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South Korea jumps 3%; China reports first-quarter GDP drop on coronavirus impact

Stocks in Asia rose in Friday morning trade as investors shrugged off an official data release that showed China’s economy shrinking by 6.8% in the first quarter.

South Korea’s Kospi led gains among the region’s major markets as it surged 3.26% while the Kosdaq index added 1.35%.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 jumped 2.49% in morning trade as shares of index heavyweights Fast Retailing and Softbank Group surged more than 4% each. The Topix index also gained 1.24%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index jumped 2.25%.

Mainland Chinese stocks edged higher in early trade, with the Shanghai composite up 0.88% while the Shenzhen composite added 0.997%.

Meanwhile, shares in Australia advanced, with the S&P/ASX 200 gaining 2.41%.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index rose 2.31%.

China’s first-quarter GDP drops sharply

China’s first-quarter GDP shrank 6.8% in 2020 as compared to a year ago, according to data from the National Bureau of Statistics of China.

That was the first quarterly decline since 1992, when official quarterly GDP reports started, according to Reuters. Analysts polled by Reuters had expected China’s GDP to have fallen 6.5% from last year, a sharp drop from the 6% growth recorded in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Investors have been closely watching economic data out of China, for insight on the magnitude of the coronavirus economic impact. As the country — where the first cases of the virus were reported — attempts to bring its economy back to speed, it faces headwinds as global demand takes a hit amid the proliferation of the disease globally.

US futures skyrocket

Meanwhile, US stock futures jumped in overnight trading stateside following a report that said a Gilead Sciences drug was showing effectiveness in treating the coronavirus. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures skyrocketed 884 points, pointing to an implied gain of about 871 points at the open on Friday. S&P 500 futures and Nasdaq futures also pointed to Friday opening gains for the two indexes.

The U.S. dollar index, which tracks the greenback against a basket of its peers, was at 99.756, slipping back below the 100 barrier.

The Japanese yen traded at 107.71 per dollar, having seen levels below 107.4 earlier in the trading week. The Australian dollar changed hands at $0.6369, still off levels above $0.64 seen earlier this week.

Oil prices rose in the morning of Asian trading hours, with international benchmark Brent crude futures jumping 1.98% to $28.37 per barrel. U.S. crude futures also gained 0.2% to $19.91 per barrel.

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