Asia's share market rally paused on Thursday, bonds rose and trade-exposed currencies fell as a pointy rise in new coronavirus deaths and infections dented hopes that its spread was slowing.
China's Hubei province, where the virus is believed to possess originated, reported 242 new deaths, double the previous day's toll, and confirmed 14,840 new cases on Lincoln's Birthday .
The rise within the number of Hubei cases, which came as officials adopted a replacement methodology for counting infections, may be a ninefold increase from each day earlier.
E-mini S&P 500 futures were down 0.4 per cent by the afternoon, pointing to a fade in Wall Street's strong rally, while Futures for the EUROSTOXX 50 were 0.1 per cent weaker.
Ten-year US Treasuries fell below 1.6 per cent, the yen strengthened past 110 per dollar and a rally in oil prices halted.
MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan snapped two days of 1 per cent gains to take a seat 0.2 per cent lower as most markets across the region posted modest declines.
"There is not any panic on this," said Frank Benzimra, head of Asia equity strategy at Societe Generale in Hong Kong , since the dramatic rise seems thus far to be contained to Hubei.
The new methodology effectively lowers the bar for classifying new infections, contributing to the spike in cases. It relies on computerised tomography scans to seek out signs of the virus, instead of expecting slower RNA tests for confirmation. Chinese officials said the tactic is merely getting used in Hubei.
Despite that context, the dent to sentiment was enough to present a selling opportunity after several days of gains.
The virus has also cast a shadow over life in Asia's financial markets, with Benzimra himself logged in from home and chatting with clients by phone as meetings are increasingly cancelled, even in cities not subject to quarantine.
"Most markets were recouping their losses in order that has offered maybe some excuse to sell Asian markets," he said. "But there's not much energy during this ."
Japan's Nikkei fell 0.1 per cent Australia's ASX/S&P 200 index retreated from a record high. The Shanghai Composite fell 0.5 per cent and Hong Kong's Hang Seng was 0.3 per cent softer. Gold rose 0.6 per cent to $1574.86 per ounce.
MORE FORECASTS CUT
On Tuesday, markets had taken comfort from the planet Health Organisation's (WHO) emergency programme head describing the apparent slowdown within the epidemic's spread as "very reassuring."
Yet WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had also warned that it should be viewed with extreme caution. "This outbreak could still enter any direction," he said.
More than 1,300 people have died from the epidemic in China and therefore the total number of cases in Hubei province now stands at 48,206.
Even before the increase in cases, economists were turning more bearish on the likely hit to China's growth as factories idle and provide chains are upended.
Citi on Wednesday again downgraded its 2020 GDP forecast for China to five .3 per cent. The bank had forecast it to be 5.8 per cent in its January outlook, before cutting it to five .5 per cent fortnight ago.
Morgan Stanley believes a gradual, instead of sharp recovery is that the presumably scenario. that each one bodes ill for regional economies and has weighed on Asian currencies and commodities.
The Australian dollar , a liquid proxy for China's economic health due to Australia's export exposure, retraced its recent rally and traded 0.3 per cent softer at $0.6716.
China's yuan was 0.1 per cent weaker.
Rallying oil prices paused, with Brent crude flat at $55.72 per barrel, 15 per cent below where it had been before the coronavirus outbreak.