Asia stocks on guard as caution on China virus continues

TOKYO (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) – Stocks made a barely positive start in early Asian trade on Friday (Jan 24) after the world's health body called it a little too early to declare a coronavirus outbreak a global emergency.

But worries over rapid spread of the deadly virus kept investors on guard as millions of Chinese travel during the Lunar New Year holiday period.

Early gains in Tokyo fizzled and Hong Kong opened flat, while shares in Sydney ticked higher. Markets in mainland China and South Korea are shut, and Hong Kong closes early, for Lunar New Year holidays.

Key indices on Wall Street overnight bounced from lows after the World Health Organisation (WHO) stopped short of calling the virus a global health emergency, saying it remains a local crisis.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose a marginal 0.1 per cent, while Japan's Nikkei stood flat and Australian stocks added 0.4 per cent.

In Singapore, which announced its first confirmed case of the Wuhan virus on Thursday night, the Straits Times Index inched up 0.72 points or 0.02 per cent to 3235.28 as at 9.01am.

"Investors are worried that the outbreak of coronavirus will dampen consumption in China when the Chinese economy has been already cooling down," said Yasuo Sakuma, chief investment officer at Libra Investments.

"The scare should eventually prove to be a buying opportunity, but the market would first need evidence that the situation is stabilizing," wrote Citgroup emerging market strategists in a note Thursday. " In spite of the Chinese authorities being more open and proactive this time, we are probably closer to the beginninRead More – Source

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