Asian markets mixed as virus uncertainty casts a pall

Monitoring Desk

HONG KONG: Asian markets were mixed and oil rallied Wednesday, showing some much-needed stability after the previous days’ gyrations, though uncertainty about the deadly coronavirus outbreak continues to weigh on sentiment.

Traders are keeping an eye on Washington after Donald Trump pledged relief measures as the disease spreads around the United States, fuelling concerns about the world’s biggest economy and key driver of global growth.

US markets ended around five percent higher on Tuesday after suffering their worst day since the 2008 meltdown and tracking a strong bounce across Asia. Safe-haven assets including the yen retreated, while yields on US Treasuries, which hit a record low on Monday, rose.

Investors struggled, however, to drive the rally into a second successive day. Hong Kong and Singapore each edged up 0.1 percent, Shanghai added 0.4 percent and Manila rallied more than two percent. Wellington and Taipei were also up.

But Tokyo ended the morning 0.8 percent lower, while Sydney slipped 1.9 percent and Seoul shed 1.3 percent. Jakarta eased 0.5 percent. Trump promised “major” economic measures to combat the impact on the US economy and held talks with Republican lawmakers, with an eye on a cut in payroll taxes as well as help for airlines, the cruise industry and small businesses.

The announcement from Trump came as other governments pledge to act against the outbreak.

Italy’s leadership, which has put the entire country in quarantine, is eyeing a $16 billion package, while Japan has unveiled a multi-billion-dollar emergency package. Australia, Britain and Canada are expected to unveil measures in the coming days.