HONG KONG (Nikkei Markets) -- Hong Kong stocks were poised for their lowest level in more than three weeks on Thursday as fears over the impact of the new coronavirus on the global economy kept markets on edge.
While the number of virus infections in mainland China continues to increase, cases outside the country have rapidly multiplied over the past few days, sparking renewed fears that the epidemic would harm trade and industries worldwide. More than 82,000 people have reportedly been infected and more than 2,800 killed by the virus so far, with South Korea and Italy ranking among the worst affected countries outside the region.
"The market still has a rather bearish outlook," said Stanley Chik, head of research at Bright Smart Securities. While the Hang Seng Index has stood firm around 26,500, it could slide toward the 26,000-point level if U.S. stocks and yuan-denominated A-shares stay under pressure, he added.
The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index of large mainland companies listed in Hong Kong slipped 0.2%. The Shanghai Composite Index rose 0.6%, trimming losses so far this week to 1.2%, while the yuan traded onshore was little changed at 7.0160 against the U.S. dollar.
Budweiser Brewing Co. APAC, the regional arm of giant beer maker Anheuser-Busch InBev, slid 1.9% in Hong Kong after it reported a decline in its 2019 net profit to $898 million from $958 million the year before. The drop was partly because of an increase in its effective tax rate as the company paid withholding taxes on dividend payments associated with the reorganization that led to its initial public offering in Hong Kong last year.
Fashion retailer Esprit Holdings climbed 0.7% after it reported a narrower loss for the six-month period ended Dec. 31 amid lower staff and occupancy costs as it closed or resized unprofitable stores.
Ascletis Pharma jumped 8.7% after the company said that the ethics committee of a hospital in Nanjing had approved clinical trials of a combination therapy for the treatment of the new coronavirus.
Aoyuan Healthy Life Group gained 2.7% after saying that it expects its 2019 net profit to have risen at least 80% from the previous year.
Logan Property Holdings added 1.5% after estimating that its profit last year likely grew at least 40%.
CGN Power increased 2.1% after saying its preliminary net profit for 2019 improved 8.8% from a year earlier.
-- Benny Kung