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Australia: Shares battered as pandemic fears mount; NZ down
[SYDNEY] Sell-offs in Australian shares deepened on Wednesday as the rapid spread of coronavirus beyond China sparked fears that the outbreak could turn into a pandemic that could derail the global economy.
The S&P/ASX 200 index fell 2.3 per cent, or 158.50 points, to 6,708.10, its lowest close in nearly two months. It has lost 6.3 per cent in the past four sessions.
During the same period, MSCI's World Index, a market cap-weighted stock market index of 1,644 stocks from companies throughout the world, saw its total value fall by US$3 trillion to US$42.98 trillion.
Fears of a global pandemic deepened after Asia reported hundreds of new coronavirus cases, the United States warned of an inevitable pandemic, and outbreaks in Italy and Iran spread to other countries.
The flu-like virus, which is believed to have originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year, has infected about 80,000 people and killed more than 2,700, the vast majority in China.
On Tuesday, a World Health Organization expert said countries need to prepare immediately for an outbreak of the virus so they can respond rapidly when it arrives.
In Australia, selling was broad-based, with 185 of the 200 stocks on the benchmark index closing in the red.
Financial stocks were the biggest drag, down 2 per cent, with the "Big Four" banks declining between 1.7 per cent and 2.1 per cent.
New Zealand's benchmark S&P/NZX 50 index slipped 1.6 per cent, or 185.37 points, to finish the session at 11,533.86.