Asia Markets

Japan falls nearly 2%; Asia-Pacific shares mixed as pandemic concerns weigh on sentiment

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Key Points
  • Australia's retail sales rose 1.4% in March from February, according to preliminary data released Wednesday by the country's Bureau of Statistics. That was higher than expectations in a Reuters poll for a 1% gain.
  • Markets in India were closed on Wednesday for a holiday. The coronavirus situation in the country remains severe, with 295,041 new daily infections registered on Wednesday.

SINGAPORE — Stocks in Asia-Pacific largely fell on Wednesday as a surge in coronavirus cases in countries like India weighed on the economic outlook and investor sentiment.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 dropped 2.03% to close at 28,508.55 — its second straight day of 2% declines. The Topix index slipped 1.98% to finish the trading day at 1,888.18. South Korea's Kospi shed 1.52% to close at 3,171.66.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell 1.68%, as of its final hour of trading. In mainland China, the Shanghai composite ended the trading day flat at 3,472.93 while the Shenzhen component bucked the overall trend as it advanced 0.349% to close at about 14,151.15.

Shares in Australia declined on the day as the S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.29% to 6,997.50. Australia's retail sales rose 1.4% in March from February, according to preliminary data released Wednesday by the country's Bureau of Statistics. That was higher than expectations in a Reuters poll for a 1% gain.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 1.1%.

Reopening plays like airlines mostly fell, with shares of Qantas Airways in Australia dropping 1.4% while ANA Holdings in Japan declined 0.41%. Japan Airlines, however, gained 0.66%.

In Hong Kong, shares of China Eastern Airlines fell 1.93% and Cathay Pacific slipped 2.12% in afternoon trade. Singapore Airlines' stock also shed 1.57%.

The losses came after their counterparts tumbled overnight stateside. United Airlines shares plummeted more than 8% after the company reported a fifth consecutive quarterly loss. CEO Scott Kirby said it is still unclear when international and business travel will recover.

Markets in India were closed on Wednesday for a holiday. The coronavirus situation in the country remains severe, with 295,041 new daily infections registered on Wednesday. The World Health Organization warned Friday that global Covid infection rate is approaching its highest level ever.

Overnight on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 256.33 points to 33,821.30 while the S&P 500 declined 0.68% to 4,134.94. The Nasdaq Composite shed 0.92% to 13,786.27.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against its peers, was at 91.231 following a drop from above 91.6 earlier this week.

The Japanese yen traded at 108.04 per dollar, still stronger than levels above 109.2 against the greenback seen last week. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.7718, lower than levels above $0.777 seen yesterday.

Oil prices slipped in the afternoon of Asia trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures down 0.24% to $66.41 per barrel. U.S. crude futures shed 0.32% to $62.47 per barrel.