Asian shares tick up, aim for second week of gains amid virus scare

FILE PHOTO - Pedestrians wearing facial masks are reflected on an electric board showing stock prices outside a brokerage at a business district in Tokyo, Japan January 30, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

TOKYO (Reuters) – Asian shares edged up on Friday, on course to post the second straight week of gains, helped by hopes governments will make provisions to soften the impact on their economies from the coronavirus epidemic.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS ticked up 0.3%, led by gains in Hong Kong .MIHK00000PUS and South Korea .MIKR00000PUS. On the week, the pan-regional index was up 1.94%.

“China is already easing its monetary policy and providing more liquidity while more stimulus is likely. Factories are starting to reopen albeit with some delays,” said Yukino Yamada, senior strategist at Daiwa Securities.

Japan’s Nikkei .N225 dropped 0.55%, not helped by the news of first coronavirus death and signs of a potential rise in domestic human-to-human infections in the country.

On Wall Street on Thursday, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 0.16% but its futures ESc1 gained 0.23% in subsequent Asian trade to hit record levels.

The daily death toll in Hubei, the Chinese province at the center of the coronavirus outbreak, halved and the number of new cases dropped from a record posted the day before.

Ryutaro Kimura, fixed income strategist at Axa Investment Management, expected “considerable impact” on the global economy as China now accounts for around 17% compared to 4% during the SARS outbreak in 2002-2003, and it is integral to more supply chains.

“That means countries are likely to keep interest rates low for a longer period, keeping global bond yields low. Such an expectation in turn is supporting the world’s share prices.”

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