Coronavirus: Asia stocks steady on stimulus plans

A pedestrian walks in front of a quotation board displaying the share price numbers of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in Tokyo (March 18, 2020).

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Asian stock markets steadied on Wednesday after major economies revealed details of their plans to ease the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

It came after Wall Street’s main indexes rebounded by more than 5% on Tuesday after steep falls on Monday.

In the US, the Trump administration outlined a $1 trillion (£830bn) package to support the world’s biggest economy.

At the same time the UK has revealed details of its own stimulus measures, including £330bn of business loans.

In early Asian trade, Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 was 1.4% higher, the Hang Seng in Hong was up by 0.5%, and China’s Shanghai Composite gained 1.2%.

However, overnight US stock market futures were indicating a weaker open for Wall Street.

Oil prices have also steadied after sliding on Tuesday to their lowest level in four years.

Global energy markets have been hit in recent weeks by concerns that the coronavirus pandemic will push the global economy into recession and after Saudi Arabia slashed the price of its crude in a dispute with Russia.

Earlier US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he supports sending money directly to Americans as part of a $1tn stimulus aimed at averting an economic crisis caused by the coronavirus.

“We’re looking at sending cheques to Americans immediately,” he said.

The $250bn in cheques are part of a huge aid package which the White House is discussing with Congress.

A $1tn aid package – roughly the size of the entire UK budget – would be larger than the US response to the 2008 financial crisis, amounting to nearly a quarter of what the US federal government spent last year.

The UK government has also unveiled a package of financial measures to shore up the economy against the coronavirus impact.

It includes £330bn in loans, £20bn in other aid, a business rates holiday, and grants for retailers and pubs. Help for airlines is also being considered.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak told a news conference that it was an “economic emergency. Never in peacetime have we faced an economic fight like this one.”

In Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is reportedly forming a panel of key economic ministers and Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda to discuss measures to prop up an economy hit by the fallout from the coronavirus epidemic.

The move would put Japan in line with nations across the globe preparing measures to combat the impact of the coronavirus that has pushed economies around the world towards recession.


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