Asia stocks fell as U.S. Federal Reserve keep rates

Asia stock markets fell on Thursday as the U.S. Federal Reserve kept interest rates on hold and investors continued to watch for developments on the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index fell 2.62% to close at 26,449.13.

Hong Kong-listed shares of travel-related firms declined, as China Southern Airlines fell 3.34% and Cathay Pacific slipped 2.13%. Gaming companies also plunged as Wynn Macau dropped 5.21% and Melco International Development fell 5.35%.

In Taiwan, where markets returned to trade from the holidays, the Taiex plunged 5.75% to close at 11,421.74 as shares of manufacturing giant and major Apple supplier Hon Hai Precision Industry, also known as Foxconn, dropped 9.97%.

Elsewhere, the Nikkei 225 in Japan slipped 1.72% to close at 22,977.75 while the Topix index declined 1.48% to end its trading day at 1,674.77.

In South Korea, the Kospi closed 1.71% lower at 2,148.00. Shares of Samsung Electronics fell 3.21% after the industry heavyweight posted a fourth quarter operating profit drop of about 34% as compared to the same period a year ago.

Meanwhile, stocks in Australia slipped as the S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.33% to close at 7,008.40.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index was 2.17% lower.

Markets in China remained closed on Thursday for a holiday.

Investors continued to watch for developments on the ongoing coronavirus outbreak that has already taken 170 lives and infected more than 7,700 in China, according to the latest update by China’s National Health Commission.

“A lot of people have already moved into the very defensive areas that they can do,” Andrew Sullivan, director at Pearl Bridge Partners, told CNBC’s “Street Signs” on Thursday. “I think longer-term wise, we know the markets are going to recover, but nobody wants to … start jumping in until there’s some certainty there.”

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