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Nikkei Markets

Asian stocks gain as latest data help ease worries over China epidemic

Lenders pace gains among Chinese equities

HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Asian shares outside of Japan edged higher on Friday amid easing concerns over the surge in new cases of the coronavirus outbreak in China.

The Nikkei Asia300 index of companies outside Japan rose 0.1% to 1,381.

China's Hubei province, at the center of the epidemic, earlier Friday reported about 4,800 new cases of the coronavirus. That was down from about 15,000 reported yesterday after the province revised the manner in diagnosing the infection. The number of daily deaths declined to 116 from 224. Yesterday's jump in new cases had investors worry that the virus spread could accelerate. The latest update will allay those fears to an extent.

The S&P 500 Index futures advanced on Friday indicating that the gauge could reverse yesterday's losses. U.S. retail sales data is due later in the day. Yesterday, numbers released by the U.S. Labor Department showed that the core CPI (Consumer Price Index) increased 0.2% month-on-month in January, in line with expectations.

Chinese companies rebounded from yesterday's losses, paced by lenders. Hong Kong-shares of China Construction Bank and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China added 1.1% and 0.6%% respectively.

An index of Chinese companies listed in Hong Kong rose 0.3%.

Alibaba Group Holding dropped 1%. The Chinese e-commerce major on Thursday warned that its revenue growth will likely be hurt by the virus outbreak. Meanwhile, the company reported robust fiscal third quarter earnings. Net profit for the December quarter came in at 52.3 billion yuan ($7.3 billion), up 58% from a year earlier.

China's Guangzhou Automobile Group dropped 1.8% after saying January sales declined 16% from a year earlier.

Lotte Shopping slipped 4.1% after the South Korean retailer reported a 52% on-year fall in December quarter operating profit.

Nestle India declined 0.4% after posting a 38% increase in the December quarter net profit.

Innolux declined 1.7% after the Taiwanese maker of TFT LCD panels said sales in January fell about 22% from a year ago.

Vodafone Idea slumped 23% in Mumbai trading after India's Supreme Court ordered wireless carriers to pay all levies and penalties totaling billions of dollars before Mar. 17. Rival Bharti Airtel's shares rose 4.7% to a record high of 565.10 rupees as investors bet that the country's telecom industry would soon consolidate into a two-player market in the wake of the court ruling.

--Nimesh Vora

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