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Stock markets on edge amid fears of coronavirus turning into global pandemic

Stock markets on edge amid fears of coronavirus turning into global pandemic
A surge in COVID-19 cases outside China has sent stock markets across the world into a tailspin, with major global indices plunging into correction territory.

Stocks in Asia, the continent with the highest number of confirmed cases globally, have all tumbled, as investors were scrambling for safety in recent days.

Both China's Shenzhen composite and Shenzhen component dropped nearly 5 percent each on Friday. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index fell more than 2.5 percent.

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Japanese stocks also saw major declines, with the Nikkei 225 plunging almost four percent to 21,142.96 and the Topix index also down around four percent to 1,510.87.

South Korea's Kospi slid 3.3 percent to 1,987.01, while the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia fell 3.25 percent to close at 6,441.20.

In Thailand, the market has even fallen more than 20 percent from its 52-week high into bear market territory.

Overall, the MSCI Asia ex-Japan index dropped 2.71 percent.

In Europe, markets immediately plunged at the trading opening on Friday.

The pan-European Stoxx 600, which tracks shares across the continent, pummeled about 2.7 percent. The FTSE 100 also took a dive, falling around 3.3 percent, with similar drops on the top Italian and Spanish indices. German DAX was down almost four percent, while French CAC fell 2.7 percent.

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US stocks are expected to open sharply lower on Friday after the biggest single-day drop during the previous day's trading, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1,190 points.

"I think what's happening right now is the concern for investors is that they believe that this epidemic is probably, you know, getting to a stage where it could become a global pandemic," Chetan Seth, Asia Pacific equity strategist at Nomura, told CNBC on Friday.

New cases of the novel coronavirus continued to surge outside of China, which on Friday announced 327 new cases and 44 deaths. South Korea reported 256 more confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus on Friday morning, bringing the national total to 2022.

Countries from New Zealand to Belarus confirmed their first cases, among almost 50 nations now afflicted. Infections have soared in Europe and the Middle East, while the first known case in sub-Saharan Africa was confirmed in Nigeria.

In the US, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced the state is monitoring 8,400 people for coronavirus after the first US infection case of unknown origin was confirmed.

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