures were 2.15% lower at $26.37 per barrel.