Asian shares mostly fell Wednesday, on continuing worries about the economic fallout from the pandemic as reports of coronavirus cases keep surging in various regions.
Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 dropped 4.5% to finish at 18,065.41.
U.S. futures were lower, with the contracts for the S&P 500 and Dow industrials both down about 3%.
Adding to the damage was the Bank of Japan’s quarterly survey of business sentiment, called “tankan,” which highlighted the gloom over a likely recession. The world’s third largest economy was shrinking late last year, before the outbreak began taking its toll in February.
Sentiment among Japan’s large manufacturers fell in the January-March period, marking the fifth straight quarter of decline, according to the central bank. The tankan measures corporate sentiment by subtracting the number of companies saying business conditions are negative from those responding they are positive.
The key index, which measures sentiment among large manufacturers, fell to minus 8 from zero in October-December, the worst result in seven years. Sentiment among non-manufacturers was also dismal as the service sector, tourism and other businesses have also been hit hard by the outbreak.
Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 3.6% to 5,258.60, while South Korea’s Kospi dipped 3.8% to 1,687.97. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 2.6% to 22,989.96, while the Shanghai Composite edged 0.5% lower to 2,736.28.
India’s Sensex fell 3.4%. Shares fell in Singapore and Indonesia but rose in Malaysia and Thailand.
On Wall Street overnight, stocks plunged, closing out their worst quarter since the most harrowing days of the 2008 financial crisis.
The S&P 500 dropped a final 1.6%, bringing its loss for the first three months of the year to 20% as predictions for the looming recession caused by the coronavirus outbreak got even more dire. Stocks haven’t had this bad a quarter since the last time economists were talking about the worst downturn since the Great Depression, when the S&P 500 lost 22.6% at the end of 2008.
With the number of infections still rising in most regions, “If anything, the worst is yet to come, and some of the world’s largest emerging markets are still to feel the full onslaught of COVID-19,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst with Oanda.
The surge of coronavirus cases around the world has sent markets to breathtaking drops since mid-February, undercutting what had been a good start to the year.
But the virus outbreak abruptly put the clamps on the economy. Benchmark U.S. crude oil dropped by roughly two thirds this quarter amid expectations for weaker demand. The yield on the 10-year Treasury dropped below 1% for the first time as investors scrambled for safety, and it ended the quarter at roughly 0.67%.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average of 30 U.S. blue-chip stocks dropped 23.2% for its worst quarter since 1987.
Markets have cut their losses in recent weeks on hopes that massive aid from governments and central banks around the world can blunt the blow. The S&P 500 was down nearly 31% for the quarter at one point, but it has climbed 15.5% since last Monday.
The Fed has promised to buy as many Treasurys as it takes to get lending markets working smoothly after trading got snarled in markets that help companies borrow short-term cash to make payroll, homebuyers get mortgages and local governments to build infrastructure. Congress, meanwhile, approved a $2.2 trillion rescue plan for the economy, and leaders are already discussing the possibility of another round of aid.
Among the next milestones for investors is Friday’s U.S. jobs report, which will likely show a sharp drop in payrolls. Companies soon will begin reporting their earnings results for the first quarter. Analysts are looking for the steepest drop in profits since early 2016, according to FactSet.
The numbers may get even worse in this quarter.
The number of known coronavirus cases keeps rising, and the worldwide tally has topped 850,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. The United States has the highest number in the world: more than 188,000 people.
Most people who contract COVID-19 have mild or moderate symptoms, which can include fever and cough. But others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems may get pneumonia and need to be hospitalized. More than 42,000 people have died worldwide due to COVID-19, while more than 178,000 have recovered.
“We’re still not even close to peak coronavirus in the U.S. which has already reported more cases than any other country and will sadly likely see a huge spike in the number of deaths, meaning further lockdown measures will likely follow,” said Craig Erlam, senior market analyst at OANDA Europe. “Huge challenges still lie ahead.”
ENERGY: U.S. benchmark crude fell 42 cents to $20.06 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 39 cents to $20.48 a barrel Tuesday. Brent crude, the international standard, lost $1.02 to $25.33 per barrel.
CURRENCIES: The dollar cost 107.44 Japanese yen, down from 107.52 yen on Tuesday. The euro fell to $1.1008 from $1.1034..
AP Business Writers Stan Choe, Damian J. Troise, Alex Veiga and Pan Pylas contributed to this report.