Asia Pacific markets mixed as countries regionally continue to battle pandemic

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

Mainland Chinese stocks dipped in early trade, with the Shanghai composite down 0.52% while the Shenzhen composite slipping 0.291%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index also shed 0.89%.

In Japan, stocks saw a turnaround after an earlier slip, with the Nikkei 225 0.16% higher while the Topix index gained 0.37%. Over in South Korea, the Kospi shed 0.2% while the Kosdaq index rose 0.28%.

Meanwhile, stocks in Australia saw declines, with the S&P/ASX 200 slipping 0.6%.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index traded 0.56% 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 3.14% to $32.87 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also surged 6.18% to $25.09 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 100.104 after touching an earlier low of 99.902.

The Japanese yen traded at 108.79 per dollar after staying above 108.8 for much of the trading week so far. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6137 following a rise from levels below $0.609 seen earlier in the week.

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