More cases of the new coronavirus outside China along with warnings by major companies that their earnings could be hurt caused most stock markets to pull back yesterday.
“Coronavirus was back at the top of the agenda yesterday, with a rising number of new cases in China and South Korea putting the fear in investors,” remarked Spreadex analyst Connor Campbell.
European markets struggled to benefit from upbeat manufacturing survey data, and closed with losses of around half a per cent. In mid-day New York exchanges, the Dow Jones index had given up 0.6%. More than 2,200 people have died from the novel coronavirus, and more than 75,000 people have been infected, mostly in China, as fear of the disease spreads worldwide.
Two more people died in Iran while infections nearly doubled in South Korea and clusters surfaced in Chinese prisons, rekindling concerns about the outbreak.
“The spread of coronavirus throughout two Chinese prisons provides another example of the dangers associated with controlling the spread of a virus in densely populated quarters,” noted IG analyst Joshua Mahony.
A batch of warnings from companies over the impact of the virus on their bottom lines — including Danish ship operator Maersk and Air France-KLM — and weaker Japanese manufacturing data also fanned anxiety.
Initial hopes that the virus would have only a short-term impact on earnings and economic growth have given way to the reluctant realisation that it could linger.
In Asia, the stock market in Seoul fell by 1.5% as South Korea confirmed 48 more cases yesterday afternoon, adding to 52 announced earlier in the day, and taking the country’s total to 204.
Tokyo closed down 0.4% as investors took to the sidelines ahead of a long weekend.
On the upside, Shanghai rose by 0.3% following central bank efforts to cushion the virus’ impact on the world’s second-largest economy.
In commodity markets, crude oil prices fell as investors anticipated a drop in Chinese demand.
China is the world’s biggest importer and consumer of oil — and prices have been particularly sensitive to the epidemic, affecting dozens of countries and territories.
Meanwhile however, demand for gold has grown as investors reduce their exposure to risk, and it was worth $1,644.30 an ounce in late trading on the London Bullion Market.
In London, the FTSE 100 closed down 0.4% to 7,403.92 points; Frankfurt — DAX 30 ended down 0.6% to 13,579.33 points and Paris — CAC 40 closed down 0.5% to 6,029.72 points yesterday.
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