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Asian shares mostly lower as new China virus cases spike


Asian shares were mostly lower Thursday as reported cases of the new virus jumped in China.

The Shanghai Composite declined 0.7% to 2,906.07 in afternoon trading. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slipped 0.3% to 27,730.00. Japan’s Nikkei 225 closed 0.1% lower at 23,827.73, while Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.2% to 7,103.20. Shares were lower in Singapore, Thailand and India, while New Zealand and Taiwan rose.

China reported more than 15,000 new cases of the COVID-19 disease and 254 more deaths. The jump was apparently due to a new reporting methodology.

Local officials have been widely criticized for their handling of the outbreak of the new form of coronavirus. The virus first surfaced in December in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, and has since spread to more than two dozen countries. China has replaced its top officials in Hubei and in Wuhan.

The spike came as a surprise for investors, who had become more at ease because of a recent decline in the daily number of new cases.

Jingyi Pan, market strategist at IG Group, said if the spike portends a “steeper upward trajectory from here, short-term risk aversion could return.”

Many countries have implemented travel restrictions on recent visitors to China, which has more than 99% of the world’s reported infections.

On Wall Street, stocks marched higher on Wednesday as investors focused on the latest batch of mostly solid corporate earnings.

The S&P 500 index rose 0.65%, to 3,379.45. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.9%, to 29,511.42.

Benchmark crude oil lost 24 cents to $50.93 a barrel. It rose 37 cents to settle at $49.94 a barrel. Brent crude oil, the international standard, lost 42 cents to $55.37 a barrel.

The dollar weakened to 109.776 yen from 110.08 yen. The euro strengthened to $1.0885 from $1.0876.

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