Asian Markets Fall as Death Toll from Virus Rises; Fed Leaves Rates Unchanged

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By Alex Ho – Asian markets fell on Thursday morning as the death toll from the coronavirus rose to 180 and the number of confirmed cases also continued to climb.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index dropped 1.9%.

Data today showed that at least 170 people were dead and more than 7,000 cases have been confirmed in mainland China.

Overnight, U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said the virus outbreak could spill to countries outside of China, but it was too early to assess its impact on the U.S.

The Fed kept the target range of the benchmark federal funds on hold at 1.5% to 1.75% as expected.

“We believe monetary policy is well positioned to serve the American people by supporting continued economic growth,” Powell told a press conference Wednesday in Washington.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 slumped 2.0%.

Japan Display made headlines as trading of its shares were suspended after the Nikkei business daily reported that Ichigo Asset Management would inject about 100 billion yen ($900 million) into the company.

South Korea’s KOSPI was down 1.5%. Index heavyweight Samsung Electronics’ shares plunged 2.4% after the company said its quarterly profit fell 34% in the October-December quarter.

In other news, Yoon Myun-shik, the Bank of Korea’s senior deputy governor, said the central bank is closely monitoring the coronavirus outbreak situation but it was too early to decide whether it should countered with further easing.

Down under, Australia’s ASX 200 slid 0.4%.

Chinese markets remained closed for the extended Lunar New Year holidays.

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