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Asian Shares Mixed Amid Profit Taking

asian mixed 26mar20 lt

Asian stocks ended mixed on Thursday as lingering worries about the coronavirus pandemic prompted investors to book some profits after recent gains. The downside was capped after the U.S. Senate passed a $2 trillion relief package.

Chinese shares ended lower after two days of strong gains. The benchmark Shanghai Composite Index slid 16.68 points, or 0.6 percent, to 2,764.91 as a rise in imported coronavirus cases prompted Beijing to tighten controls to prevent a resurgence of infections. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 174.85 points, or 0.7 percent, to 23,352.34.

Japanese shares fell sharply after Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike warned of a possible expansion of the coronavirus in the capital and urged residents to stay home this weekend.

Tokyo reported a record 41 new infections on Wednesday to bring the total to 212, while the country's total cases hit 1,300.

The Nikkei 225 Index plunged 882.03 points, or 4.5 percent, to 18,664.60 following three days of massive gains. The broader Topix dropped 1.8 percent to 1,399.32.

Heavyweight SoftBank gave up 9.4 percent after a rating downgrade by Moody's Investors Service. Fast Retailing plummeted 13.2 percent.

Apple suppler Murata Manufacturing lost 5 percent and Taiyo Yuden shed 3.8 percent after the Nikkei Asian Review reported that tech giant Apple is considering delaying the launch of its 5G iPhone by "months" due to issues related to consumer demand amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Meanwhile, Australian markets rose for a third day after the passage of a $2 trillion U.S. stimulus package. Investors shrugged off announcements by local companies of COVID-19 related job losses and weak earnings. The benchmark S&P/ASX 200 jumped 115.20 points, or 2.3 percent, to 5,113.30.

Banks ANZ, NAB and Westpac rose 1-2 percent, while Commonwealth Bank fell 1 percent. Mining heavyweight Rio Tinto surged 5 percent and smaller rival Fortescue Metals Group added 3 percent.

In the oil space, Beach Energy, Origin Energy, Santos and Woodside Petroleum rallied 3-4 percent. Oil Search shares jumped 13.6 percent.

Virgin Australia soared 16.9 percent. The airline said that more than 1,000 of the 8,000 workers asked to stand down from their jobs are likely to be made redundant.

On the other hand, building materials maker Brickworks dropped 1.3 percent after its first-half profit fell 49 percent.

Seoul stocks ended lower on profit taking after strong gains in the two previous sessions. The Kospi average slumped 18.52 points, or 1.1 percent, to 1,686.24 despite the Bank of Korea announcing it would supply an "unlimited" amount of liquidity to financial institutions over the next three months to help minimize the economic impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

Chipmaker SK Hynix tumbled 4.5 percent and pharmaceutical giant Samsung BioLogics declined 3.9 percent.

New Zealand shares extended gains for the third straight session after U.S.
senators finally passed a gargantuan stimulus package for the world's largest economy. The benchmark NZX 50 Index rallied 368.09 points, or 4 percent, to 9,632.47.

Singapore's Straits Times Index fell 0.7 percent after data showed the country's GDP shrank 10.6 percent on a quarter-on-quarter annualized rate in the first quarter, reversing a 0.6 percent rise in the fourth quarter of 2019.

On a yearly basis, the economy shrank 2.2 percent after expanding 1 percent in the preceding period. Industrial output fell an annual 1.1 percent in February after rising 3.5 percent in the previous month, another report showed.

U.S. stocks gave up some early gains to end mixed overnight after a handful of
Republican senators threatened to delay the $2 trillion coronavirus spending bill over the expansion of unemployment benefits.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rallied 2.4 percent and the S&P 500 climbed 1.2 percent, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite index dropped half a percent.

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