Stocks in key Asian markets have seen slight recoveries on Friday morning even as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise.
The Nikkei 225 in Japan closed 0.13 per cent higher at 23,827.18. The Australian S&P/ASX 200 closed up 0.04 per cent at 7,090.50. While Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index closed at 27,949.64, a gain of 0.15 per cent.
Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index was 0.13 per cent higher.
Asian stocks are by no means in the clear however, as investors closely monitor the spread and impact of the coronavirus. Mainland Chinese stocks experienced their worst day in over eight months on Thursday, with the Shanghai Composite Index dropping 2.75 per cent to 2,976.53.
Spreading from its epicentre in Wuhan in mainland China the deadly virus has already claimed the lives of 26 people, with a further 830 confirmed Chinese cases.
President Xi Jinping’s order for “all-out efforts” to contain the virus have resulted in the 20 million citizens of Wuhan being placed in quarantine.
The outbreak of the virus has occurred just as the Chinese prepare for the Lunar New Year celebrations. If the quarantining of cities spreads yet further, then the increase in Chinese consumer spending which this festival normally sees could not materialise.
With the virus already spreading to at least eight other countries fears have grown that other markets as well as people could suffer contagion. However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that it will not declare a Global Health Emergency at this time, which may have contributed to the Asian stock market recovery. The WHO confirmed last night that it does not recommend broader restrictions on travel or trade.
On Thursday it emerged that a scientist at John Hopkins University in the U.S. modelled a global coronavirus pandemic only three months ago. Sen Scholar Eric Toner stated: "I have thought for a long time that the most likely virus that might cause a new pandemic would be a coronavirus.” Dr Toner forecast that if a deadly coronavirus reaches a pandemic scale then up to 65 million people could die within 18 months.
The Chinese government is endeavouring to stop the virus spreading yet further, with the government of Wuhan ordering the designing and construction of a dedicated coronavirus hospital to be completed in six days’ time.