Australia stocks drop more than 5% in mixed day for Asia Pacific markets

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Stocks in Asia Pacific were mixed on Friday as uncertainty over the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak continues to weigh on investor sentiment.

Stocks in Australia led losses among the region’s major markets as the S&P/ASX 200 dropped 5.3% to close at 4,842.40.

Elsewhere, however, shares were mostly higher. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 advanced 3.88% by the close at 19,389.43 while the Topix index gained 4.3% to end its trading day at 1,459.49. South Korean stocks were also higher on the day, with the Kospi up 1.87% to 1,717.73 while the Kosdaq index gained 1.2% to 522.83.

Mainland Chinese stocks were mixed by their close, with the Shanghai composite rising 0.26% to about 2,772.20 while the Shenzhen composite dipped 0.459% to around 1,693.35.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index rose 0.25%.

On the economic data front, China’s industrial profits for January-February plunged 38.3% year-on-year, according to the country’s National Bureau of Statistics. The period covered by the data release coincided with lockdowns announced by the Chinese government to combat the spread of the coronavirus in the country, where the disease was first reported.

“I think the data’s probably gonna come in … really bad in Q2 for majority of the global economy,” Cedric Chehab, head of country risk and global strategy at Fitch Solutions, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Friday. “Although equity markets and financial markets typically bottom before the economy does, it feels a little bit sudden or a little bit quick … for the markets to be bottoming.

″(We’re) still seeing a very large increase in the number of COVID-19 cases globally and we really haven’t seen … the curve flatten yet,” Chehab said.

A surge in reported infections in recent days has made the U.S. the country with the largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases. Globally, more than 531,800 have been infected while at least 24,000 lives have been taken, according to data compiled by John Hopkins University.

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