Asia Pacific markets mixed as countries regionally continue to battle pandemic

Stocks in Asia Pacific were mixed on Wednesday as countries in the region continued to put measures in place to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

In Japan, stocks saw a turnaround after an earlier slip, with the Nikkei 225 rising 2.13% to close at 19,353.24 as shares of index heavyweight Fast Retailing surged 7.7%. The Topix index also gained 1.59% to end its trading day at 1,425.47.

Mainland Chinese stocks dipped on the day, with the Shanghai composite down 0.19% to about 2,815.37 while the Shenzhen composite slipped 0.156% to around 1,740.65. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index also shed 1.29%, as of its final hour of trading.

Over in South Korea, the Kospi closed 0.9% lower at 1,807.14.

Meanwhile, stocks in Australia fell, with the S&P/ASX 200 closing 0.86% lower at 5,206.90.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index dipped 0.79%.

Developments on the global coronavirus pandemic likely continued to be the focus of investors, with stricter social distancing measures being implemented by countries regionally in recent days to curb the disease’s spread.

Hong Kong extended its ban on public gatherings of more than four people, as well as the closure of some bars, till April 23, according to Reuters. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared Tuesday a state of emergency to combat coronavirus infections in major population centers. Singapore also passed a set of laws that bans social gatherings of any size in both private and public areas, according to local media reports.

Meanwhile, China lifted travel restrictions in Wuhan — the virus epicenter in mainland China — effective from Wednesday, marking the end of a lockdown that began on Jan. 23.

“We continue to be cautiously optimistic about China,” Nicholas Yeo, head of China equities at Aberdeen Standard Investments, told CNBC’s “Street Signs” on Wednesday.

“We still believe that from the economic perspective (China) is likely to be the first in terms of coming out of this … and it is in the process of rebooting the economy,” Yeo said, though he warned that the market would likely remain volatile.

Globally, more than 1.4 million have been infected by the coronavirus so far while at least 81,000 lives have been taken, according to data compiled by John Hopkins University.

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