BANGKOK – Global shares mostly fell Thursday after China reported a spike in COVID-19 cases. The shock resignation of Britain's Treasury chief further knocked U.K. share prices.
China reported 254 new deaths and an increase in virus cases of 15,152, after the hardest-hit province of Hubei applied a new classification system that broadens the scope of diagnoses for the outbreak, which has spread to more than 20 countries.
The rise came as a surprise for investors, who had become more at ease because of a recent decline in the daily number of new cases. Now questions are being asked about whether the rest of China is reporting the number of infections accurately.
Worries that the recent downtrend in the number of new cases may not be sustained weighed on investors who are worried about the economic impact of the outbreak.
“The new charts of infection rates look much more worrying, and have certainly dealt a blow to the narrative that things were beginning to improve, putting the gains of the past few days in doubt," said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG.
“The market has moved from being up and down on trade war headlines to being up and down on coronavirus news, making life interesting for the short-term traders, but less so for longer-term investors."
In Europe, Germany's DAX was down 0.7% at 13,658 while the CAC-40 in France was 0.8% lower at 6.053. Wall Street was poised to open similarly lower with both Dow futures and the broader S&P 500 futures down 0.6%.
Britain's FTSE 100 index underperformed its European counterparts — dropping 1.6% to 7,416 after Sajid Javid, the country's Treasury chief unexpectedly quit on the day that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was reshaping his Conservative government.
His resignation shakes the government as it faces the challenges of negotiating a new relationship with the 27-nation European Union by the end of this year.
Earlier in Asia, In Asia, the Shanghai Composite closed 0.7% lower at 2,906.07. Hong Kong's Hang Seng slipped 0.3% to 27,730.00. Japan's Nikkei 225 closed 0.1% lower at 23,827.73, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.2% to 7,103.20. Shares were lower in Singapore, Thailand and India, while New Zealand and Taiwan rose.
Benchmark crude oil lost 16 cents to $51.01 a barrel while Brent crude oil, the international standard, lost 32 cents to $55.47 a barrel.
In the currency markets, the euro was flat at $1.0866 while the dollar fell 0.3% to 109.70 yen.