Japan stocks surge 3% as hopes rise on slowing coronavirus spread

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Stocks in Asia jumped in Tuesday morning trade on rising hopes as the spread of the global coronavirus pandemic appeared to slow.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 surged 3.09% in early trade while the Topix index gained 2.66%. Over in South Korea, the Kospi rose 2.18% as shares of industry heavyweight Samsung Electronics jumped 2.57% after the firm said its first-quarter profit was likely $5.2 billion, slightly above expectations. 

Meanwhile, the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia gained 2.1%. The Reserve Bank of Australia is set to announce its interest rate decision at about 12:30 p.m. HK/SIN on Tuesday.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index traded 0.73% higher.

Investors watch for developments on the coronavirus pandemic, with markets on Monday jumping on signs that the coronavirus outbreak’s spread may be slowing. Data over the weekend showed a slowing in the number of daily U.S. coronavirus cases, although it is still too early to determine a lasting trend. Death tolls in some of the world’s coronavirus hot spots, including Spain and Italy, also showed signs of easing.

In a note dated April 6, BK Asset Management’s managing director of foreign exchange strategy Kathy Lien said “risk sentiment is improving,” citing factors such as a slowing pace of the daily death toll in Spain and France as well as new confirmed cases in New York rising at a slower pace.

“These trends suggest that lockdown measures are ‘working’ but it is still too early to tell if these improvements are sustainable,” Lien warned. “Hospitalizations tend to be lighter over the weekend and in some countries in Asia where it seemed like the curve flattened, new cases are cropping up.”

Globally, more than 1.3 million people have been infected by the coronavirus while at least 74,169 lives have been taken, according to data compiled by John Hopkins University.

Overnight stateside, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed 1,627.46 points higher at 22,679.99 while the S&P 500 gained 7% to end its trading day at 2,663.68. The Nasdaq Composite soared 7.3% to close at 7,913.24.

Oil prices jumped after their Monday drop. In the morning of Asian trading hours on Tuesday, international benchmark Brent crude futures rose 2.09% to $33.74 per barrel while U.S. crude futures added 3.18% to $26.91 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 100.743 following its rise from levels below 100 last week. 

The Japanese yen traded at 109.06 per dollar after seeing levels below 108 in the previous trading week. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6115 after rising from levels below $0.602 yesterday.

What’s on tap for Tuesday:

  • Australia: Reserve Bank of Australia’s interest rate decision at 12:30 p.m. HK/SIN

— CNBC’s Yun Li contributed to this report.

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