Asia Pacific markets decline as countries regionally continue to battle pandemic

Stocks in Asia Pacific declined Wednesday morning as countries in the region continued to put measures in place to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

Stocks in Australia led losses among the region’s major markets, with the S&P/ASX 200 dropping 1.81% as shares of major banks such as Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Westpac fell more than 3% each.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 slipped 0.49% in early trade while the Topix index declined 0.24%. Over in South Korea, the Kospi shed 0.84% and the Kosdaq index fell 1.15%.Developments on the global coronavirus pandemic likely continue to be the focus of investors.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index traded 0.4% lower.

Developments on the global coronavirus pandemic likely continue to be the focus of investors, with stricter social distancing measures being implemented by countries regionally in recent days to curb the disease’s spread.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared Tuesday a state of emergency to combat coronavirus infections in major population centers. Singapore also passed a set of laws that bans social gatherings of any size in both private and public areas, according to local media reports.

Meanwhile, China lifted travel restrictions in Wuhan — the virus epicenter in mainland China — effective from Wednesday, marking the end of a lockdown that began on Jan. 23. 

Globally, more than 1.4 million have been infected by the coronavirus so far while at least 81,000 lives have been taken, according to data compiled by John Hopkins University.

Overnight stateside, stocks ended lower after a wild session. The  Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 26.13 points lower, or 0.1%, at 22,653.86 after rising more than 900 points at its session high. The S&P 500 ended its trading day 0.2% lower at 2,659.41 while the Nasdaq Composite fell 0.3% to 7,887.26.

Oil prices jump

Oil prices jumped in the morning of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures up 2.6% to $32.70 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also surged 5.67% to $24.97 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 99.943 after slipping below the 100 level mark yesterday.

The Japanese yen traded at 108.61 per dollar after trading above 108.8 for much of the trading week so far. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6146 following a rise from levels below $0.609 seen earlier in the week.

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