Stocks in Asia Pacific were mixed on Thursday afternoon as investors weighed a spike in the number of new coronavirus cases reported in China’s Hubei province due to a tweak in methodology.
Mainland Chinese stocks reversed earlier gains and remained lower by the afternoon, with the Shanghai composite down 0.53% and the Shenzhen component declining about 0.6% while the Shenzhen composite was 0.69% lower. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index shed 0.14%.
In Japan, the Nikkei 225 fell 0.14% in afternoon trade while the Topix index was 0.34% lower. Shares of conglomerate Softbank Group declined after Wednesday’s blockbuster surge, falling more than 2.5% in afternoon trade, with the moves on Thursday coming after the firm posted a near wipe out of its quarterly profit.
Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index was flat.
China’s Hubei province on Thursday reported a spike in the number of new coronavirus cases. It said it started to include “clinically diagnosed” cases in its tally.
“I think the market’s got to grapple with this … new method … of calculating cases,” Chris Watling, CEO of Longview Economics, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Thursday.
“I suspect they might look straight through it once they work out that it doesn’t sound like it’s more cases, it’s just a change in methodology,” Watling said.
Market sentiment had been been positive earlier in the week as the data had been showing an apparent slowdown in the pace of new reported cases, with policymakers in China having announced a series of measures to combat the expected economic slowdown from the virus outbreak.
On the corporate earnings front, firms such as Japan’s Nissan Motors and Chinese tech behemoth Alibaba are expected to announce their quarterly financial results on Thursday. Ahead of those releases, Nissan’s stock in Japan were down about 2% while Hong Kong-listed shares of Alibaba were up 0.56%.
Singapore’s DBS on Thursday morning announced a 14% jump in its net profit for the fourth quarter as compared to a year ago. Shares of the lender were up about 0.3% by the afternoon.
Currencies and oil
The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 99.007 after an earlier low of 98.980.
The Japanese yen, often seen as a safe-haven currency in times of economic uncertainty, traded at 109.88 per dollar following an earlier low of 110.09. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6722 after touching an earlier high of $0.6738.
The offshore Chinese yuan weakened against the greenback, last trading at 6.9815 per dollar, while its onshore counterpart was at 6.9803 per dollar.
Oil prices were higher in the afternoon of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures gaining 0.11% to $55.85 per barrel. U.S. crude futures were 0.35% higher at $51.35 per barrel.
Here’s a look at what’s on tap today:
- Nissan third quarter earnings
- Alibaba December quarter earnings
— CNBC’s Fred Imbert contributed to this report.