Asian shares extend losses as toll from pandemic surges

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A man walks by an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Monday, March 30, 2020. Asian shares started the week with further losses as countries reported surging numbers of infections from the coronavirus that has prompted shutdowns of travel and business in many parts of the world.(AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

BANGKOK – Asian shares started the week with fresh losses as countries reported surging numbers of infections from the coronavirus that has prompted shutdowns of travel and business in many parts of the world.

Japan's benchmark dropped almost 4% and other regional markets were mostly lower. Shares in Australia rose after the government promised more recession-fighting stimulus.

U.S. futures fell slightly more than 1% and oil prices also were lower.

Monday's drop followed a decline of more than 3% on Wall Street on Friday despite hopes that a $2 trillion relief bill would ease the economic havoc brought by the pandemic. The S&P 500 still gained 10.3% last week, its biggest weekly win since 2009. The Dow Jones Industrial Average's 12.8% weekly gain was its biggest since 1938. But the market is still down 25% from the peak it reached a month ago.

The U.S. pandemic relief bill approved by the Congress and signed Friday by President Donald Trump includes direct payments to households, aid to hard-hit industries like airlines and support for small businesses. Despite the help, analysts expect markets to remain turbulent until the outbreak begins to wane.

“Sentiment once again took a turn for the worse going into a week of reckoning by means of economic fundamentals," Jingyi Pan of IG said in a commentary. “The rally seen for Wall Street last week may amount to little more but a relief rally with sentiment turning sour once again going into a fresh week."

Early Monday, Tokyo's Nikkei 225 dropped 3.7% to 18,680.72 and the Kospi in South Korea lost 2.3% to 1,678.51. The Shanghai Composite shed 1.6% to 2,728.65, while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong lost 1.8% to 23,070.19.

Australia's S&P/ASX 200 added 2.3% to 4,955.70 as the government prepared to announce fresh economic support measures for businesses.