Australia stocks plummet nearly 8% as coronavirus uncertainty continues to roil markets

Stocks in Australia plummeted in early trade on Monday as fears over the economic impact of the global coronavirus outbreak continue to weigh heavily on investor sentiment.

The S&P/ASX 200 dropped 7.65% in early trade as the sectors mostly fell. The heavily weighted financial subindex dived more than 9%, with shares of the country’s so-called Big Four banks all selling off steeply: Australia and New Zealand Banking Group fell 9.61%, Commonwealth Bank of Australia dropped 8.01%, Westpac declined 10.27% while National Australia Bank slipped 10.15%.

Meanwhile, futures pointed to a lower open in Japan as they returned from a Friday holiday. The Nikkei futures contract in Chicago was at 16,320, as compared to the Nikkei 225’s last close at 16,552.83.

“The economic costs of the COVID-19 outbreak are beginning to reveal themselves,” Richard Yetsenga, chief economist at ANZ, wrote in a note. “We have substantially revised our G3 growth forecasts lower, with the US likely to record its weakest performance since 1946.”

The global coronavirus outbreak continues to spread rapidly across the world, with the number of infected now over 294,000 and more than 12,900 lives taken, according to data from the World Health Organization. 

Stateside, U.S. stock futures hit ‘limit down’ on Sunday evening, meaning they cannot fall any lower. 

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures fell more than 900 points, or 5%, to hit their “limit down” level. S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures were also down around 5%. Downside limits to futures contracts are implemented to ensure orderly market behavior. 

That came as a coronavirus stimulus bill failed a key Senate procedural vote. The number of infected in the U.S. has risen dramatically in recent weeks, with New York state alone now accounting for more coronavirus cases as compared to other countries facing challenges in managing their own caseloads such as France and South Korea.

Oil prices saw sharp declines in the morning of Asian hours on Monday as international benchmark Brent crude futures fell 6.97% to $25.10 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also dropped 5.83% to $21.31 per barrel.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was last at 102.810 after breaching the 100 level last week.

The Japanese yen traded at 110.95 per dollar after weakening from levels below 108 last week. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.574 following highs above $0.6 seen last week.

— CNBC’s Fred Imbert contributed to this report.

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