Asian shares decline on jitters over new outbreaks of virus

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A worker cleans near a bank's currency advertisement board in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, May 12, 2020. Shares are lower in Asia as news of fresh outbreaks of coronavirus cases and more infections among White House staff overshadowed hopes Tuesday over reopening economies. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

BEIJING – Shares fell Tuesday in Asia as worries over fresh outbreaks of coronavirus cases overshadowed hopes over reopening economies.

Japan's Nikkei 225 lost 0.1% while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong dropped 1.8%. The lackluster start followed a mixed session on Wall Street, where gains for technology and health care stocks helped offset more prevalent losses elsewhere.

Optimism over plans for reopening in many countries after shutdowns aimed at battling the pandemic has taken some hits from reports of new waves of infections in states and countries that are further ahead in lifting lockdown measures. Investors pointed to small but disconcerting increases of infections in South Korea, China and elsewhere.

President Donald Trump insisted Monday his administration has “met the moment” and “prevailed” on coronavirus testing, even as the White House ordered everyone who enters the West Wing, apart from Trump, to wear a mask after two aides tested positive for COVID-19 late last week.

On Monday, Vice President Mike Pence and three of the nation’s top medical experts were in various states of isolation as a precaution.

“All said, risk appetite is on the wane today. And that merely acknowledges that re-opening economies is riddled with risks; struggling between the devil and the deep blue sea," Hayaki Narita of Mizuho Bank said in a commentary.

China reported that auto sales fell again in April but losses narrowed in a sign the industry’s biggest global market is recovering from the coronavirus pandemic as Beijing eases anti-disease controls. Sales of SUVs, sedans and minivans in the industry’s biggest global market were down 2.6% from a year earlier at 1.5 million, said the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, an improvement over March’s 48.4% contraction and a nearly 82% plunge in February.

The industry group said the market shows “obvious signs of recovery.”