Asian stocks ended mixed on Thursday as lingering worries about the coronavirus pandemic prompted investors to book some profits after recent gains. The downside was capped after the U.S. Senate passed a US$2 trillion relief package.
Chinese shares ended lower after two days of strong gains. The benchmark Shanghai Composite index slid 16.68 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,764.91 as a rise in imported coronavirus cases prompted Beijing to tighten controls to prevent a resurgence of infections. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index ended down 0.74 percent at 23,352.34.
Japanese shares fell sharply after Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike warned of a possible expansion of the coronavirus in the capital and urged residents to stay home this weekend.
Tokyo reported a record 41 new infections on Wednesday to bring the total to 212, while the country’s total cases hit 1,300.
The Nikkei average fell 882.03 points, or 4.51 percent, to 18,664.60 following three days of massive gains. The broader Topix index dropped 1.78 percent to 1,399.32.
Heavyweight SoftBank gave up 9.4 percent after a rating downgrade by Moody’s Investors Service. Fast Retailing plunged 13.2 percent.
Apple suppler Murata Manufacturing lost 5 percent and Taiyo Yuden shed 3.8 percent after the Nikkei Asian Review reported that tech giant Apple is considering delaying the launch of its 5G iPhone by “months” due to issues related to consumer demand amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Australian markets rose for a third day after the passage of a $2 trillion U.S. stimulus package. Investors shrugged off announcements by local companies of COVID-19 related job losses and weak earnings. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 rose 2.3 percent to 5,113.30.
Banks ANZ, NAB and Westpac rose 1-2 percent, while Commonwealth Bank fell 1 percent. Mining heavyweight Rio Tinto surged 5 percent and smaller rival Fortescue Metals Group added 3 percent.