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Nikkei Markets

Asian stocks decline as coronavirus cases jump

Chinese insurers pace losses among mainland companies

HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Asian shares outside of Japan fell Thursday after confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus surged following a revision in counting methodology.

The Nikkei Asia300 index of companies outside Japan declined 0.1% to 1,379.37.

Index futures suggested that the S&P 500 Index could pull back from record highs after China's Hubei province reported a daily record of 242 additional deaths from the coronavirus and 14,840 fresh cases. The death toll and confirmed cases rose after the province began to include cases diagnosed using new methods and revised its old data.

Market participants differed on the impact of the new numbers. Jeffrey Halley, a senior market analyst at OANDA, said that it had the potential to "shake Asia's confidence." ING Bank's Robert Carnell, meanwhile, remarked that "the details look a lot less scary than the initial headline."

Carnell pointed out that of those 14,840 new cases, 13,332 were earlier cases that were reviewed. That meant that that new infections using the old methodology were at 1,508, down from the average of 2,000 in recent days, he added.

Chinese insurers paced losses among mainland companies on Thursday. Hong Kong-listed shares of China Life Insurance dropped 1.6% and Ping An Insurance Group slipped 0.9%. China Life issued a clarification regarding media reports that its controlling shareholder will inject major assets into the company.

Chinese banks were mixed. China Construction Bank dropped 0.9% while Bank of China was unchanged.

Heavyweight technology names gained after the Nasdaq Composite climbed one percent yesterday to record highs. Samsung Electronics added 0.3% and Tencent Holdings rose 1.3%.

Singapore Telecommunications dropped 1.8% after reporting a 24% year-on-year drop in third-quarter net profit amid weaker contributions from its enterprise business.

DBS Group Holdings was unchanged. The Singapore-listed lender reported a 14% year-on-year rise in fourth-quarter net profit. The bank, however, said the coronavirus outbreak in China and the region would cause its revenue to fall by 1%-2%.

Meanwhile, financials paced losses in Indian shares after data released late yesterday showed retail inflation in Asia's third-largest economy quickened to the highest in almost six years last month. Further, the nation's industrial output unexpectedly contracted in December.

ICICI Bank fell 1.5% and Housing Development Finance Corp. declined 1.4%.

--Nimesh Vora

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