By Tom Westbrook
SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Asian stock markets wobbled on Thursday while safe-havens such as the yen, gold and bonds rose as the number of new coronavirus cases and deaths in the outbreak’s epicenter jumped.
China’s Hubei province, where the virus is believed to have originated, reported 242 new deaths, double the previous day’s toll, and confirmed 14,840 new cases on Feb. 12.
The rise in the number of cases, which came as officials adopted a new methodology for counting infections, is a sevenfold increase from a day earlier.
It was not immediately clear how the new methods affected the results, nor why the death toll rose so sharply, but it seemed to dash hopes that the virus’ spread might be slowing.
E-mini S&P 500 futures turned from positive to fall 0.3% . Dow Jones futures fell by the same margin , suggesting a pause in Wall Street’s strong rally.
Ten-year U.S. Treasuries fell about 3 basis points to 1.607% , the yen strengthened past 110 per dollar and a rally in Asian currencies against the dollar halted.
MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan .MIAPJ0000PUS> was steady in morning trade but the news knocked the week’s momentum from stock markets.
“The slowdown (in cases) was the key driver of the rally in growth-exposed assets,” said Michael McCarthy, chief strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney.
“A lot of people leapt to the conclusion that we might have seen a peak…the reversal of what appeared to be good news is enough to have people scrambling for the exits.”
Japan’s Nikkei .N225> was flat while Australia’s ASX/S&P 200 index .AXJO> retreated from a record high. The Shanghai Composite .SSEC> and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng .HSI> wavered either side of unchanged.
Gold rose 0.3% to $1570.12 per ounce.
MORE FORECASTS CUT
Overnight, markets had taken comfort from the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) emergency program head describing the apparent slowdown in 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 go in any direction,” he said.
More than 1,300 people have died from the epidemic in China and the total number of cases in Hubei province now stands at 48,206.
Even before the rise in cases, economists were turning more bearish on the likely hit to China’s growth as factories idle and supply chains are upended.
Citi on Wednesday again downgraded its 2020 GDP forecast for China to 5.3%. The bank had forecast it to be 5.8% in its January outlook, before cutting it to 5.5% two weeks ago.
Morgan Stanley believes a gradual, rather than sharp recovery is the most likely scenario. That all bodes ill for regional economies and has weighed on Asian currencies and commodities.
The Australian dollar , a liquid proxy for China’s economic health because of Australia’s export exposure, retraced its recent rally and traded 0.2% softer at $0.6725.
China’s yuan was 0.1% weaker .
Rallying oil prices paused, with Brent crude up 15 cents to $55.94 per barrel, 15% below where it was before the coronavirus outbreak.
(Editing by Sam Holmes)
COVID antibodies endure over six months in China trial subjects – BNN
The amount of COVID-19 antibodies in trial subjects who received China’s experimental vaccines remained high six months after the first shots, said a top Chinese scientist, projecting confidence that the country will be among the first to produce effective inoculation against the coronavirus.
The high levels detected in volunteers who took part in the earliest clinical trials suggest that the shots are effective and can provide immunity against the virus for an extended period of time, though final-stage testing results still need to be evaluated, Zeng Guang, chief scientist of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a briefing in Beijing on Friday.
Tianjin-based CanSino Biologics Inc, which is co-developing a coronavirus shot with the Chinese military, was the first in the world to administer an experimental vaccine into healthy people in March, though Zeng did not specify which vaccine candidate he was referring to.
China now has at least 10 vaccine candidates in human trials, with four in the final stages of Phase III testing around the world.
The country’s confidence that it can deliver an effective and safe vaccine has grown in recent months. President Xi Jinping in May promised that China-developed vaccines would be a global “public good” shared by all. Supplying vaccines to other countries could help repair China’s image around the world, tarnished by its initial missteps in handling the original virus outbreak in Wuhan.
Chinese vaccine developers are now neck-and-neck with western pharmaceutical firms including AstraZeneca Plc and Pfizer Inc. in the race to deliver a viable vaccine against the novel coronavirus. With outbreaks flaring again across Asia and Europe, and governments bracing for a fresh wave in the northern hemisphere winter, pressure is mounting for immunization efforts to deliver, with a vaccine key to countries re-opening their economies safely.While testing is still underway, vaccine developers have quickly expanded production capacity to prepare to meet the overwhelming demand. China’s annual coronavirus vaccine production is expected to reach 610 million doses by end of this year and will grow to 1 billion doses by the end of 2021, Zheng Zhongwei, an official at the country’s National Health Commission, said at Friday’s briefing.
China has promised to provide vaccines for at least 62 countries, signing formal agreements with allies like Indonesia and Pakistan. Meanwhile is appears to be blocking cooperation efforts with countries with which it has tense relations, such as Canada.
Chinese vaccine frontrunner Sinovac Biotech Ltd., has said that it will give countries running its final-stage trials — Brazil, Indonesia and Turkey, among others — vaccine shots at the same time as the Chinese population.
COVID-19 testing now available in some Ontario pharmacies – Global News
TORONTO — Some Ontario pharmacies will begin offering COVID-19 tests today as the province tries to ease the burden on busy assessment centres.
Up to 60 pharmacies are offering the appointment-only tests to certain asymptomatic individuals, such as those with loved ones in long-term care homes, close contacts of a case or high-risk workers.
Meanwhile, the government announced yesterday that the province’s assessment centres will now focus on testing those with symptoms, exposure to a case and people involved in outbreak investigations.
Premier Doug Ford had previously said anyone who wanted a test could get one at an assessment centre but changed that message yesterday.
That means some people with no symptoms who are simply seeking reassurance they don’t have the virus will not be able to access testing offered by the province.
Ford is also expected to announce another part of the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan today.
Coronavirus: Ontario health officials explain COVID-19 test being used in pharmacies
© 2020 The Canadian Press
Manitoba murder trial to continue with 11 jurors after one shows COVID-19 symptoms. – Richmond News
WINNIPEG — A murder trial in Manitoba will continue with 11 jurors after one was discharged because he was showing COVID-19 symptoms.
Kane Moar is charged with second-degree murder in the 2018 stabbing death of 34-year-old Ricardo Hibi.
Deliberations were to begin Wednesday but were delayed after the juror was turned away at the courthouse and went to be tested.
The other jurors were sent home and advised to self-isolate until the man’s test results are complete.
Queen’s Bench Justice Vic Toews told the jury Thursday he received advice from public health that it is safe and prudent to continue.
Toews says even if the juror tests positive, it doesn’t mean the remaining jurors would need to self-isolate given the steps taken in court, which include physical distancing.
“It is not prudent to wait any longer,” said Toews.
Moar, 23, is accused of killing Hibi at the foster home he ran for boys.
Jury trials were suspended across the country in the spring as the justice system grappled with how to handle the pandemic.
They resumed in Manitoba earlier this month with Moar’s trial.
The court put several protocols in place. Jury selections have been held in a large convention centre, there has been physical distancing in courtrooms and masks became mandatory after an employee at the Winnipeg courthouse tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Toews said Wednesday that he was optimistic that jurors would soon hear his charge in the case before beginning deliberations on a verdict. (CTV Winnipeg, The Canadian Press)
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 24, 2020.
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