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Asian market sell-off eases after overnight crash on Wall Street

Volatility highest since 2008 financial crisis despite coordinated efforts by central banks

The benchmark Nikkei recovered after recording its lowest intraday level in over 3 years in morning trade on Tuesday.   © Reuters

TOKYO/HONG KONG -- The global equities sell-off eased across Asian markets with major indexes mixed in Tuesday trading, after share prices plummeted in the U.S over fears of the new coronavirus and its devastating effect on the global economy.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei Stock Average fell 600 points to 16,378 after opening, touching its lowest intraday level in over 3 years, but recovered soon after, at one point rising 3%. The index was mostly flat during afternoon trading and closed up 0.06%.

South Korea's Kospi fell over 4% at one point but trimmed losses to 1.3% while Taiwan's benchmark dropped 2%. Shanghai Composite is little changed, Singapore's Straits Times Index is down 0.5 % while Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index rose 1% in afternoon trade.

The moves followed another frantic day on Wall Street, where the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down nearly 3,000 points, or 13%, its worst point loss in history. The S&P 500 index closed 12% lower. The Japanese yen also traded at around 106.14 per dollar, slightly strengthening from the previous day as investors rushed to safe-haven assets.

On Tuesday S&P 500 futures were trading 3.6% higher.

The CBOE Volatility Index, Wall Street's fear gauge, jumped to 82.69 to levels not seen since the 2008 global financial crisis underscoring investor nervousness.

Treasury yields nudged up after tumbling on Monday and gold rose 1% as haven assets were bid. Crude oil rose 4% but was still quoting below $30 a barrel after a 10% plunge overnight.

"So far markets are not convinced that [monetary and fiscal] measures will be sufficient to prevent a sharp rise in bankruptcies and unemployment," Mark Haefele, UBS Global Wealth Management chief investment officer said.

"Finally, governments have started to announce the sort of targeted fiscal policies that the market is looking for-aimed at helping viable businesses survive the crisis. But to reassure markets in the absence of better news on the spread of the virus, we may need to see a more open-ended commitment from governments to assist companies and individuals facing cash flow problems arising from the COVID-19 outbreak," he said.

Global markets have been reeling as investors fret over the possibility of a recession.

Countries have started to close borders as the pandemic spreads. Canada is refusing entry to noncitizens while Italy, Germany and Spain have also implemented similar restrictions. On Monday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen proposed a temporary halt to nonessential travel to the EU for 30 days.

In the U.S. several governors have ordered the temporary closures of restaurants, movie theaters and other businesses where large numbers of people congregate. President Donald Trump spoke to reporters on Monday, saying that the U.S. "may be" heading toward a recession due to the coronavirus.

Although there have been coordinated efforts by central banks and governments, it has had little effect with markets continuing to be unstable.

On Sunday the U.S. Fed slashed interest rates to zero and pledged $700 billion in asset purchases.

The Bank of Japan also eased its monetary stimulus measures by doubling its purchasing targets for exchange-traded funds and real estate investment trusts, while the Bank of Korea cut its key rate from 1.25% to 0.75%.

A G-7 video summit took place overnight in which world leaders discussed a globally coordinated response to the coronavirus and its effects to the economy. The members issued a joint statement, pledging to do "whatever is necessary."

Ryota Sakagami, chief Japan equity strategist at JPMorgan Securities Japan, noted on Tuesday: "In order to stop the global stock dive, for the time being, major countries will have to roll out large-scale fiscal expansion."

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