Asian stocks, currencies fall sharply as coronavirus cases surge

Asian Stocks – Shares and currencies across Asia slumped on Monday as the number of coronavirus infections rose sharply in South Korea, Italy and Iran, sending investors scurrying to safe havens such as gold.

The World Health Organization said it was worried about the growing number without any clear link to the epicentre of the outbreak in China.

“The news flow from the weekend has changed the game somewhat, where the focus is much more on the threat of an outbreak outside of China,” said Chris Weston, head of research at broker Pepperstone.

Asian Shares

  • Australia’s benchmark index slid 2.2 percent while New Zealand was about 1.3 percent lower.
  • China’s blue-chip stocks lost 0.45 percent, leaving MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan off 1.6 percent at its lowest since early February.
  • Japanese markets were closed for a public holiday.

Currencies

  • Against a basket of currencies, the US dollar crept back towards an almost three-year peak touched last week, before soft economic data knocked it from its perch on Friday.
  • It was firmer against the euro at $1.0827 and pound at $1.2946. It last traded at $0.6613 per Australian dollar and $0.6324 per kiwi.

Oil Prices

In commodities, oil prices slid as investors fretted about crude demand being pinched by the effects of the outbreak, while leading producers appeared to be in no rush to curb output.

  • Brent crude slumped 3 percent to $56.72 a barrel while US crude dropped 2.7 percent to $51.9 a barrel.

Gold Price

  • US gold futures climbed 1 percent to $1,665.1 an ounce.
  • Spot gold jumped to a seven-year high of $1,678.58 an ounce after marking its biggest weekly gain last week since early August.

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