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Markets weaker on fears of virus spread

(The Chinese epicentre of Wuhan continues to be badly affected by the new coronavirus. Photo: AFP-STR)

BEIJING, (AFP): More cases of the new coronavirus outside China along with warnings by big companies that their earnings could be hurt caused most stock markets to pull back on Friday.

“Coronavirus was back at the top of the agenda on Friday, 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 despite upbeat manufacturing survey data, after virus-linked losses in most of Asia and the United States.

As trading began in New York, the Dow Jones index had given up 0.5 percent.

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.

“European markets are following their Asian counterparts lower … with a sharp rise in coronavirus cases ensuring that risk appetite remains a key concern for traders,” said IG analyst Joshua Mahony.

“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.”

– Batch of warnings –

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 percent as South Korea confirmed 48 more cases on Friday afternoon, adding to 52 announced earlier in the day, and taking the country’s total to 204.

Tokyo closed down 0.4 percent as investors took to the sidelines ahead of a long weekend.

On the upside, Shanghai rose by 0.3 percent 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.

– Key figures around 1430 GMT –

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 0.1 percent at 7,426.39 points

Frankfurt – DAX 30: DOWN less than 0.1 percent at 13,653.89

Paris – CAC 40: DOWN 0.2 percent at 6,048.69

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.2 percent at 3,813.94

New York – Dow: DOWN 0.5 percent at 29,071.93

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 0.4 percent at 23,386.74 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: UP 0.3 percent at 3039.67 (close)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 1.1 percent at 27,308.81 (close)

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0815 from $1.0785 at 2200 GMT

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.2936 from $1.2882

Euro/pound: DOWN at 83.60 pence from 83.72 pence

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 111.83 from 112.10

Brent Crude: DOWN 2.1 percent at $58.09 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 1.7 percent at $52.97

Published Date: Friday, February 21st, 2020 | 08:05 AM

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