27 Apr 2009

Markets mixed as fears of swine flu take hold

9:32 pm on 27 April 2009

Sharemarkets were mixed on Monday as concerns the spread of swine flu, which has killed more than 100 people in Mexico, would hit the global economy.

Travel and leisure-related stocks tumbled while the Mexican peso fell 2% against the US dollar as the World Health Organisation warned the flu, which has spread to the United States and possibly as far as New Zealand, has the potential to cause a worldwide pandemic.

Asian stocks dropped on average 2%, due partly to airline stocks falling as travel worries spread and partly to investors reducing their overall exposure to risk.

Hong Kong share prices closed 2.74% lower. The benchmark Hang Seng Index ended down 418.43 points at 14,840.42.

But New Zealand and Australia defied the trend, and Japan was slightly higher as well, thanks to investors taking an interest in pharmaceutical companies.

In New Zealand, the benchmark index was up 8 points, or 0.30%, to 2664 on turnover of $64 million.

Lion Nathan rose $4, or 38%, to close at $14.60. Telecom was up 4c to $2.63, Contact Energy gained 2c to $5.60 and Fletcher Building fell 8c to $6.24.

In Australia, the market closed moderately higher. The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index had risen 19.3 points, or 0.52%, to 3731.6, while the broader All Ordinaries was up 21.8 points, or 0.59%, at 3690.

Japanese share prices edged higher on Monday, boosted by gains on Wall Street, but buying was relatively muted given worries about corporate earnings and the swine flu outbreak.

The Nikkei-225 index rose 18.35 points, or 0.21%, to 8,726.34. The broader Topix index of all first section shares gained 3.05 points, or 0.37%, to 833.10.