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Shares step back as hopes of early end to coronavirus fade

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Global shares eased on Friday, as investors were spooked by a sharp rise in the number of coronavirus cases in China this week while oil prices extended gains on hopes of more production cuts.

FILE PHOTO – Pedestrians wearing facial masks are reflected on an electric board showing stock prices outside a brokerage at a business district in Tokyo, Japan January 30, 2020. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

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TOKYO: Global shares eased on Friday, as investors were spooked by a sharp rise in the number of coronavirus cases in China this week while oil prices extended gains on hopes of more production cuts.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dipped 0.08per cent with South Korea's Kospi falling 0.25per cent while Japan's Nikkei slid 0.67per cent.

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U.S. stock futures shed 0.07per cent in Asia, after the S&P 500 lost 0.16per cent.

China's Hubei province on Friday reported 4,823 new cases, well above the levels seen earlier this month. While a record spike seen a day earlier was mostly due to new methodology used to count new infections, it nonetheless weighed on investor sentiment.

"Until Wednesday, people had been saying that you can buy shares because the number of new cases had peaked out. The reality seems to be quite different. An early end to this seems improbable," said Norihiro Fujito, chief investment strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities.

Japan confirmed its first coronavirus death on Thursday, a third case outside mainland China after two previous fatalities in Hong Kong and the Philippines.

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"Investors will surely avoid Asia for the time being and will shift funds to the U.S., geographically the most separated from the region," he said.

That meant more demand for the U.S. dollar in the currency exchange market.

The dollar's index against a basket of currencies hit a four-month high, having risen 1.8per cent so far this month.

The euro fell to as low as US$1.0834, its lowest level in almost three years, in U.S. trade on Thursday. It last stood at US$1.0840 ,

It also hit a nine-week low against the British pound and 4-1/2 year low against the Swiss franc.

The euro has been bruised also by rising political uncertainties in Germany as well as worries about sluggish growth in the region.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who had been long expected to succeed Chancellor Angela Merkel next year, earlier this week gave up her bid to run for the top job, raising more concerns about political stability in the euro zone's biggest economy.

The euro zone GDP data due later on Friday is expected show a paltry growth of 0Read More – Source