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James Hyerczyk

The major Asia Pacific stock indexes closed higher on Wednesday as investors continued to downplay the impact of the coronavirus on the global economy. Buyers may have been driven by reports of a slowdown in the spread of the virus, and comments from a top coronavirus official, who said the outbreak is likely to peak by the end of March.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 Index settled at 23861.21, up 175.23 or +0.74%. South Korea’s KOSPI Index finished at 2238.38, up 15.26 or +0.69% and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index closed at 27823.66, up 239.78 or +0.87%.

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China’s Shanghai Index settled at 2926.90, up 25.22 or +0.87% and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 Index finished at 7088.20, up 32.90 or +0.47%.

Experts Clash over Coronavirus Outlook

While Chinese health officials said the situation was under control, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned the epidemic posed a global threat potentially worse than terrorism.

China’s foremost medical adviser on the coronavirus outbreak, Zhong Nanshan, said on Tuesday numbers of new cases were falling in some provinces and forecast the epidemic would peak this month.

“I hope this outbreak or this event may be over in something like April,” Zhong, and epidemiologist whose previous forecast of an earlier peak turned out to be premature, told Reuters.

The world must “wake up and consider this enemy virus as public enemy number one,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters on Tuesday, adding the first vaccine was 18 months away.

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Japan’s SoftBank Shares Surge on Sprint/T-Mobile Merger Decision

On Wednesday, SoftBank’s shares surged to their highest price in seven months, buoyed by news that a U.S. federal judge had rejected an antitrust challenge to the proposed takeover of subsidiary Sprint Corp. by T-Mobile US Inc.

SoftBank saw its shares open 12.5% higher in Tokyo on Wednesday, ending the morning trade up 13.7% at 5,843 yen.

SoftBank Group Quarterly Profit Wiped Out by Vision Fund Losses

Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp said on Wednesday its third-quarter operating profit fell 99%, well short of analyst estimates, pulled down by a second consecutive quarter of losses at the $100 billion Vision Fund.

RBNZ Leaves Rates Unchanged, Issues Hawkish Policy Statement

The RBNZ held rates at record lows on Wednesday, as expected, but sounded more confident on the economic outlook and dropped previous references to the chance of future cuts, sending the Kiwi soaring. The central bank also raised the forecast path for rates this year to 1%, from 0.9% previously, removing the chance of a cut.

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