HONG KONG: Hong Kong stocks fell from a three-week high on Thursday as worries over the coronavirus outbreak heightened after the number of new confirmed cases and deaths soared in China's Hubei province.
At the close of trade, the Hang Seng index was down 0.3% at 27,730, off its highest level since Jan. 24 hit earlier in the session. The Hang Seng China Enterprises index fell 0.5%.
The sub-index of the Hang Seng tracking energy shares fell 0.8%, the financial sector ended 0.7% lower, the property sector edged up 0.3%, while the IT sector rose 1.1%.
Hubei, the epicentre of the virus, reported a record rise in the daily death toll on and thousands more cases on Thursday under a new diagnostic method, suggesting a much bigger crisis facing China and the world.
The rise in the death toll, at 242, more than doubled the prior provincial daily record of 103 set on Monday, while the number of new cases soared by 14,840 - also a daily record - to a total of 48,206 cases.
Hong Kong has extended the suspension of schools on Thursday until at least March 16 and told overseas students studying in the city there was no rush to return.
Major shopping mall landlords in the city are offering cuts in February rent by as much as 60% to help tenants ride out the effects of the coronavirus outbreak.
Hong Kong stocks could fall in the short term as the recent rally runs out of steam and amid uncertainty in Chinese economic growth, brokerage Guodu Hong Kong said in a note.
China's main Shanghai Composite index and the blue-chip CSI300 index snapped a seven-day winning streak amid renewed fears of the coronavirus outbreak.
Around the region, MSCI's Asia ex-Japan stock index fell 0.1% and Japan's Nikkei index closed down 0.1%.
About 1.62 billion Hang Seng index shares were traded. The volume traded in the previous trading session was about 1.80 billion.
At close, China's A-shares were trading at a premium of 23.62% over Hong Kong-listed H-shares. - Reuters
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