Asian markets mixed as number of new COVID-19 cases spikes in China

Asian markets were mixed in early trading Thursday as the number of new coronavirus outbreak victims soared in China.

China’s Hubei province reported nearly 15,000 new cases of COVID-19 due to a change in diagnosis methodology, the New York Times reported. Chinese officials said the change was made so that more patients could receive treatment, but the new numbers threw more uncertainty at the severity of the outbreak and China’s ability to contain it.

“The China announcement has shaken Asia’s confidence this morning” and “has poured a sizeable cold bucket of reality onto investors,” Jeffrey Halley, senior Asia-Pacific market analyst at Oanda, wrote in a note. “The argument that it was a one-off adjustment versus the integrity of China’s data collection has left Asian stock markets in somewhat of a limbo.”

Japan’s Nikkei NIK, -0.15%  retreated 0.2% while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index HSI, -0.27%  slipped 0.1%. The Shanghai Composite SHCOMP, -0.64%  declined 0.5% and the Shenzhen Composite 399106, -0.72%  fell 0.7%. South Korea’s Kospi 180721, +0.04%  advanced 0.3%, while benchmark indexes in Taiwan Y9999, +0.17% , Singapore STI, -0.24% , Malaysia FBMKLCI, -0.24%  and Indonesia JAKIDX, -0.67%  were mixed. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 XJO, +0.21%  inched up 0.1%.

Among individual stocks, SoftBank 9984, -3.98%  and Nissan 7201, -1.44%  fell in Tokyo trading, while Honda 7267, +1.10%  and Inpex 1605, +0.14%  rose. In Hong Kong, Country Garden 2007, +0.56%  and Tencent 700, +0.97%  advanced, while CSPC Pharmaceutical 1093, -3.03%  and China Life Insurance 2628, -1.82%  fell. Samsung 005930, +0.83% rose in South Korea, while Beach Energy BPT, -3.17%  sank in Australia.

On Wednesday, U.S. stocks ended higher, with all three major benchmarks registering all-time closing highs. The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.94%  rose 275.08 points, or 0.9%, to end at 29,551.42, while the S&P 500 SPX, +0.65%  added 21.70 points or 0.7%, to finish at 3,379.45. The Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, +0.90%  ended at 9,725.96, a gain of 87.02 points, or 0.9%.

Benchmark crude oil CLH20, +0.18%  rose 17 cents to $51.34 a barrel. Brent crude oil BRNJ20, -0.05%  , the international benchmark, gained 6 cents to 55.85 a barrel.

The dollar USDJPY, -0.22%  fell slightly to 109.88 Japanese yen from 109.89 yen on Wednesday.

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