By Associated Press
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TOKYO — Asian shares were higher Wednesday, although the outbreak of a new virus in the region continued to weigh on investor sentiments.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 /zigman2/quotes/210597971/delayed JP:NIK +0.12% rose 0.5% in morning trading. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 /zigman2/quotes/210598100/delayed AU:XJO -0.0034% gained 0.6% and South Korea’s Kospi /zigman2/quotes/210598069/delayed KR:180721 +0.86% was about flat. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng /zigman2/quotes/210598030/delayed HK:HSI -0.85% added 0.7%, while the Shanghai Composite /zigman2/quotes/210598127/delayed CN:SHCOMP +0.21% inched up 0.1%.
“Despite coronavirus concerns, investors tend to believe that central banks and policymakers have measures to stimulate the economy during and post the public health crisis,” said CMC Markets in a report.
China reported 97 more deaths from the new disease, named COVID-19, pushing the total dead past 1,100, even as the country remained largely closed down to prevent its spread. The number of cases worldwide is about 45,000, all but a few hundred in China.
Investor sentiments in Asia were also cheered somewhat by Wall Street, where modest gains overnight nudged the S&P 500 and Nasdaq to all-time highs for the second straight day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished essentially flat.
Investors weighed another batch of mostly solid company earnings reports. Sprint soared after a federal judge cleared a major obstacle to the company being acquired by T-Mobile /zigman2/quotes/204659678/composite TMUS -0.07% . Cruise operators, hotels and other companies that focus on travel made solid gains, the latest sign that traders are feeling less worried about the economic impact from the virus outbreak.
“Stocks are collectively saying, ‘Hey, maybe we can work past some of the noise with the virus; maybe the fallout won’t be as big as we thought,” said Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at Baird. “And the U.S. economy, so far at least, looks like it’s weathering it pretty well.”
The S&P 500 index /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX -0.43% rose 5.66 points, or 0.2%, to 3,357.75. The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA -0.50% slipped 0.48 points, or less than 0.1%, to 29,276.34. It had been up 0.5%. The Nasdaq composite /zigman2/quotes/210598365/realtime COMP -0.17% gained 10.55 points, or 0.1%, to 9,638.94.
After a downbeat January, U.S. stocks have been mostly notching gains this month as traders brush off fears about the virus outbreak and its impact on businesses and the global economy. Beijing has promised to take measures to soften the blow to China’s economy and investors are hopeful that other governments will do the same if necessary.
Benchmark crude oil added 60 cents to $50.54 a barrel. It rose 37 cents to settle at $49.94 a barrel. Brent crude oil , the international standard, gained 92 cents to close at $54.93 a barrel.
The dollar /zigman2/quotes/210561789/realtime/sampled USDJPY +0.1441% rose slightly to 109.89 Japanese yen from 109.85 yen on Tuesday.