Stocks in Asia declined in Thursday morning trade as the death toll rises in China due to a pneumonia-causing virus outbreak.
Mainland Chinese stocks fell in early trade, with the Shanghai composite down about 0.8% while the Shenzhen component dropped 1.19%. The Shenzhen composite also declined 0.997%.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index also fell 1.17%.
The Nikkei 225 in Japan slipped 0.65% in morning trade while the Topix index also shed 0.5%.
Japanese trade data released Thursday showed exports falling more than expected in December. Japanese exports for December fell 6.3% in December as compared to a year before, data from country’s Ministry of Finance data showed. That was far lower than expectations of a 4.2% decrease expected by economists in a Reuters poll.
South Korea’s Kospi also saw losses as it declined 0.48%.
Meanwhile, shares in Australia declined, with the S&P/ASX 200 falling 0.6%.
Data on Thursday showed that jobs growth smashed expectations. On a seasonally adjusted basis, 28,900 jobs were created in Australia in December, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. That was far above expectations of a 15,000 increase from a Reuters poll.
The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6867 after seeing an earlier low of $0.6836.
Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index traded 0.5% lower.
Investor sentiment has taken a hit this week as the mysterious coronavirus that has infected hundreds in China spreads. The World Health Organization postponed a decision Wednesday over whether to declare the disease a global health emergency.
One strategist told CNBC on Thursday that the situation at present was “very much wait and see.”
“Wait till after Chinese New Year,” David Roche, president & global strategist at Independent Strategy, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Thursday, adding that “a much clearer idea on mortality” is likely to be present by then. “After Chinese New Year, we will know the degree, the speed and … the breadth … of infections … by this virus.”
The Lunar New Year period is set to kick off on Saturday, with hundreds of millions of Chinese citizens expected to travel domestically or abroad during the period.
Currencies and oil
The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 97.524 after seeing earlier highs above 97.65.
The Japanese yen traded at 109.64 per dollar after strengthening from levels above 110 yesterday.
Amid concerns over the coronavirus outbreak both the onshore and offshore Chinese yuan continued to see weakness, trading at 6.9125 and 6.9136 against the dollar, respectively.
Oil prices dropped in the morning of Asian trading hours, continuing their descent after Tuesday’s drop. International benchmark Brent crude futures fell 1.65% to $62.17 per barrel, while U.S. crude futures declined 1.74% to $55.75 per barrel.