Asia shares bounce back as Bank of Japan promises support for economy


BANGKOK (AP): Share prices in Asia bounced back Monday (March 2) from last week's retreat, with mainland Chinese indexes gaining more than 3% as data showed progress in restoring factory output after weeks of disruptions from the viral outbreak.

Stocks have been swooning as investors fret the coronavirus outbreak will derail the global economy. But in those declines, some see opportunities to buy.

Japan's Nikkei 225 index recovered from early losses, gaining 1% to 21,345.54 after the Bank of Japan promised to step in to support the economy.

The Shanghai Composite index rose 3.1% to 2,969.57. The benchmark for the smaller exchange, in Shenzhen, jumped 3.4%, while South Korea's Kospi climbed 1% to 2,006.63. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong jumped 0.8% to 26,345.77 and India's Sensex advanced 1.6% to 38,909.43.

Bank of Japan Gov Haruhiko Kuroda issued a statement Monday, after an early plunge in share prices, saying the central bank "will closely monitor future developments, and will strive to provide ample liquidity and ensure stability in financial markets through appropriate market operations and asset purchases."

On Friday the BOJ issued plans for purchases of assets for the coming weeks: the central bank already buys tens of billions of dollars' worth of government bonds and other assets each year as part of its aggressive efforts to maintain cheap credit to help prevent deflation.

Shares fell in Australia, where the S&P ASX/200 lost 0.8% to 6,391.50 and in Taiwan, which fell 1.1%. Stocks were mostly higher in Southeast Asia, and Bangkok's benchmark surged 0.9%.

US futures saw a moderate recovery, with the contract for the Dow Jones Industrial Average rising 0.8% while the future for the S&P 500 added 0.7%.

"It may well be a case of news being not as bad as it could have been," Jeffrey Halley of Oanda said in a commentary.

"Today's rallies across Asia have a definite relief rally look to them. Measured against the scale of last week’s sell-offs, the bounces this morning are small."

Stocks sank Friday on Wall Street, extending a rout that left the market with its worst week since October 2008. The Dow fell 1.4% to 25,409.36. The S&P 500 slid 0.8% to 2,954.22, while the Nasdaq rose 0.1%, to 8,567.37. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks lost 1.4%, to 1,476.43.

Meanwhile, bond prices have been soaring as investors seek safety, pushing yields to record lows. On Monday, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note, a benchmark for home mortgages and many other loans, was at a record low 1.09%, down from 1.14% Friday and 1.30% late Thursday.

The damage from the week of relentless selling of shares was eye-popping: The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 3,583 points, or 12.4%. Microsoft and Apple, the two most valuable companies in the S&P 500, lost a combined $300 billion. In a sign of the severity of the concern about the possible economic blow, the price of oil sank 16%.

The market's losses moderated Friday after the Federal Reserve released a statement saying it stood ready to help the economy if needed. Investors increasingly expect the Fed to cut rates at its next policy meeting in mid-March.

The virus outbreak that began in central China has rattled markets as authorities shut down industrial centres, emptying shops and severely crimping travel all over the world.

Companies are warning investors that their finances will take a hit because of disruptions to supply chains and sales. Governments are taking increasingly drastic measures as they scramble to contain the virus.

The rout has knocked every major index into what market watchers call a "correction, ” or a fall of 10% or more from a peak. The last time that occurred was in late 2018, as a tariff war with China was escalating. market watchers have said for months that stocks were overpriced and long overdue for another pullback.

The latest losses have wiped out the S&P 500's gains going back to October. The benchmark index is still up 6.1% over the past 12 months, not including dividends. Its weekly loss of 11.5% was the biggest since an 18.2% drop in the week ending October 10,2008.

Crude oil prices rebounded Monday. US benchmark crude gained 2.7%, or $1.22 to $45.98 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It sank 4.9% on Friday over worries that global travel and shipping will be severely crimped, hurting demand for energy. The price of benchmark U.S. crude fell 15% last week.

Brent crude, the international standard, jumped $1.51 to $51.18 per barrel.

The latest data show China’s manufacturing plunged in February as anti-virus controls shut down much of the world’s second-largest economy.

The virus hit China in December and shut down large swaths of that nation by late January. China is still the hardest hit country and has most of the 86,000 cases worldwide and related deaths. Its spread far beyond China has caused panic, dashing hopes for containment.

Nearly 60 nations representing every continent, except Antarctica, have confirmed cases.

A monthly purchasing managers’ index released Monday by Caixin magazine fell to 40.3 from January’s 51.1 on a 100-point scale on which numbers below 50 show activity contracting.

A separate PMI released Saturday by the National Bureau of Statistics and the China Federation of Logistics & Purchasing fell to 35.7 from January’s 50.

Despite the plunge, business confidence rose to a five-year high after the ruling Communist Party launched efforts to revive industry with tax cuts and other aid, Caixin said.

"Manufacturers were confident that output would rise over the next year, ” the magazine said in a statement.

Gold, another safe haven for investors, jumped $38.90 to $1,605.60 per ounce, silver picked up 57 cents to $17.04 per ounce and copper fell 3 cents to $2.55 per pound.

The dollar rose to 108.15 Japanese yen from 108.07 yen on Friday. The euro strengthened to $1.1047 from $1.1027. - AP

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