Stocks Mixed as Traders Mull Virus Case Numbers: Markets Wrap

Stocks were mixed in Asian trading Thursday as investors mulled over the implications of a surge in the number of coronavirus cases in Hubei, after it deployed a revised methodology.

While the jump in the tally cut against the optimism seen Wednesday about the rate of infections slowing, some analysts were encouraged by what might be a more realistic picture coming from Chinese authorities. U.S. stock futures fell along with equities in Japan and Shanghai, though Korean shares climbed and Hong Kong’s main index was flat. The yen edged up, the yuan ticked down, and Treasuries rose. Oil kept above $51 a barrel in New York. The euro held near the lowest since 2017 amid concern economic activity is slowing.

Investor sentiment has improved in recent sessions amid speculation the impact from the coronavirus outbreak on global growth would be short-lived. A gauge of global equities hit a record high yesterday.

That was before Hubei, the province at the center of the epidemic, reported almost 15,000 new cases after it revised its data to include “clinically diagnosed” cases in its daily disclosure. Traders may look to a briefing by national health authorities at 3 p.m. Beijing time for further information.

“Just when markets were getting comfortable with the idea that the Covid-19 infection increase was trending lower, the sudden jump in the number of new cases in Hubei has jolted them out of this sense of complacency,” said Khoon Goh, head of Asia research at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd.

By contrast, Andrew Collier, a managing director at Orient Capital Research in Hong Kong, said “we knew that there was a lot of bad testing going on, and that there was a lot of underreporting. So they’re actually starting to report actual figures, and that’s encouraging.”

Here are some key events coming up:

Earnings season continues with reports still due from the likes of Alibaba, Nissan, Credit Suisse, Airbus, Nestle and AIG.Thursday brings a gauge of underlying U.S. inflation, the core consumer price index. It is forecast to increase to 0.2% in January, a faster pace than in December.China and the U.S. on Friday are scheduled to lower tariffs on billions of dollars of respective imports as part of the trade deal signed last month.

These are the main moves in markets:

Stocks

Futures on the S&P 500 Index were down 0.3% as of 12:44 p.m. in Tokyo. The underlying gauge rose 0.7% on Wednesday.Japan’s Topix index dropped 0.3%.Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dipped 0.1%.The Shanghai Composite fell 0.5%.South Korea’s Kospi index added 0.5%.Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 0.1%.

Currencies

The yen was at 109.88 per dollar, up 0.2%.The offshore yuan slipped 0.1% to 6.9804 per dollar.The euro bought $1.0871 after slipping 0.4% in the prior session.

Bonds

The yield on 10-year Treasuries fell about three basis points to 1.61%.Australia’s 10-year yield remained at 1.06%.

Commodities

West Texas Intermediate crude rose 0.3% to $51.33 a barrel.Gold rose 0.5% to $1,573.76 an ounce.

–With assistance from Chester Yung and Cormac Mullen.