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March 29, 2020, 11:06 p.m. EDT

Asian markets extend losses as toll from pandemic surges

Stocks fall in Japan and Hong Kong, but tick up in Australia on new stimulus vows

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By Associated Press


Bloomberg News
Pedestrians walk across a road in the Shibuya district of Tokyo.

Asian shares started the week with fresh losses as countries reported surging numbers of infections from the coronavirus that has prompted shutdowns of travel and business in many parts of the world.

Early Monday, Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK +1.45%   dropped 3.2% and the Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 +0.43%   in South Korea lost 2.1%. The Shanghai Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598127/delayed CN:SHCOMP -0.06%   shed 1.5%, while the Hang Seng /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI -1.29%   in Hong Kong lost 1.5%.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO +1.34%   added 2.4% after the government promised more recession-fighting stimulus.

U.S. futures /zigman2/quotes/210407078/delayed YM00 +0.30%   fell slightly more than 1% and oil prices also were lower.

Monday’s drop followed a decline of more than 3% on Wall Street on Friday despite hopes that a $2 trillion relief bill would ease the economic havoc brought by the pandemic. The S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.24%  still gained 10.3% last week, its biggest weekly win since 2009. The Dow Jones Industrial Average’s /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -0.04%   12.8% weekly gain was its biggest since 1938. But the market is still down 25% from the peak it reached a month ago.

The U.S. pandemic relief bill approved by the Congress and signed Friday by President Donald Trump includes direct payments to households, aid to hard-hit industries like airlines and support for small businesses. Despite the help, analysts expect markets to remain turbulent until the outbreak begins to wane.

“Sentiment once again took a turn for the worse going into a week of reckoning by means of economic fundamentals,” Jingyi Pan of IG said in a commentary. “The rally seen for Wall Street last week may amount to little more but a relief rally with sentiment turning sour once again going into a fresh week.”

The push to deliver financial relief has gained urgency as the outbreak widens. The number of cases in the U.S. has now surpassed those in China and Italy, climbing to more than 142,000 known cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. The worldwide total has topped 721,000, and the death toll has climbed to nearly 34,000, while more than 151,000 have recovered.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

The damage to corporate profits, the ultimate driver of stock prices, remains uncertain. Very few companies have dared to issue forecasts capturing the damage, though traders are girding for discouraging results in the next few weeks as earnings reporting season begins. Many companies have simply withdrawn their profit forecasts altogether.

At the start of this year, analysts expected S&P 500 companies’ earnings would grow 4.4% in the January-March quarter. They now expect earnings will be down 4.1%, according to FactSet.

The price of crude oil also declined on Monday. U.S. benchmark crude   dropped 5.1% or $1.11 to $20.40 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It slid 4.8% to close at $21.51 a barrel on Friday. Goldman Sachs has forecast that it will fall well below $20 a barrel in the next two months because storage will be filled to the brim and wells will have to be shut in.

Brent crude  , the international standard, gave up 4.6% or $1.28 to $26.67 per barrel.

Lower oil prices spell trouble for energy companies, which are lagging far behind the rest of the market. The price of oil has plunged recently, in part due to a price war that broke out early this month between Saudi Arabia and Russia. The energy sector of the S&P 500 has lost half its value this year.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury slipped to 0.65% from 0.68% late Friday. Lower yields reflect dimmer expectations for economic growth and greater demand for low-risk assets.

In currency trading, the dollar /zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled USDJPY +0.0688%   was at 107.23 Japanese yen, down from 107.94 late Friday.

/zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed
JP : Nikkei
20,682.78
+294.62 +1.45%
Volume: 0.00
May 25, 2020 11:35a
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/zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed
KR : Korea Exchange
1,978.52
+8.39 +0.43%
Volume: 418,260
May 25, 2020 11:50a
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/zigman2/quotes/210598127/delayed
CN : China: Shanghai
2,812.05
-1.72 -0.06%
Volume: 9.09B
May 25, 2020 10:55a
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/zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed
HK : Hong Kong Exchange
22,634.70
-295.44 -1.29%
Volume: 683,440
May 25, 2020 10:55a
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/zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed
AU : S&P ASX
5,570.80
+73.80 +1.34%
Volume: 312,625
May 25, 2020 12:50p
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/zigman2/quotes/210407078/delayed
US : U.S.: CBOT
$ 24,498.00
+74.00 +0.30%
Volume: 12,375
May 24, 2020 10:00p
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/zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime
US : S&P US
2,955.45
+6.94 +0.24%
Volume: 2.19B
May 22, 2020 5:09p
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/zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime
US : Dow Jones Global
24,465.16
-8.96 -0.04%
Volume: 255.66M
May 22, 2020 5:09p
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/zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled
US : Tullett Prebon
107.7010
+0.0740 +0.0688%
Volume: 0.0000
May 24, 2020 11:10p
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