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Asian Stocks Mixed as COVID-19 Fight Goes On

By Gina Lee – Asian stock markets were mixed on Wednesday morning as the region continues to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Stocks halted two consecutive days of gains as the United Kingdom and New York City reported their highest death toll overnight. 731 people died from the virus in the city and the United Kingdom’s most prominent patient, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, remains in intensive care.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 0.19% by 10:39 PM ET (3:39 AM GMT) despite Prime Minister Shinzo Abe formally declaring a state of emergency on Tuesday evening.

Neighboring South Korea’s KOSPI lost 0.23%, even as President Moon Jae-In announced an additional 36 trillion won ($29.5 billion) worth of cheap loans for exporters hard hit by the virus at a policy meeting with economic chiefs in the morning.

At the same meeting, Moon also announced an additional stimulus package of 17.7 trillion won.

Down Under, the S&P/ASX 200 fell 0.54% as S&P Global Ratings downgraded the country’s credit-rating outlook from stable to negative.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was down by 0.97% as the special administrative region extended its social distancing measures until April 23.

China’s Shanghai Composite was down 0.4 % while the Shenzhen Component was down 0.39% as the city of Wuhan, where the outbreak started, lifted its lockdown.

But the increased New York death toll is a stark reminder that the fight against COVID-19 is far from over, on both the economic and medical fronts, despite the falling number of new cases.

“As the quarter progresses, investors start to understand that everything we’re seeing is in the form of assistance and aid to just tide the economy over,” Bob Michele, global chief investment officer at JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM) Asset Management, told Bloomberg. “It’s not stimulus that gets the economy going at a much higher rate than where it is.”

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