BANGKOK – Asian shares declined Thursday on pessimism about life getting back to normal soon amid the coronavirus pandemic, even as Japan prepared to let businesses reopen in some regions.
Japan's Nikkei 225 slipped nearly 0.8% in morning trading to 20,112.00. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.9% to 5,370.80. South Korea's Kospi dropped 1.1% to 1,919.48. Hong Kong's Hang Seng dipped 1.4% to 23,831.06, while the Shanghai Composite was down 0.7% at 2,877.53.
Stephen Innes, chief global strategist at AxiCorp, said markets were jittery after comments from the U.S. Federal Reserve, which set off worries about the risks of corporate failure in the U.S. and job losses.
“The roller coaster recovery continues to be the theme of the week," Innes said, noting a second wave of COVID-19 infections could be ahead if lockdowns in any part of the world are eased too quickly.
Weighing on investor sentiments was a warning from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell about the threat of a prolonged recession. Powell said the U.S. government may need to pump even more aid into the economy, which is bleeding millions of jobs every week.
Japanese government officials were preparing to announce an easing of the nationwide “state of emergency,” which has strongly requested non-essential workers to stay home.
Some regions, where infections aren't spreading too much, may get further reopened, although with some social distancing measures in place.
Japan has so far has reported 678 COVID-19 deaths, but has had no lockdown. Public discontent is brewing, but people are also worried about health risks and whether infections could start rising exponentially, as they did in New York, Brazil and elsewhere.