News: GLOBAL MARKETS-Shares hold ground as China virus fears persist; euro hits 7-week low after ECB

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    • Euro hits 7-week low after ECB; offshore yuan remains fragile
    • Too early to declare China virus a global health emergency -WHO
    • China, other Asian markets closed for Lunar New Year holiday
    • Asian stock markets:

    Asian shares held their ground on Friday as trade slowed for the Lunar New Year, despite investors fears that a new coronavirus in China could spread faster as millions of people would be travelling over the week-long holiday.

    Markets had steadied overnight, as investors took some solace from the World Health Organisation labelling the outbreak an emergency for China, where 25 people have died and at least 800 have been infected, but not, as yet, for the rest of the world.

    MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS rose 0.1%, while Japan's Nikkei .N225 eased a marginal 0.05% and Australian stocks (xjo) added 0.3%.

    Trade in Asia is already slowing down for the Lunar New Year holiday, with financial markets in China, Taiwan and South Korea closed on Friday.

    "Investors are worried that the outbreak of coronavirus will dampen consumption in China when the Chinese economy has been already cooling down," said Yasuo Sakuma, chief investment officer at Libra Investments.

    Indeed, National Australia Bank's research team tentatively estimated China's GDP growth for the first quarter could be hit by around 1% point by this deadly coronavirus outbreak.

    "The impact on Chinese growth could be significant given the outbreak coincides with the Chinese New Year," said Tapas Strickland, NAB's director of economics.

    "Measures to isolate the outbreak has meant 26 million people in cities or near urban areas are in lockdown or have limited travel. New Year festivities are also curbed in Beijing and Macau."

    The stance taken by WHO over epidemic provided enough relief for U.S. markets to advance further.

    The Nasdaq Composite .IXIC rose 0.2% to a record closing high, while the S&P 500 .SPX added 0.1% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI eased 0.1%.

    In the currency market, the concerns about the virus supported the safe-haven yen.

    The Japanese currency traded at 109.47 per dollar JPY= , having risen to a two-week high of 109.26 yen on Thursday.

    The euro EUR= fell to a seven-week low versus the dollar of $1.1036 overnight after the European Central Bank left its policy rates unchanged but President Christine Lagarde struck a slightly dovish tone than some had expected.

    The common currency last stood at $1.1053, down a marginal 0.05% on the day.

    The offshore yuan CNH= softened to 6.932 per dollar, one day after hitting a 2-1/2 week low of 6.942 yuan.

    Coronavirus fears continued to weigh on commodity prices. Oil prices remained under pressure on growing concern that fuel demand will weaken as the spread of a respiratory virus from China dents travel and darkens the economic outlook.

    Brent crude futures LCOc1 shed as much as 0.16% to below $62 a barrel in early Asian trade on Friday, its lowest since Dec. 4, after falling 1.9% the previous session.

    U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures CLc1 declined as much as 0.22% to $55.47 and were on course for a 5% fall for the week.

    Elsewhere, copper prices fell to their lowest in more than six weeks overnight.

    WHO says 'bit too early' to declare coronavirus a global 

    emergency 'This is an emergency in China' says WHO, as virus death toll rises to 18 ECB's Lagarde launches policy overhaul that will leave no stone unturned Euro, bond yields plummet on cautious Lagarde tone, virus fears

    ((To read Reuters Markets and Finance news, click on  
 For the state of play of Asian stock markets please click on: 0#.INDEXA ))

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