Asia Markets: Asian markets surge as coronavirus fears fade

Asian markets rose in early trading Thursday on optimism that the coronavirus outbreak would be contained.

Markets got an unexpected boost later in the day as China announced it was cutting tariffs on $75 billion in U.S. goods in half.

On Wednesday, there were unconfirmed reports that researchers had made breakthroughs toward developing a vaccine, but the World Health Organization said there are still no known effective therapeutics against the coronavirus.

U.S. health officials said it is too soon to say when the outbreak may peak. “We’re preparing as if this is a pandemic,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the Associated Press.

China reported Thursday that the number of confirmed cases had risen to more than 28,000, with 563 deaths.

Still, traders appeared confident that the economic impact of the outbreak would be contained and short-lived.

Japan’s Nikkei NIK, +2.38% surged 2.2% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index HSI, +2.64% jumped 1.8%. The Shanghai Composite SHCOMP, +1.72% rose 1% while the Shenzhen Composite SHCOMP, +1.72% gained 2.1%. South Korea’s Kospi 180721, +2.88% advanced 2.2%, while benchmark indexes in Taiwan Y9999, +1.52% and Singapore STI, +0.98% gained. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 XJO, +1.05% rose 0.8%.

Among individual stocks, Yahoo Japan parent Z Holdings 4689, +5.95% leaped in Tokyo trading. SoftBank 9984, +3.28% , Fast Retailing 9983, +3.30% and Sony 6758, +2.43% gained as well. In Hong Kong, oil producers CNOOC 883, +5.00% and PetroChina 857, +3.52% rose, along with China Mobile 941, +5.42% and casino operator Galaxy Entertainment 27, +3.97% . LG Electronics 066570, +2.45% and SK Hynix 000660, +2.87% gained in South Korea, while Apple component maker Hon Hai Precision Industry 2317, +1.70% rose after cutting its 2020 revenue outlook due to the effects of strict quarantines of workers potentially exposed to the coronavirus. Mining giant BHP BHP, +1.30% and Westpac Banking WBC, +1.74% advanced in Australia.

“The markets are not only holding up, but they’re going up!!!” wrote Stephen Innes, chief market strategist at AxiCorp, in a note. “And to suggest risk appetite continues to ‘creep’ back in favor, might be the biggest understatement of the week.”

Innes said that despite the WHO’s cautionary take, “any progress on treatment may also be a comfort to investors that the longer-term secondary effects of the outbreak are contained.”

U.S. stocks closed sharply higher Wednesday for the third consecutive session, with markets closing shortly before President Donald Trump was acquitted on both charges in his impeachment trial.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +1.68% rose 483.22 points, or 1.7%, to end at 29,290.85, while the S&P 500 SPX, +1.13% gained 37.10 points, or 1.1%, to close at 3,334.69. The Nasdaq Composite Index COMP, +0.43% added 40.71 points, 0.4%, ending the session at 9,508.68. Those levels marked new closing highs for the S&P 500 and Nasdaq.

Oil prices surged again Thursday, with the price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude for March delivery CLH20, +0.67% rose $1.07, or 2.1%, to $51.90. April Brent crude BRNJ20, +0.11% , the global benchmark, gained $0.91, or 1.6%, to $56.25.

The dollar USDJPY, +0.07% rose to 109.94 Japanese yen from 109.48 yen on Wednesday.