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Nikkei Markets

Asian stocks decline as coronavirus continues to spread

Ping An slips after results while Lotte Shopping down on Moody's outlook cut

HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Asian stocks outside of Japan fell on Friday as worries over the spread of the new coronavirus outside of China grew after South Korea and Japan reported a jump in infections.

The Nikkei Asia300 Index declined 1.1% to 1,349.46. The total number of confirmed cases of the virus across the world rose to 76,790, with deaths topping 2,240. The latest numbers come after China on Friday reported 899 new cases of the infection, up from 349 new cases reported the day before.

South Korea, meanwhile, on Friday reported 52 new confirmed cases of the virus, bringing the country's total to 156. Japan had a total of 727 confirmed cases as of Friday, with most of those found on the Diamond Princess cruise liner. In Hong Kong, the number of confirmed cases rose to 69 as of Friday.

"Regional markets have been spooked by a spike in new infections in South Korea, and more cases in Japan," Jeffrey Halley, Senior Market Analyst for Asia Pacific at OANDA, wrote in a note.

Ping An Insurance Group slid 0.7%. The impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the performance of its life insurance business will be "not small," according to President and Co-Chief Executive Xie Yonglin. The insurer on Thursday had reported a 39% jump in last year's net profit to 149.41 billion yuan ($21.3 billion).

The remarks were the latest by Chinese companies signaling that the coronavirus, which has brought parts of the mainland economy to a standstill and severely disrupted normal lives, could affect earnings this year.

E-commerce major Alibaba Group Holding, personal computers maker Lenovo Group, British lender HSBC Holdings and U.S. smart devices giant Apple are among companies that have already warned about the impact of the virus on their businesses.

"If the coronavirus emergency loiters through all of the first quarter and part of the second quarter, the steady procession of companies globally announcing material impacts on either their revenues, or supply chains, could turn into a flood," OANDA's Halley wrote.

Lotte Shopping fell 2.3% in Seoul. Moody's Investors Service on Friday lowered its outlook for the company to negative from stable due to the impact of the coronavirus on its retail business.

Samsung Electronics slipped 1.3%. The electronics major on Friday said it named former finance minister and director Bahk Jae-wan, as its board chairman.

China Unicom (Hong Kong) slipped 1% after saying it lost a net of 1.19 million mobile billing subscribers in January.

India's financial markets were closed on Friday for a public holiday.

-- Suzannah Benjamin

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