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Indian equities seen lower; hope of early end to coronavirus outbreak fade

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Mumbai: Indian stock markets are seen trending lower on Friday in line with peers. Global shares eased on Friday as investors were spooked by a sharp rise in the number of coronavirus cases in China this week, while oil prices extended gains on hopes of more production cuts.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dipped 0.08% with South Korea’s Kospi falling 0.25% while Japan’s Nikkei slid 0.67%.

China’s Hubei province on Friday reported 4,823 new cases, well above the levels seen earlier this month. While a record spike seen a day earlier was mostly due to new methodology used to count new infections, it nonetheless weighed on investor sentiment.

Japan confirmed its first coronavirus death on Thursday, a third case outside mainland China after two previous fatalities in Hong Kong and the Philippines.

Back home, the NK Singh-led Fifteenth Finance Commission (FFC) may allow states to invoke an “escape clause” to breach their mandated fiscal deficit target by half a percentage point, giving them flexibility to respond to economic shocks similar to the option available to the Centre.

Avenue Supermarts Ltd, which runs supermarket chain DMart, on Thursday said its promoters will sell up to a 2.28% stake through an offer for sale (OFS) that will fetch as much as 3,032.5 crore ($426 million).

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said that the Indian budget’s “accommodative fiscal stance” is appropriate in the weak economic scenario, but wants New Delhi to focus in the medium term on fiscal consolidation because of the growing debt levels.

The dollar’s index against a basket of currencies hit a four-month high, having risen 1.8% so far this month. The euro fell to as low as $1.0834, its lowest level in almost three years, in US trade on Thursday. It last stood at $1.0840.

It also hit a nine-week low against the British pound and 4.5-year low against the Swiss franc. The euro has been bruised by rising political uncertainties in Germany as well as worries about sluggish growth in the region.

The euro zone GDP data due later on Friday is expected show a paltry growth of 0.1%.

Sterling jumped and so did UK bond yields as investors bet on a higher-spending budget next month after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson forced the resignation of Sajid Javid as finance minister. The pound traded at $1.3045, after 0.65% gains on Thursday.

The 10-year gilts yield jumped to a three-week high of 0.660%.

The yen stayed in a familiar range of the past couple of weeks and last traded at 109.82 yen.

Oil prices extended their week-old recovery on hope that the world’s biggest producers would deepen output cuts as demand looks set for a sharp drop due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects oil demand in the first quarter to fall for the first time in 10 years.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were flat at $51.42 per barrel in early Friday trade but up 2.2% on the week, on course to post their first weekly gains in six weeks.

(Reuters contributed to the story)

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