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Japan Nikkei, Australia stocks, currencies in focus



Asian markets mostly rose on Monday after the U.S.’s S&P 500 extended its winning streak on Friday to six days. Markets in the Greater China region remain closed for the Lunar New Year holiday.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 428.96 points, or 1.97 percent, to 22,149.21, while the Topix index added 37.78 points, or 2.17 percent, to 1,775.15. South Korea’s Kospi index added 20.99 points, or 0.87 percent, to 2,442.82.

Meanwhile, Australia’s ASX 200 reversed early losses to finish up 37.6 points, or 0.64 percent, at 5,941.6. The heavily weighted financial subindex rose 0.56 percent, while the energy sector fell 1.26 percent and the materials subindex reversed losses to climb 0.23 percent.

Oil stocks in Australia traded mixed. Shares of Santos rose 2.58 percent, Oil Search was up 2.02 percent and Beach Energy added 7.11 percent. Woodside Petroleum declined 6.85 percent, however, after the company said it completed the institutional component of its 2.5 billion Australian dollar ($1.98 billion) share sale, announced on Feb. 14. Woodside raised gross proceeds of about A$1.57 billion at A$27 per new share.

Major indexes in the U.S. had ended off their session highs on Friday after news broke that special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for allegedly interfering with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Meanwhile, in the currency market, the Japanese yen traded at 106.57 to the dollar at 2:24 p.m. HK/SIN, coming off an earlier high of 106.08. Still, the yen had strengthened from levels above 108 in the previous week. Major export stocks traded up, with Toyota shares climbing 2.37 percent, Honda up 2.04 percent and Sony adding 0.78 percent.

The Australian dollar traded at $0.7916 at 2:25 p.m. HK/SIN, falling from levels near $0.7980 reached last week.

Elsewhere, the dollar index remained relatively stable and traded at 89.127 at 2:26 p.m. HK/SIN, coming off an earlier high of 89.175. Last week, the index fell from levels above 90 to near 88.200 before recovering slightly.

“The U.S. dollar staged a minor comeback for no obvious reason other than position squaring into the U.S. holiday weekend, with euro leading the move and yen lagging but still managing to fully recoup the APAC session swoon to end marginally weaker on the day,” Ray Attrill, head of foreign exchange strategy at the National Bank of Australia, wrote in a morning note.

He pointed out that for the week, the dollar was still lower in index terms with losses led by the yen strength.

The U.S. market will be closed on Monday for Presidents Day.

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Asia markets: Wall Street, coronavirus, currencies



Stocks in Australia were set to trade lower at the open following overnight losses on Wall Street.

The SPI futures contract was at 5,754.0, as compared to the S&P/ASX 200’s last close at 5,822.60. 

Markets in Japan are closed on Tuesday for a holiday.

In corporate developments, logistics firm ZTO Express is set to price its Hong Kong listing on Tuesday, as it looks to become the latest U.S.-listed Chinese company seeking to debut in the city.

Investor reaction to the overnight drop in stocks stateside will be watched. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 509.72 points, or 1.8%, to close at 27,147.70. The S&P 500 lost 1.2% to finish its trading day at 3,281.06. The Nasdaq Composite closed just 0.1% lower at 10,778.80. 

Monday’s declines on Wall Street marked the first time since February that the S&P 500 posted four straight daily losses. The Dow, meanwhile, had its worst day since Sept. 8.

“In grasping for the facts that fit the market figures, there seems little doubt that amongst them are the averse trends in covid-19 infection rates in several big European countries and too the United States — trends which have become more painfully evident since late last week — and the associated prospect of more draconian social distancing measures (whether self-imposed or mandated),” Ray Attrill, head of foreign exchange strategy at National Australia Bank, wrote in a note.

Attrill’s comments came as analysts warned that European countries are likely to impose more restrictions on public life in the coming days amid a rapid rise in the number of daily coronavirus infections.


The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 93.656 after earlier surging from levels below 93.3.

The Japanese yen traded at 104.67 per dollar after weakening from levels below 104.4 against the greenback yesterday. The Australian dollar was at $0.7227 following yesterday’s drop from levels above $0.73.

Here’s a look at what’s on tap:

  • Hong Kong: ZTO Express prices Hong Kong listing

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CDC says it erroneously posted guidance that said coronavirus spreads through air and travels beyond 6 feet



A sign informing people to stay 6 feet apart stands on Marina Boulevard at Marina Green in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Wednesday, March 25, 2020.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday it erroneously posted guidance saying the coronavirus spreads through airborne particles that can remain suspended in the air and travel beyond 6 feet.

The updated guidance, posted on the CDC’s website on Friday, also recommended that people use air purifiers to reduce airborne germs indoors to prevent the disease from spreading, according to Reuters.

“A draft version of proposed changes to these recommendations was posted in error to the agency’s official website,” the CDC said Monday. “CDC is currently updating its recommendations regarding airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). Once this process has been completed, the update language will be posted.”

Earlier in the day, the World Health Organization said it contacted the CDC about the guidance change. 

The WHO had not seen any “new evidence” on airborne particles and was checking with the CDC to “better understand” the exact nature of the change, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies program, said during a news conference at the agency’s Geneva headquarters.

The WHO has said Covid-19 primarily spreads through respiratory droplets that pass when an infected person coughs, sneezes or breathes. Studies have shown that the coronavirus could spread through aerosols in the air, and the WHO has said it is monitoring “emerging evidence” of possible airborne transmission.

The international agency’s position “on this remains the same,” Ryan said, “and we’ve always said going back over months and months about the potential for different kinds of roots of transmission and particularly driven by the context, the proximity, the intensity, the duration and the potential for different forms of transmission.”

The update comes days after the CDC reversed controversial coronavirus testing guidance that said people who were exposed to an infected person but weren’t showing any symptoms did “not necessarily need a test.”

Many public health specialists criticized the CDC’s change in testing guidance in August for appearing to play down the significance of testing people who don’t have symptoms but who might be spreading the virus. 

Studies have suggested the virus can spread through the air. A study published by researchers at the National Institutes of Health earlier this year found that particles of the coronavirus released by talking can remain in the air for eight to 14 minutes. 

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that Covid-19 was detectable in aerosols for up to three hours.

In July, the WHO said there is still no “definitive” evidence that indicates the virus is spreading widely by air, although it added that the possibility of airborne transmission in public settings “cannot be ruled out.”

If the coronavirus does primarily spread through the air, masks may prove to be more important than ever. 

Both health agencies recommend that people wear face masks. Studies suggest the masks may serve as a helpful barrier to spreading infection.

–CNBC’s Will Feuer contributed to this report. 

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Microsoft to buy ZeniMax, owner of Fallout, Elder Scrolls franchises



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