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Nikkei Markets

Asian stocks decline as virus infections rise in South Korea

Samsung Electronics and SK Hynix among key losers on A300 index

HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Asian shares outside of Japan fell Wednesday as rising coronavirus infections in South Korea and a U.S. warning about the epidemic damped investor appetite.

The Nikkei Asia300 index of companies outside Japan declined 1.2% to 1,308.14.

On Wednesday, South Korea reported more than 150 new cases of the virus, taking the total to about 1,150. The Asian nation, which has witnessed a jump in the cases in recent days, has the most number of infections outside China.

South Korea and Italy have been at the center of the risk-off mood this week after the surge in cases in both the countries prompted fears the outbreak could be spreading beyond China. Yesterday, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that it was now only a matter of time before the virus spreads to the U.S. An official of the health agency reportedly said it was time for U.S. business and communities to begin preparations.

The risk aversion is an indication that traders are reassessing the economic implications of the coronavirus spreading in multiple countries, Jeffrey Halley, a senior market analyst at OANDA, said.

U.S. equities plunged yesterday and 10-year Treasury yield fell to a record low amid the warning. The S&P 500 Index dropped 3%, adding to Monday's decline of a similar margin. The 10-year U.S. yield fell to near 1.30%. Odds of the Federal Reserve lowering interest rates in the coming months climbed.

In major losers on the A300 on Wednesday, Samsung Electronics dropped 2.4% and its peer SK Hynix lost 3.5%.

City Developments declined 2.7% after the company reported earnings. Morgan Stanley said last year's full year profit after tax and minority interest of the Singaporean property developer and hotel operator was 17% below its forecast.

CapitaLand slipped 1.3%. The Singaporean developer Wednesday reported a near doubling in fourth-quarter net profit but warned of tougher times ahead as the virus epidemic affects its malls in Singapore and China.

Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing dropped 0.8%. The bourse operator on Wednesday reported a 1% on-year increase in net profit for 2019 amid higher net investment income, which helped offset the impact of lower trading volumes in cash and derivatives markets.

Cipla declined 0.7% after the Indian drugmaker said it received a warning letter from the U.S. drug regulator following an inspection at its manufacturing facility in Western India.

Sime Darby shed 0.5%. The Malaysian automotive-to-healthcare conglomerate said Wednesday its net profit fell 11% in the second quarter mainly due to a tax credit booked last year.

Public Bank declined 1.8%. The Malaysian lender reported a 2.1% increase in December quarter net interest income while its net profit was almost unchanged from a year earlier.

--Nimesh Vora

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