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Asian markets continue to fall on COVID-19 fears after Wall Street plunges to 9-year low

COVID-19: U.S. stocks plunge as global outbreak continues
U.S. stocks tumbled for a sixth consecutive session on Thursday as the rapid spread of COVID-19 fueled global economic growth fears. Within one week, North American markets plunged more than 10 percent in some cases, as 47 countries reported cases of the virus.

Asian stock markets fell further Friday on spreading virus fears, deepening an global rout after Wall Street endured its biggest one-day drop in nine years.

Tokyo’s benchmark fell by an unusually wide margin of 3.4 per cent and Shanghai, Hong Kong and Seoul all dropped by more than 2 per cent. Oil prices slumped further on expectations industrial activity and demand might decline.

Investors who had been confident the disease that emerged in China was under control have been jolted by outbreaks in Italy, South Korea and Iran. They worry the virus is turning into a global threat that might derail trade and industry.

On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 index is down 12 per cent from its all-time high a week ago.

READ MORE: Dow Jones sinks nearly 1,200 points amid coronavirus worries, worst 1-day drop since 2011

A growing list of major companies are issuing profit warnings and say factory shutdowns in China are disrupting supply chains. They say travel bans and other anti-disease measures also are hurting Chinese consumer spending.

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Virus fears “have become full-blown across the globe as cases outside China climb,” said Chang Wei Liang and Eugene Leow of DBS in a report.

Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 tumbled to 26,157.36 while the Shanghai Composite Exchange lost 2.9 per cent to 2,904.92. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 2.3 per cent to 26,157.36.

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The Kospi in Seoul fell 2.2 per cent to 2,007.89 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 sank 2.3 per cent to 6,502.6. New Zealand and Southeast Asian markets also retreated.

On Thursday, the S&P 500 fell 4.4 per cent to 2,978.76.

Advice to stock market investors: keep your eye on the spread of COVID-19
Advice to stock market investors: keep your eye on the spread of COVID-19

The Dow Jones Industrial Average 1,190.95 points, its largest one-day point drop in history, bringing its loss for the week to 3,225.77 points, or 11.1 per cent. To put that in perspective, the Dow’s 508-point loss on Oct. 19, 1987, was equal to 22.6 per cent.

The U.S. losses extended a slide that has wiped out gains major indexes posted this year. Investors came into 2020 feeling confident the Federal Reserve would keep interest rates at low levels and the U.S.-China trade war posed less of a threat to company profits after the two sides reached a preliminary agreement in January.

READ MORE: Coronavirus is driving down stock prices — but experts say not to panic

U.S. bond prices soared as investors fled to safe investments. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell as low as 1.246 per cent, a record low, according to TradeWeb. When yields fall, it’s a sign that investors are feeling less confident about the strength of the economy.

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China shut down much of its economy to stem the spread of the infection.

Most access to the city of Wuhan, a manufacturing hub at the center of the outbreak, was suspended Jan. 23. The Lunar New Year holiday was extended to keep factories and offices closed. The government told the public to stay home.

Dow Jones nosedives nearly 1,200 points into correction territory
Dow Jones nosedives nearly 1,200 points into correction territory

Authorities are shifting to trying to reopen factories and other businesses in areas with low disease risk but travel controls still are in effect in many areas.

Elsewhere, governments are tightening anti-disease controls as new cases mount.

Japan will close schools nationwide. Saudi Arabia banned foreign pilgrims from entering the kingdom to visit Islam’s holiest sites. Italy has become the center of the outbreak in Europe, with the spread threatening the financial and industrial centers of that nation.

READ MORE: Countries around the world step up their response to COVID-19 as cases rise daily

Goldman Sachs on Thursday said earnings for companies in the S&P 500 index might not grow at all this year, after predicting earlier that they would grow 5.5 per cent.

Benchmark U.S. crude fell 68 cents to $46.41 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract lost $1.64 on Thursday to settle at $47.09. Brent crude oil, used to price international oils, sank 68 cents to $51.40 per barrel in London. It declined $1.25 the previous session to $52.18 a barrel.

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The dollar declined to 109.28 yen from Thursday’s 109.58 yen. The euro sank to $1.0987 from $1.0998.