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Asian Markets Fall As Coronavirus Spreads Beyond China

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Asian stock markets, led by South Korea, are in negative territory on Monday while safe-haven gold rose amid worries about a surge in the number of new coronavirus cases reported outside China and its impact on the global economy.

On Sunday, South Korea raised its coronavirus alert to the highest level after the number of new coronavirus cases in the country nearly tripled over the weekend to more than 600, while the death toll reached six. Italy and Iran have also confirmed an uptick in coronavirus infections.

The Australian market is notably lower following the sell-off on Wall Street Friday. Weak local corporate earnings results also dampened investor sentiment.

The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index is losing 136.80 points or 1.92 percent to 7,002.20, off a low of 7,001.90 earlier. The broader All Ordinaries Index is falling 136.40 points or 1.89 percent to 7,094.00. Australian stocks closed lower on Friday.

Oil stocks are sharply lower after crude oil prices declined on Friday. Woodside Petroleum is falling more than 5 percent, Santos is lower by more than 3 percent and Oil Search is losing more than 2 percent.

The major miners are also weak. BHP is losing more than 2 percent, Fortescue Metals is lower by almost 2 percent and Rio Tinto is declining more than 1 percent.

In the banking space, Westpac, ANZ Banking, National Australia Bank and Commonwealth Bank are declining in a range of 1.4 percent to 1.9 percent.

Bucking the trend, gold miners are notably higher after gold prices surged to a seven-year high on Friday. Newcrest Mining is gaining more than 4 percent, while Evolution Mining is rising more than 3 percent.

BlueScope Steel said its profit for the first half fell 70 percent and warned that the coronavirus outbreak will heavily impact its China business. The steel maker's shares are losing more than 7 percent.

NIB Holdings reported a 23 percent decrease in first-half profit citing an industry-wide increase in claims, but said it will maintain its interim dividend. The health insurer's shares are falling more than 6 percent.

oOh!media reported a 54 percent fall in statutory profit for the full year despite a 35 percent surge in revenue. The outdoor advertiser's shares are lower by almost 2 percent.

In the currency market, the Australian dollar is higher against the U.S. dollar on Monday. The local unit was quoted at $0.6604, compared to $0.6599 on Friday.

Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea is losing almost 3 percent, while New Zealand, Taiwan, Malaysia and Hong Kong are all lower by more than 1 percent each. Shanghai, Singapore and Indonesia are also lower. The Japanese market is closed for the Emperor's Birthday holiday.

On Wall Street, stocks closed lower on Friday as traders continued to keep a close eye on the latest coronavirus news, with Chinese officials reporting 1,109 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, up sharply from 349 cases the previous day. South Korean health authorities also reported 52 new cases of the fast-spreading disease, raising the national tally to 156, while the number of confirmed cases in Japan increased by 23 to 728. A number of companies have warned about the impact of the coronavirus.

The Nasdaq plunged 174.37 points or 1.8 percent to 9,576.59, the Dow slid 227.57 points or 0.8 percent to 28,992.41 and the S&P 500 tumbled 35.48 points or 1.1 percent to 3,337.75.

The major European markets also moved to the downside on Friday. While the U.K.'s FTSE 100 Index dropped by 0.4 percent, the French CAC 40 Index and the German DAX Index slid by 0.5 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively.

Crude oil prices drifted lower on Friday amid concerns about the outlook for energy demand due to the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the global economy. WTI crude for April declined $0.50, or about 0.9 percent, at $53.38 a barrel.

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