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Asian shares lower on pandemic concerns


The Hang Seng dropped 0.2%, Kospi was down 0.7% the S&P/ASX 200 shed 0.2%, and the Shanghai Composite index lost 0.4%

Shares were mostly lower in Asia on Wednesday after pandemic concerns snapped a four-day winning streak on Wall Street.

Rising coronavirus counts in many countries are raising the urgency to develop vaccines and treatments and setbacks in that process tend to discourage investors.

On Tuesday, independent monitors paused enrolment in a study testing the COVID-19 antiviral drug remdesivir plus an experimental antibody therapy being developed by Eli Lilly. The company said the study was paused “out of an abundance of caution.” The news followed a disclosure late Monday by Johnson & Johnson, which said it had to temporarily pause a late-stage study of a potential COVID-19 vaccine “due to an unexplained illness in a study participant.”

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 erased early losses to gain 0.2% to 23,645.81 while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong gave up 0.2% to 24,608.27. South Korea’s Kospi lost 0.7% to 2,386.54 and the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia declined 0.2% to 6,185.30. The Shanghai Composite index shed 0.4% to 3,346.53.

The Bank of Korea opted to keep its benchmark interest rate unchanged.

The International Monetary Fund in its latest update, forecast a steep fall in international growth this year as the global economy struggles to recover from the pandemic-induced recession, its worst collapse in nearly a century.

The IMF said Tuesday it expects the global economy to shrink 4.4% in 2020. That would be the worst annual plunge since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The world economy contracted by a far smaller 0.1% after the devastating 2008 financial crisis.

The scale of disruptions in hard-hit economic sectors, notably restaurants, retail stores and airlines, suggests that without an available vaccine and effective drugs to combat the virus, many areas of the economy “face a particularly difficult path back to any semblance of normalcy,” the IMF said.

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