European stocks subdued, Asia mixed over latest virus data

Agence France-Presse . London | Published: 22:26, Feb 14,2020


A file photo shows a pedestrian walking past a stock market indicator board in Tokyo. Asian indices earlier closed mixed as traders struggled to work out if the China epidemic was worse than being reported by authorities. — AFP photo

European stock markets were subdued on Friday, with Frankfurt dipping amid official data showing Europe’s largest economy had zero growth in the last quarter of 2019.

Asian indices earlier closed mixed as traders struggled to work out if the China epidemic was worse than being reported by authorities.

A dramatic rise in the number of deaths and new cases of the virus on Thursday fuelled global suspicions that Beijing was concealing the true scale of the illness.

Concern turned to confusion on Friday, however, as the death toll was lowered to 1,380 after authorities said they had double-counted some fatalities.

The uncertainty came as Vietnam quarantined more than 10,000 people in a cluster of villages after six virus cases were detected and Japan reported its first death.

‘There are still some lingering concerns hanging like a cloud over the market that we could still get a surprise secondary transmission cluster,’ said Stephen Innes at AxiCorp.

‘But the intensity and market de-risking is nowhere near the feverish pitches of last Friday.’

Tokyo’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index closed down 0.59 per cent amid concerns over the economic impact from the virus.

After dipping at the open, Shanghai ended the day up 0.38 per cent.

Hong Kong recovered initial losses to close 0.31 per cent higher as investors weighed up the possibility that Thursday’s sharp increase — triggered by a change in the way Chinese officials count new infections — was a one-off.

London’s benchmark FTSE 100 was down 0.42 per cent shortly after opening on Friday, while the Paris CAC 40 index shed 0.19 per cent.

Elsewhere, Sydney put on 0.38 per cent, Seoul added 0.48 per cent and Taipei gained 0.20 per cent.

Europe’s largest economy Germany meanwhile marked time in the fourth quarter of 2019 as its exportoriented industry’s woes continued to weigh on growth, official data showed on Friday.

Gross domestic product (GDP) was flat quarter-on-quarter in October-December, federal statistics authority Destatis said, disappointing the agency’s own expectations and those of analysts surveyed by Factset.

Looking ahead into 2020, the rebound many observers were hoping for in the first half of the year will likely be pushed back by the effects of the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

British pharmaceuticals group AstraZeneca on Friday warned that the coronavirus epidemic would hit its performance this year in key market China.

Its share price slid 1.0 per cent to 7,550 pence in London midday deals.

The death toll from China’s virus epidemic neared 1,400 on Friday with six medical workers among the victims, underscoring the country’s struggle to contain a deepening health crisis.

Nearly 64,000 people are now recorded as having fallen ill from the virus in China, with officials revealing that 1,716 health workers had been infected as of Tuesday.

Market focus on Friday was also on company earnings, with Nissan’s share price diving nearly ten per cent after the crisis-hit car maker revised down its full-year sales and profit forecasts, warning that the impact from the epidemic was not yet included in the figures.

Shares in Royal Bank of Scotland slumped 8.0 per cent after posting a weak outlook after bumper 2019 profits and news that new boss Alison Rose will change the name of the UK state-rescued lender as it seeks to move away from its financial crisis-linked image.

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