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Stocks in Asia mixed as investors continue to weigh impact of coronavirus

Stocks in Asia were opposite involved on Friday as the number of coronavirus cases in mainland China rose to more than 800, with the death chime increasing to 25.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index recovered from an earlier slip, rising 0.15% to about early at 27,949.64.

The Nikkei 225 in Japan was largely flat, with shares of index heavyweight Fast Retailing declining 0.43%. The Topix table of contents, on the other hand, shed 0.1%.

Meanwhile, shares in Australia rose, as the S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.2%.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan measure was 0.17% higher.

The moves came as investors continue to watch the situation surrounding a fast-spreading coronavirus that was beforehand diagnosed less than a month ago. The total number of coronavirus cases in China jumped to 830, Chinese ceremonial media reported on Friday. There are at least 14 known cases outside mainland China, bringing the actions worldwide to 844.

Major markets across the region such as China and South Korea are closed on Friday ahead of the Lunar New Year that starts on Saturday.

“As Chinese across the overjoyed usher in the ‘Year of Rat’, fears of contagion of the coronavirus have caused domestic Chinese and global markets in general to evolve into jittery,” Venkateswaran Lavanya, an economist at Mizuho Bank, wrote in a Friday note. “So far, the 25 lives claimed and some 830 receptacles of infection is a source of worry; but panic is premature as evolving impact of the coronavirus remains to be seen.”

“The Chinese government is a lot numberless transparent this time and providing much more timely updates but at the same time we also feel that the virus site is still at it’s initial stage,” Becky Liu, head of China macro strategy at Standard Chartered Bank, told CNBC’s “Terrace Signs” on Friday. “It remain(s) difficult to tell … how bad the situation would be.”

The coronavirus epidemic in China has brought back tributes of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2002 and 2003, which killed about 800 child.

“Compared with SARS … we do feel that this round of the situation is likely to be better, but the transparency would also acceptable to bring a bit more panic to the market in the foreseeable future,” Liu said.

Currencies and oil

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its outs, was last at 97.711 after seeing lows below 97.6 yesterday.

The Japanese yen, often seen as a safe-haven currency in patches of economic uncertainty, traded at 109.49 per dollar after strengthening sharply from levels above 110 seen earlier in the calling week.

The Australian dollar was at $0.6844 after seeing highs above $0.687 yesterday.

Oil prices rose in the afternoon of Asian have dealing hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures 0.32% higher at $62.24 per barrel. U.S. crude futures wake up 0.31% to $55.76 per barrel.

— CNBC’s Berkeley Lovelace Jr. and Dawn Kopecki contributed to this report.

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