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Nikkei Markets

Asian stocks post weekly loss amid China virus outbreak

Trading volumes across region lower than usual due to holidays

HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Asian shares outside Japan edged higher on Friday, trimming their weekly loss. Investor focus remained on the China virus which has spread to Singapore and claimed more lives.

The Nikkei Asia300 index of companies outside Japan rose 0.1% to 1,396.58. For the week, the index fell 2.3%. Volumes across the region were lower than usual on account of holidays in China, Taiwan, and South Korea and truncated trading in Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore.

It was a choppy session for Chinese companies in Hong Kong on Friday after South Korea confirmed a second case of the virus and Singapore became the fifth Asian nation other than China to report the virus. Further, Chinese authorities said till yesterday, the respiratory virus had claimed 25 lives, up from 17 on Wednesday. People with infections had risen to 830 from about 550.

The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index edged 0.2% higher at close after falling earlier in the session. China Mobile added 2.5% and Fosun International advanced 1.4%.

Despite Friday's minor uptick, the index posted its worst weekly performance in more than two months, tumbling about 4%. Chinese airlines and Macau casino operators were among the biggest losers.

"Widespread fallout would undermine the Chinese and regional economic cycle just as it was beginning to show signs of stabilization around improving external demand," DBS Group Research said in a note.

In other movers on the A300 on Friday, Dongfeng Motor Group slipped 1.2% to HK$6.40. Jefferies downgraded the shares of the Chinese carmaker to "hold" and cut the target price to HK$6. It said the travel restrictions imposed to control the spread of virus point to potential disruption to Dongfeng, which is headquartered in Wuhan city, the epicenter of the breakout.

Bank Mandiri added 1.9% after the Indonesian lender reportedly said that net profit last year increased 9.9%.

Keppel Corporation gained 0.15% after the Singaporean conglomerate said fourth-quarter profit increased 41.5% year-on-year.

StarHub rose 1.3%. The Singaporean telecom operator said the company had signed exclusive agreement with M1 to cooperate and submit a joint bid for 5G licenses to roll out next generation cellular technologies.

Singapore Exchange edged 0.1% lower despite the bourse operator's second-quarter net profit rising 2.6% year-on-year.

--Nimesh Vora

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