Asian Shares Retreat Amid Virus Risks

Asian stocks fell on Thursday, tracking overnight declines in the U.S. and Europe, as rising coronavirus infections and new restrictions being introduced in European countries added to worries about the economic outlook. Lingering uncertainty about U.S. fiscal stimulus and the U.S. election also kept investors on edge.

Chinese shares recovered from an early slide to end slightly higher as investors awaited cues from third-quarter earnings and a meeting of China’s Communist Party leaders that will set the next five-year plan.

The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index inched up 3.49 points, or 0.1 percent, to 3,272.73. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index dropped 0.5 percent to 24,586.60.

Japanese shares extended losses for the fourth straight session on rising concerns over escalating coronavirus cases in the northern hemisphere. Investors also reacted to weak retail sales data and the Bank of Japan’s interest rate decision.

The value of retail sales in Japan fell 8.7 percent from a year earlier in September, a government report showed. That missed forecasts for a decline of 7.7 percent following the 1.9 percent drop in August. On a monthly basis, retail sales dipped 0.1 percent after jumping 4.6 percent in the previous month.

The BOJ held its monetary policy steady but trimmed its growth and price forecasts for the current fiscal year. The central bank made no changes to a package of steps aimed at easing corporate funding strains.

The Nikkei 225 Index slipped 86.57 points, or 0.4 percent, to 23,331.94, while the broader Topix closed 0.1 percent lower at 1,610.93.

Central Japan Railway and East Japan Railway both fell about 2.4 percent after reporting disappointing earnings. Electronics and gaming giant Sony jumped 6.7 percent after upwardly revising its full-year forecast.

Australian markets hit a fresh three-week low on fears that a new wave of lockdowns and business restrictions sweeping across Germany, France and other places in Europe would damage a nascent economic recovery.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index tumbled 97.40 points, or 1.6 percent, to 5,960.30, while the broader All Ordinaries Index ended down 93.80 points, or 1.5 percent, at 6,168.

Gold miner Newcrest Mining lost 3.9 percent after reporting a decline in first quarter output. Evolution Mining fell 4.3 percent and Northern Star Resources gave up 5 percent as gold lingered near a one-month low hit in the previous session.

Banks ANZ, NAB and Westpac fell between 1.5 percent and 2.4 percent, while mining heavyweights BHP and Rio Tinto dropped 1-2 percent.

Smaller rival Fortescue Metals rose 0.9 percent after it reported a 5 percent increase in first quarter iron ore shipments.

Beach Energy, Origin Energy, Oil Search and Santos slumped 4-5 percent after oil prices fell more than 5 percent on Wednesday.

Online jobs portal Seek plunged 5.9 percent after U.S. activist short seller Blue Orca took on the company, claiming its business in China, Zhaopin, is full of junk listings.

Seoul stocks fell notably as the latest statistics showed an alarming surge in coronavirus cases in major global economies. The benchmark Kospi dropped 18.59 points, or 0.8 percent, to 2,326.67.

Market bellwether Samsung Electronics declined 1.5 percent after saying it expects fourth quarter profit to fall due to weak server chip demand and rising smartphone competition. No. 2 chipmaker SK Hynix also ended down 1.5 percent.

Top pharmaceutical firm Samsung Biologics soared 9.4 percent after announcing the opening of a new research and development center in the U.S.

Business sentiment in South Korea improved in October, the latest survey from the Bank of Korea showed today, with a Business Survey Index score of 79.0 – up from 68.0 in September. The outlook also improved, rising to 78.0 from 70.0 in September.

New Zealand shares finished modestly lower, with the benchmark NZX-50 Index falling 62.72 points, or 0.5 percent, to 12,201.80. Oceania Healthcare tumbled 3.6 percent and Air New Zealand lost 3.4 percent, while Fisher & Paykel Healthcare rose 2.9 percent.

Markets in Malaysia and Indonesia were closed in observance of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad.

U.S. stocks slumped overnight amid widespread selling as investors grappled with a record number of Covid-19 cases in the U.S. and abroad accompanied by an increase in hospitalizations and deaths.

Meanwhile, there were fears that a victory by Joe Biden could make Republicans less likely to approve a new relief package until next year.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 3.4 percent to end at its lowest level in nearly three months, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite plummeted 3.7 percent and the S&P 500 plunged 3.5 percent.

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