Asian Stocks Fall As Virus Spike Adds To Rate Hike Woes

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Stock markets in Asia yielded to the panic of an imminent interest rate hike scenario and recorded major losses on Friday.

An interest rate hike by the Bank of Korea and hawkish comments by Fed officials caused investors to fret over the departure of an easy monetary policy stance.

The worsening situation on the virus front exacerbated the pain, causing regional equities to give up recent gains.

China's Shanghai Composite Index slumped 34.00 points or 1 percent to finish at 3,521.26. Meanwhile, data revealed exports from China grew 20.9 percent year-on-year in December, while imports to China rose by 19.5 percent.

The Japanese benchmark Nikkei 225 Index shed 364.85 points or 1.3 percent to end Friday's trading at 28,124.28, tracking losses at the Wall Street.

Hitachi Construction Machinery Co. plunged almost 17 percent following reports that Hitachi Ltd would be divesting almost a 26 percent stake in the company.

Toyota Tsusho Corp., Nissan Chemical Industries and Fanuc Corp. all lost more than 5 percent.

Meanwhile, Fast Retailing Co. gained 8 percent after announcing upbeat results. Seven & I Holdings gained close to 5 percent.

The Hang Seng Index of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange dipped 46.45 points or 0.2 percent from previous close to finish trading at 24,383.32. The day's high was at 24,383.32 and the low at 24,140.81.

The Korean Stock Exchange's Kospi Index lost 40.17 points or 1.4 percent to close at 2,921.92. The day's trading range was between 2,914.73 and 2,944.97 against the backdrop of the Bank of Korea increasing the benchmark rates to the pre-pandemic level.

Australia's S&P/ASX200 Index closed trading at 7,393.90 after losing 80.50 points or 1.1 percent. The index is currently 3.1 percent below its 52-week high of 7,632.80.

Resmed Inc. and Ramelius Resources gained more than 3 percent. AGL Energy, Alumina Ltd and IGO Ltd gained more than 2 percent.

Shares of global Investment business Pendal Group dropped more than 15 percent after it reported around $6.8 billion net fund outflows for the December quarter.

Technology business Afterpay Ltd. declined following the announcement of its removal from the ASX 200 Index pursuant to its acquisition by Block,Inc. Zip Co., Whitehaven Coal and Xero all declined more than 5 percent.

The NZX 50 Index of the New Zealand Stock Exchange shed 36.83 points or 0.3 percent to close at 12,790.16.

Tourism business Tourism Holdings, entertainment business Sky Network Television, agribusiness Scales Corporation, Oceania Healthcare, Real Estate Investment Trust Investore Property all rallied more than 2 percent.

Ryman Healthcare, travel software solutions provider Serko, Kiwi Property, IT services provider Pushpay Holdings and Goodman Property declined more than 2 percent.

On Thursday, American stocks pulled back sharply, with the Nasdaq 100 dropping 2.6 percent to close at 15,495.62 and the Dow Jones Industrial Average moving down 0.5 percent to end at 36,113.62.

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