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Nikkei Markets

Hong Kong and China shares dip as coronavirus cases jump

Ascletis jumps up sharply receiving approval for trials of products to treat virus

HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Hong Kong shares declined after a choppy trading day on Thursday, as investors digested a jump in coronavirus cases in China after new diagnostic criteria were used to confirm infections.

The Hang Seng Index lost 0.3% at 27,730.00 after changing directions at least 11 times. Insurers AIA Group and China Construction Bank fell 1.4% and 0.9%, contributing the most to the index's losses by points. Social media and gaming heavyweight Tencent Holdings added 1.3%, while London-headquartered lender HSBC Holdings edged 0.2% higher.

In the mainland, the Shanghai Composite Index declined 0.7%, its first loss in eight days. The yuan traded onshore slipped 0.1% against the U.S. dollar to 6.9805.

The losses came as China's Hubei Province, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, on Wednesday reported 14,840 new cases of the virus after revising the method used to confirm infections. It also reported 242 new deaths. The latest information took the total number of confirmed cases to over 60,000 and fatalities to 1,355. The province said it reviewed past suspected cases and was now including "clinically diagnosed" cases in daily reported numbers.

Hong Kong authorities, meanwhile, said schools will remain closed for two additional weeks than previously ordered, and will now reopen on March 16 instead of March 2. The city has so far reported 50 confirmed cases of the virus and one fatality.

"It is too early to determine if the epidemic is under control, and the newly confirmed cases won't help in making an accurate assessment," said Stanley Chik, head of research at Bright Smart Securities.

Ascletis Pharma jumped 7.7% in Hong Kong after saying it received approval for clinical trials of its products ASC09 fixed-dose combination and Ritonavir to treat the coronavirus pneumonia.

Pacific Textiles Holdings edged 1.9% lower after saying it expects a delay in resuming its original production schedule at a plant in Panyu district of China's Guangdong Province. The company also said it expects product deliveries due in February and March to be delayed.

Restaurant operator LH Group declined 2% after saying it is temporarily suspending operations of all its "On-Yasai" and "Mou Mou Club" restaurants, effective Feb. 13.

Kin Yat Holdings surged 18.4%. The maker of electrical and electronic products said three of its factories in Guangdong have resumed production with relevant approvals, with about a third of its total workforce reporting to work initially.

Powerlong Real Estate Holdings added 7% after saying it expects profit for 2019 to have increased at least 40% from a year ago.

-- Benny Kung

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