Asia Markets

Asia-Pacific markets mostly decline as coronavirus fears surge again; dollar strengthens

Key Points
  • Shares of telco Aussie Broadband had their debut on the ASX, rising as much as 2.22 Australian dollars per share — doubling on the issue price of 1 Australian dollar per share.
  • Stateside, stocks fell for a third day in a row on Thursday as hope for a U.S. coronavirus stimulus deal continues to decrease while infections across Europe surged.
  • The U.S. dollar markedly strengthened against other major currencies as investors flocked to the safe-haven currency.

SINGAPORE — Stocks across Asia-Pacific were mostly down by the close on Friday, amid dampened sentiment on the coronavirus front.

Meanwhile, the U.S. dollar strengthened as uncertainty rose with investors flocking to the haven currency.

Mainland Chinese stocks were mixed by the close, with the Shanghai composite up 0.13% to 3,336.36, while the Shenzhen component declined 0.68% to 13,532.73.

Over in Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index jumped 1.04% by the afternoon.

But markets were mostly down in other regional markets.

Japan's Nikkei 225 declined by 0.41% to close at 23,410.63, while the Topix was down 0.86% to 1,617.69. In South Korea, the Kospi traded lower by 0.83% to 2,341.53.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 closed 0.54% down to 6,176.80.

Shares of telecom company Aussie Broadband had their debut on the ASX, and rose as much as 2.22 Australian dollars per share — doubling on the issue price of 1 Australian dollar per share. The shares closed at 1.91 Australian dollars.

Rio Tinto, the world's largest iron ore miner, posted a 5% drop in third-quarter shipments, and warned that the rate of recovery could slow further in most economies.

"Recent high-frequency data suggests that the rate of recovery in growth is slowing in most economies, with pentup demand dissipating, and the rise of renewed lockdowns threatening recovery," it wrote in its third-quarter operations review released on Friday morning. Its ASX-listed stock fell 0.85% by the close.

Elsewhere on the earnings front, chipmaker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing (TSMC) on Thursday reported a 35.9% surge in quarterly net profit, with demand boosted by products requiring high-end chips, and ahead of Apple's new iPhone sales.13Coronavirus fears rise again

Stateside, stocks fell for a third day in a row on Thursday as hope for a U.S. coronavirus stimulus deal fades, while infections across Europe surged.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 19.8 points lower, or 0.07%, at 28,494.20. Earlier in the day, however, the 30-stock average was down more than 300 points. The S&P 500 slid 0.2% to 3,483.34 and the Nasdaq Composite pulled back 0.5% to 11,713.87.

"Markets fear a slowdown in activity as new virus cases rise. Europe has reported its highest weekly numbers of new cases. More than half the European countries are now labelled as red, meaning travel restrictions are in place and more lockdowns are being introduced," said Adelaide Timbrell, economist at ANZ Research, in a Friday note.

Meanwhile, sentiment was further dampened on the employment front in the U.S. The Labor Department said Thursday there were 898,000 first-time filers of jobless benefits in the prior week, higher than a Dow Jones estimate of 830,000.

Dollar strengthens on

Amid the negative sentiment, the U.S. dollar markedly strengthened against other major currencies.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 93.764, jumping from levels above 93.4 the previous day.

"The USD is broadly stronger with the risk off mood resulting in a safe haven bid on the greenback," wrote Rodrigo Catril, senior foreign exchange strategist at the National Australia Bank.

The Japanese yen traded at 105.27 per dollar, strengthening slightly from earlier. The Australian dollar changed hands at 0.7090, falling back from above 0.71 in previous days.

Oil prices declined in the morning of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures down 1% $42.70 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also fell 0.90% to $40.55 per barrel.