HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Asian shares outside of Japan plunged Thursday on rising concerns over the economic impact of the coronavirus and its spread beyond China.
The Nikkei Asia300 index of companies outside Japan fell 2.6% to 1,331.26. Heavyweight Samsung Electronics dropped 3.2% after its net income for the December quarter missed estimates of analysts polled by Bloomberg. The company earlier this month had reported preliminary operating profit and sales numbers. Samsung's peer SK Hynix dipped 4%.
Asian equities continued to remain under pressure amid a further increase in deaths from the virus believed to have originated in China. On Thursday, China reported 38 new deaths from the virus and about 1,700 new infections, taking the total toll to 170 and 7,700, respectively.
Fears about the spread of the virus and the resultant slowdown in economic activity have prompted economists to scale back projections of China's near-term growth. Nomura said it reckons that the coronavirus could deal a more severe blow to China's economy in the near term relative to SARS in 2003.
The World Health Organization said it will hold an emergency meeting to decide whether the spread of virus is a global health emergency. The WHO expressed concern about the human-to-human spread of the virus in three countries other than China.
Mainland insurers on the A300 extended declines. H-shares of China Life Insurance lost 3.5% and Ping An Insurance Group dropped 1.9%. Goldman Sachs said while the direct impact potential on insurance claims may be limited given the virus is not currently covered by most critical illness policies, insurers faced "potential disruption to sales in the near term" with customers reluctant to meet agents.
An index of Chinese companies listed in Hong Kong dropped 2.8%.
Elsewhere, Macau casino operators Galaxy Entertainment Group and Sands China extended virus-triggered recent losses to fall 2.5% and 4.1%, respectively. Sands China on Thursday reported a 10.3% increase in fourth-quarter net income even as revenue edged 0.4% lower.
Shares of South Korean companies whose revenues are partly dependent on China extended losses. Amorepacific Group dropped 4.4% and LG Household & Healthcare slipped 2.6%.