By Gina Lee
Investing.com – Asian stocks fell on Thursday morning as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause economic uncertainty.
Down Under, the ASX 200 dropped 1.30% by 10:54 PM ET (3:54 AM GMT) even as the country announced a better-than-expected unemployment rate of 5.2% against the 5.5% rate forecast prepared by Investing.com.
But the statistics bureau cautioned that the data only covered the first two weeks of the month, before lockdown measures to prevent the spread of the virus came into effect.
South Korea’s KOSPI dropped 0.37% as the country returned to work following its National Assembly elections, and Japan’s Nikkei 225 lost 1.47%.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was down by 0.69%. China’s indices were the only ones to post a gain, with the Shanghai Composite up 0.03% and the Shenzhen Component up 0.15% after initial losses.
Rodrigo Catril, senior foreign exchange strategist at National Australia Bank, said in a note that headlines surrounding COVID-19 “continue to paint a grim picture as the number of global cases passed the 2-million mark according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Commerce Department said overnight that retail sales in March slid a record 8.7%, in the largest one-month decline since it started tracking data in 1992.
Analyst also forecast that the initial jobless claims to be released later in the day would show another 5.1 million Americans losing their jobs.