The rally in global stocks lost momentum in Asia, after US lawmakers delayed approving a $2tn coronavirus economic relief package and concerns grew that a spike in new coronavirus cases in Tokyo raised fears of a lockdown in the city.
In early morning trading on Thursday, Japan’s benchmark Topix index fell 2.7 per cent a day after the country’s capital reported a record jump in new infections.
Stores in the Japanese capital saw shelves stripped bare as residents hoarded goods, a day after Yuriko Koike, the city’s governor, called on inhabitants to stay home over the coming weekend.
Among the biggest fallers was SoftBank, which dropped 9.2 per cent after rating agency Moody’s downgraded the technology group’s debt deeper into junk territory.
China’s CSI 300 of Shanghai- and Shenzhen-listed shares fell 0.6 per cent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 1 per cent in late-morning trading.
The losses came a day after Wall Street recorded its first back-to-back daily gains in more than a month, as US legislators worked to finalise an emergency stimulus bill that would provide relief to taxpayers and businesses hit by coronavirus.
But on Wednesday evening, Republican senators raised eleventh-hour objections to new unemployment benefits in the legislation.
The S&P 500 ended the day 1 per cent higher after paring some of its earlier gains.
Futures markets pointed to a fall of 1 per cent for the S&P 500 later on Thursday. Investors are looking ahead to US employment data due later in the day, which analysts expect will show a sharp rise in jobless claims to 1.6m in the week to March 21.
“Widespread hopes for a V-shaped recovery from the impending recession will probably be dashed,” said Charles Dumas, chief economist at TS Lombard, who thinks the US unemployment rate will rise to more than 10 per cent — or about 12m people — in April.
Total confirmed cases of coronavirus have climbed to nearly 460,000 globally, with deaths surpassing 21,000. On Tuesday, the total number of infections rose by a record of nearly 50,000, as cases in New York surged.
Haven assets gained amid jittery markets. The 10-year US Treasury yield fell 0.08 percentage points to 0.792 per cent.