Asia Markets

Japan plunges more than 3%, with stocks in Asia dropping as virus fears resurface

Key Points
  • Stocks in Asia fell on Monday, with the Nikkei 225 in Japan dropping more than 3% while South Korea's Kospi plunged 4.76%.
  • The moves regionally came as as investors weighed the potential impact of recent spikes in coronavirus cases.

Stocks in Asia dropped on Monday as investors weighed the potential impact of recent spikes in coronavirus cases.

In Japan, Nikkei 225 dropped 3.47% to close at 21,530.95 while the Topix index slipped 2.54% to end its trading day at 1,530.78. Over in South Korea, the Kospi plunged 4.76% to close at 2,030.82.

Mainland Chinese stocks were lower on the day, with the Shanghai composite down 1.02% to around 2,890.03 while the Shenzhen component dipped 0.528% to about 11,192.27. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index declined 2.16% to close at 23,776.95.

Meanwhile, the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia fell 2.19% to close at 5,719.80.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index dropped 2.21%.

Developments surrounding the coronavirus pandemic likely continued to be watched by investors on Monday.

A district in the Chinese capital of Beijing was in a "wartime emergency" after a cluster of infections was found centered around a wholesale market, according to Reuters. Stateside, Texas and North Carolina also reported a record number of virus-related hospitalizations on Saturday.

"As economies reopen, an increase in infection rates is to be expected, the question is whether detecting measures will be efficient enough to allow for localised containment measures without having to shut the whole economy again," Rodrigo Catril, senior foreign exchange strategist at National Australia Bank, wrote in a note.

Commenting on the recent outbreak in Beijing, independent analyst Fraser Howie said: "I think a harsh lockdown in the way we've seen before is unlikely."

"I think it's gonna be much tailored," Howie told CNBC's "Street Signs" on Monday. "If nothing else, even the Chinese have realized now that locking up hundreds of millions, if not billions, of healthy people and crashing your economy causes a lot of long-term problems that just aren't solved by reopening at some point in the future."

"We've had a number of sporadic outbreaks and time and time again, I think (the) Chinese government has proven so far that they've been able to contain each successive outbreak to manageable level(s)," Johanna Chua, head of Asia economics and strategy at Citi Global Markets Asia, told CNBC on Monday. "Clearly we still need to watch this but I think at the moment I'm still assuming that they have … good kind of measures in place to … keep it under control."

"I'm actually a little bit more mindful and watchful of what's happening in the U.S.," Chua said, highlighting rising cases in some "major Southern states" as well as lower compliance in social distancing and less severe lockdown measures.

Meanwhile, Chinese economic data for May released Monday missed expectations. Industrial production in the country for that month rose 4.4% year-on-year, less than expectations of a 5% increase by analysts in a Reuters poll. Retail sales declined 2.8% year-on-year in May, worse than expectations of a 2% decrease per a Reuters poll.

Oil prices drop

Oil prices were lower in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures down 1.86% to $38.01 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also dropped 2.95% to $35.19 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 97.152 after rising from levels below 96.5 last week.

The Japanese yen traded at 107.35 per dollar following a strengthening from levels above 108 last week. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6811 after last week's slip from levels above $0.693.

— CNBC's Emma Newburger contributed to this report.