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Nikkei Markets

Asian stocks climb as central bank support hopes grow

AirAsia rises after recent drop, while Cathay unveils unpaid leave scheme

HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Asian shares outside of Japan rose Wednesday amid expectations that central banks would step in to mitigate the economic impact of the Wuhan coronavirus.

The Nikkei Asia300 Index of companies outside Japan rose 0.8% to 1,347.72, adding to yesterday's 2.2% advance.

After China's central bank earlier this week cut the reverse repo rate and said it would provide liquidity support to firms affected by the virus, the Monetary Authority of Singapore said there is "sufficient room within the policy band to accommodate an easing of the Singapore Dollar Nominal Effective Exchange Rate" if economic conditions weakened due to the coronavirus. The central bank added that it was monitoring economic developments closely, and said its next policy review will take place as scheduled in April.

Singapore's Straits Times Index advanced 1.4%. DBS Group Holdings added 1.2%, leading lenders higher. CapitaLand, up 2.7%, paced advance among property shares.

Central banks in Asia are facing calls for monetary support in the wake of rising concerns over the impact of a virus that has claimed nearly lives in China and two outside of the mainland. Economists at ING Bank reckon that the Philippine central bank may ease rates by a quarter percentage point on Thursday to help the economy navigate the fallout from the virus and a volcanic eruption last month.

Meanwhile, Thailand's central bank on Wednesday unexpectedly eased policy by 25 basis points as the virus hurts the nation's tourism industry.

In other major winners on the A300, heavyweight Samsung Electronics added 1% and its peer SK Hynix climbed 0.6%.

Cathay Pacific Airways added 2.7%, trimming its decline so far this year to 11.8%. The company on Wednesday unveiled a company-wide unpaid leave scheme to preserve cash. Employees will each have an option to take three weeks of unpaid leave between Mar. 1 and Jun. 30, Chief Executive Augustus Tang said in a video address.

The airline on Tuesday had said it plans to reduce flight capacity to and from mainland China by 50% or more between Jan. 30 and the end of March, due to the coronavirus outbreak.

AirAsia advanced 0.9% in Kuala Lumpur after the Malaysian airline slumped 20% over the last two days Airbus bribery allegations. AirAsia Executive Chairman Kamarudin Meranun and Chief Executive Tony Fernandes denied all allegations of wrongdoing or misconduct and relinquished their executive positions for two months to facilitate a full and independent inquiry by the company.

Bharti Airtel ended 2.8% higher in Mumbai. The Indian telecom operator late Tuesday reported a net loss for the December quarter that was wider than analysts polled by Bloomberg had expected.

--Nimesh Vora

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