Asia Markets: Nikkei falls as coronavirus fears rise; most Asian markets remain closed for holiday

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Stocks fell in Japan on Monday amid fears of a new viral outbreak, as most Asian markets remained closed for the Lunar New Year holiday.

The Nikkei NIK, -1.85%   was last down 1.8%. Shares of Pacific Metals 5541, -8.56%   and Fast Retailing 9983, -5.62%   sank, along with SoftBank 9984, -3.54%   and Toyota 7203, -1.42%  .

Benchmark indexes in Hong Kong, mainland China, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Australia were closed for holidays.

Global traders have been worried about the effects of the fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak in China, where the death toll rose to at least 80 Sunday, with more than 2,700 confirmed cases. Preliminary data Sunday showed the outbreak was already affecting China’s economy, as travel plunged to restrictions.

The end of the Lunar New Year holiday, China’s busiest travel season, was pushed back to Sunday from Thursday to “reduce mass gatherings” and “block the spread of the epidemic,” an official statement said, according to the Associated Press.

“Risk profiles need to be adjusted as the Wuhan frenzy factor kicks in, and risk markets enter the fear zone, a highly pandemic place in its own right,” wrote Stephen Innes, chief market strategist at AxiCorp, in a note.

“The biggest threat to the global economy is not just because the disease spreads quickly across countries through networks related to global travel,” Innes wrote. “But also, because any economic shock to China’s colossal industrial and consumption engines will spread rapidly to other countries through the increased trade and financial linkages associated with globalization.”