Investor fears about the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak appeared to ease after Fed chair Jerome Powell's comments to Congress members

Hong Kong (AFP) - Markets in Asia-Pacific rose on Wednesday following another positive lead from Wall Street with investor sentiment mixed about the immediate and long-term impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

The virus, officially named COVID-19 on Tuesday, has spooked markets around the world, having killed more than 1,100 people and infected tens of thousands since it emerged in central China at the end of last year.

Tokyo’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index closed 0.7 percent higher, Shanghai ended the day up 0.9 percent, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was up 0.9 percent at the close.

Sydney gained 0.5 percent and Singapore rose 1.2 percent. Seoul, Taipei, and Wellington were also higher.

The positive trade followed fresh record closes by the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq in New York on Tuesday.

“Despite the doom and gloom being shown in the real economy, Asian equity markets are a sea of green today. COVID-19 fears have been shrugged off, with regional markets preferring to follow Wall Street’s lead,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst for Asia-Pacific at OANDA.

“Unfortunately, seas of green are often associated with algal blooms, which tend to suffocate all life in the water within them. The rallies of the past two days should be approached with caution.”

In early European trade on Wednesday, London rose 0.2 percent, Frankfurt added 0.4 percent and Paris was up 0.3 percent.

- Crude recovery -

Traders reacted positively to cautious comments from the US Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell on the new coronavirus – which has spread to more than two dozen countries and has been declared a global health emergency.

The Fed boss told Congress members on Tuesday that the central bank was closely monitoring the virus and that its impact could spill over to the world economy, but the assessment was not as gloomy as many had expected.

China, the world’s second-largest economy, is looking to recover momentum after authorities extended the Lunar New Year break in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.

But millions of people remain in lockdown in many cities, where transport has also been severely restricted – disrupting supply chains for key industries, including smartphones and cars.

There are expectations that Beijing will introduce major stimulus policies to offset the hit to the economy.

There are concerns about how the outbreak will impact not only China’s overall economic growth, but also the bottom lines of many multinational firms.

The production lines of major auto makers such as GM and Hyundai have already been disturbed, and there are fears that airlines and the hospitality and tourism sectors will also take a hit.

Many countries have imposed travel bans and quarantine requirements, and major carriers have suspended or dramatically cut back on flights to and from mainland China.

Aviation consultancy Ascend by Cirium said this week that the impact on the industry could be worse than during the 2002-03 SARS outbreak.

After tumbling on fears of decreased demand from China, the world’s largest importer and consumer of oil, crude prices continued their recovery.

Both main contracts were up on Tuesday, with Brent Crude jumping 2.0 percent and West Texas Intermediate gaining 1.4 percent.

- Key figures at 0830 GMT -

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 0.7 percent at 23,861.21 (close)

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: UP 0.9 percent at 27,823.66 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: UP 0.9 percent at 2,926.90 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0921 from $1.0903

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2968 from $1.2955

Euro/pound: UP at 84.22 pence from 84.16 pence

Dollar/yen: UP at 109.96 from 109.85

Brent Crude: UP 2.0 percent at $55.09 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 1.4 percent at $50.66 per barrel

London - FTSE 100: UP 0.2 percent at 7,514.76

New York - S&P 500: UP 0.2 percent at 3,357.75 (close)

New York - Nasdaq: UP 0.1 percent at 9,638.94 (close)

New York - Dow: FLAT at 29,276.34 (close)