Asian markets sink as pandemic deaths soar
Updated 21:45, 23-Mar-2020

Asian markets were hammered on Monday despite massive economic stimulus efforts worldwide, with investors spooked by the relentless march of the coronavirus pandemic.

The negative mood was fuelled by the failure of U.S. lawmakers to agree on a trillion-dollar emergency package to help the reeling American economy.

The global death toll from the virus has surged past 14,400, with nearly 1 billion people confined and non-essential businesses shut in dozens of countries and growing fears about a recession.

Wellington nosedived 7.6 percent as New Zealand announced a four-week lockdown to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The Hang Seng Index in Hong Kong ended the day down 4.9 percent, Sydney dropped 5.6 percent, Shanghai shed 3.1 percent.

Singapore tanked 7.5 percent, Jakarta lost 3.8 percent, and Seoul was down 5.5 percent.

Tokyo was the exception, closing 2 percent higher as a cheaper yen against the dollar boosted Japanese markets.

Nikkei heavyweight SoftBank Group said it would sell up to 41 billion U.S. dollars in assets to finance a stock buyback, reduce debt and increase its cash reserves, boosting its share price by more than 18 percent in the last hour of trade.

The grim overall trend continued when European markets opened. In early trade, London tumbled 4.8 percent, Frankfurt lost 4.6 percent and Paris was down 4.4 percent.

Economists and analysts are now worried about how deep the impact of the pandemic could be on the global economy, with social distancing measures and lockdowns dealing serious blows to many industries.

Airlines have been hit particularly hard, with isolation measures shutting down routes and grounding fleets worldwide.

Long-haul giant Emirates announced a two-week suspension of all its passenger flights, following a UAE government directive.

Singapore Airlines, meanwhile, said it would ground most of its fleet until the end of April. The carrier said it was facing the greatest challenge in its existence.

European planemaker Airbus said it was canceling its planned 2019 dividend payment and abandoning 2020 forecasts.

(With input from AFP)

(Cover photo via VCG)