China stocks fall as new coronavirus cases in Hubei sour

Stocks in major Asian markets, including China’s stocks, dropped on Thursday as investors weighed a jump in the number of new coronavirus cases reported in the Chinese province of Hubei due to a tweak in methodology.

Mainland Chinese stocks reversed earlier gains and ended their trading day lower, with the Shanghai composite falling by 0.71 percent to about 2,906.07. The Shenzhen component inched down by 0.7 percent to 10,864.32 while the Shenzhen composite dropped 0.769 percent to around 1,771.61. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index traded 0.29 percent lower, as of its final hour of trading.

China’s Hubei province reported on Thursday a surge in the number of new coronavirus cases. It announced that it started to include “clinically diagnosed” cases in its tally.

“I think the market’s got to grapple with this … new method … of calculating cases,” Chris Watling, chief executive of Longview Economics, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Thursday.

“I suspect they might look straight through it once they work out that it doesn’t sound like it’s more cases, it’s just a change in methodology,” Watling added.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 dropped 0.14 percent to finish at 23,827.73 while the Topix index ended its trading day 0.34 percent lower at 1,713.08. Shares of conglomerate Softbank Group fell after Wednesday’s blockbuster rose, falling 5.09 percent on the day, with the moves on Thursday coming after the firm posted a near wipe out of its quarterly profit.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s Kospi moved 0.24 percent lower to end its trading day at 2,232.96 as shares of automaker Hyundai Motor fell 2.21 percent. Stocks in Australia ended trading in positive territory, with the S&P/ASX 200 up 0.21 percent to 7,103.20.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index traded 0.17 percent lower.

Market sentiment had been positive earlier in the week as the data had been showing an apparent slowdown in the pace of new reported coronavirus cases, with policymakers in China having revealed a series of measures to combat the expected economic slowdown from the virus outbreak.

On the corporate earnings front, firms such as Japan’s Nissan Motors and Chinese tech behemoth Alibaba are expected to unveil their quarterly financial results on Thursday. Ahead of those releases, Nissan’s stock in Japan traded 1.54 percent lower by the close while Hong Kong-listed shares of Alibaba rose by more than 0.6 percent as of their final hour of trading.

Singapore’s DBS announced Thursday morning a 14% year-on-year surge in its net profit for the fourth quarter. Shares of the lender went up 0.16 percent in afternoon trade.

Source: CNBC