Coronavirus latest: European markets cut losses in tumultuous trading


US stock futures turn positive

US stock futures have turned positive on another day of volatile trading that has seen sentiment shift rapidly through the trading session. European markets have also recovered some of their earlier steep losses to trade around 1 per cent lower. 

The skittish pre-market pattern in US stock futures is “typical of a market tug of war” between still-worrying fundamentals and the technical reflex to buy the dip after a sharp sell-off, said Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic adviser to Allianz.

“Unfortunately, this morning’s updates on the coronavirus still go against the comforting notion of a transitory shock,” he added in a tweet. 

Call for greater European cooperation

Miles Johnson in Rome reports:

Stella Kyriakides, European Commissioner for Health, said that greater collaboration between European countries was needed to tackle the continent’s coronavirus outbreak as the infection count in Italy rose to 374 and a twelfth person in the country died from the virus.

“Diverging approaches across the EU should be avoided, and this is why the Commission stands ready to coordinate among member states should this be necessary,” she said at a press conference in Rome alongside Italy’s health minister and the European head of the WHO.

“We are facing a situation where there are still many unknowns about this virus, and in particular its origin and how it is spreads,” she said, adding that the Commission was involved in on the ground support to gather more information about the spread of the virus.

We must be alert to misinformation and disinformation as well as xenophobic statements that are misleading citizens and putting into doubt the work of public authorities.

Hans Kluge, European regional director of the WHO, said it was important that people did not panic, and that the WHO was “making every effort possible” to coordinate a global response to the outbreak.

“There is no need for a panic and there must be trust for what the health authorities in Italy are doing,” he said.

My message to the Italian people is to take the measures to protect yourself by adhering to the guides from you local health authorities, and to stay safe while traveling.

US oil marker WTI slumps below $50 a barrel

A key measure of the price of oil has dropped to its lowest level since January 2019 as the coronavirus shutdown slows global economic growth and sends crude prices tumbling.

West Texas Intermediate, the US oil benchmark, dropped more than 1 per cent to as low as $49 a barrel this morning, its weakest in 13 months and 25 per cent off the highs it reached last month.

The coronavirus outbreak is on the verge of reaching pandemic status, having spread to 40 countries, with more than 81,000 cases confirmed and over 2,700 deaths.

China, the world’s biggest crude importer, has implemented large scale lockdowns, with millions of people quarantined and industrial activity has taken a significant hit.

Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, warned yesterday that global oil demand growth had dropped to its lowest level in a decade and said the virus could yet lead to further decline.

Analysts at ING said:

Concerns over the rising number of Covid-19 cases outside China continue to weigh on sentiment, and market participants are likely to remain cautious until there is a sign of a peak in of cases outside China.

Brent crude – the international oil benchmark – was down 1.5 per cent at $54.10 a barrel in late morning trade in London and is also down 25 per cent since early January. It fell as low as $53.11 earlier this month.

EU warns of rising economic risk from virus

Mehreen Khan reports from Brussels:

The EU’s economics commissioner Paolo Gentiloni has warned the coronavirus outbreak represents a growing “downside” risk to Europe’s economy.

Speaking to journalists this morning, the Italian commissioner said it remained “too soon to qualify the impact” of the outbreak for the global and European economy.

Brussels’ health commissioner is in Rome today and will hold a press conference with Italian authorities.

“It is a rapidly evolving situation which we will continue to monitor closely,” added Mr Gentiloni.

Mr Gentiloni also responded to calls from Italy’s deputy economic minister for more flexibility from the EU in abiding by Brussels budget rules.

The former Italian prime minister said there were already clauses in the Stability and Growth Pact rules to allow for flexibility in “extraordinary circumstances” and these have been used in the past by Italian governments to cope with earthquakes.

“That will be discussed over the next months … bearing in mind the conditions of how these clauses are used,” said Mr Gentiloni.

Vienna school evacuated on virus fears

Sam Jones reports from Zurich:

A secondary school in central Vienna has been evacuated after a teacher fell ill with a suspected case of the novel coronavirus.

The teacher had recently travelled to northern Italy, Austria’s Krone newspaper reported on Wednesday. Medical authorities have yet to ascertain whether the teacher has the infection.

Vienna police confirmed the precautionary shutdown of the school. Pupils have been sent home and parents told to isolate them until further notice. The Bundesgymnasium Albertgasse is located in Vienna’s downtown Josefstadt district, which abuts the Ringstrasse in the centre of the city.

Austrian authorities are also expected to reveal later today whether the death yesterday of a 56-year-old Italian woman in the province of Carinthia was the result of the virus, known as Covid-19. The woman — who was visiting Austria on holiday from north east Italy — had displayed coronavirus-like symptoms.

Austrian authorities have been taking a hard approach to containing the disease. Interior minister Karl Nehammer said forced quarantines and lockdowns would be selectively used should further cases emerge. Guests at a luxury hotel in Innsbruck are already in quarantine after the hotel’s receptionist was confirmed as one of the country’s first two cases of the viral infection yesterday.

Sell-off challenges market narrative

European and US stocks are teetering on the verge of correction territory — typically defined as a 10 per cent slide from peak levels — as another day of heavy selling shakes global markets.

The outbreak of the virus is a challenge to investors’ prevailing narrative that there has been no alternative other than to keep ploughing money into equities this year, strategists at Barclays said.

“Equities are coming back to earth fast,” the bank’s equities strategists said in a note to clients on Wednesday. “Inflows and rising hedge fund exposure have led stocks higher, even as other asset classes have shown rising risk aversion.”

Equities had been bid up to all-time highs in the US and Europe, but the latest sell-off realigns stocks with macro-economic fundamentals such as manufacturing surveys, the strategists added.

FTSE 100 erases gains for the 21st century

London’s blue-chip stock index has now erased all of its gains for this millennium thanks to the coronavirus fuelled sell-off.

The FTSE 100 was recently 1.1 per cent lower, sending it below its level on December 31, 1999. It is not all bad news though, the stock market has still more than doubled since the lows it hit during the dot-com bubble crash and financial crisis.

Four children diagnosed with virus in Italy

Miles Johnson reports from Rome:

Four children have tested positive for the coronavirus in the northern Italian region of Lombardy.

The region’s health minister Giulio Gallera said a 4-year-old girl was hospitalised, while two 10-year-old boys and a 15-year-old boy had been diagnosed with the virus.

Mr Gallera said the virus was more dangerous for the elderly, which so far make up all of Italy’s 11 dead, than children.

The virus “has a much more serious effect on elderly people who have previous pathologies,” he told Italian television.

Iranian deaths rise to 19

Najmeh Bozorgmehr reports from Tehran:

Iran’s health ministry said on Wednesday that the number of fatalities in the country had risen to 19 — from 15 one day before — out of 139 people infected with the disease. The latter stood at 95 on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, six more provinces have reported infections which means 19 out of 31 provinces are now affected by Covid-19.

Kuwait cases jump to 18

Ahmed Al Omran reports from Riyadh:

Kuwait said the number of coronavirus cases in the Gulf state has risen to 18 after confirming six new cases this morning.

The Ministry of Health said in a statement to the official news agency that all the new confirmed infections are connected to people who travelled to Iran.

It added:

All reported Covid-19 cases are in good health and receiving medical treatment at a hospital equipped to deal with coronavirus cases.

France reports second coronavirus death

A second person infected by the novel coronavirus has died in France, according to a Reuters report.

The country’s health authorities said a 60-year old French man in a serious condition had been tested late on Tuesday and died overnight.

The man was one of three new cases confirmed in France, bringing the total number of infections reported there to 17.

Investor complacency dislodged

George Efstathopoulos, multi asset portfolio manager at fund manager Fidelity International, believes the complacency hanging over markets has been finally shattered by the spread of the virus outbreak.

In our view, the volatility isn’t as surprising as the fact that it took so long to rear its head. However, the recent swings indicate the complacency that appears to have settled over markets during the earlier stages of the outbreak has been dislodged.

US futures turn lower as rout intensifies

European stocks and US futures have tumbled, as the rout that has gripped global markets intensified with few signs that the outbreak of coronavirus is coming under control.

Stock markets across Europe fell nearly 3 per cent, sending the regional benchmark Stoxx 600 index to its lowest level since December. The index has now lost more than 9 per cent of its value over the past week as investors dump stocks and move into traditional haven assets.

US futures pointed to falls of more than 1 per cent at the open in New York, following a sharp sell-off in the first two days of trading this week. The S&P 500 dropped 3 per cent on Tuesday, bringing its losses to 7.6 per cent since hitting a record high last Wednesday and erasing a total of $2.1tn in market value.

Case numbers surge outside China

The number of reported infections outside China has risen sharply in recent days, with South Korea particularly badly hit. The latest non-China infection and death figures are as follows.

South Korea: 1,261 cases, 12 deaths
Italy: 322 cases, 10 deaths
Japan: 70 cases, 10 deaths
Iran: 95 cases, 16 deaths

Steve Bernard, interactive design editor, has mapped the increase:

Wuhan doctors call for urgent reinforcements from abroad

Primrose Riordan reports from Hong Kong:

Doctors in Wuhan urgently need international help, two Chinese medical staff named Yingchun Zeng and Yan Zhen said in an emotional letter published by medical journal The Lancet this week.

The two staff said nurses have “pressure ulcers on their ears and forehead” from wearing facial masks and shields, were fainting from physical and mental exhaustion and their mouths are “covered in blisters” due to the long hours in the wards.

The two staffers, who said there were major equipment shortages, wrote:

We feel helplessness, anxiety, and fear . . . we need much more help. We are asking nurses and medical staff from countries around the world to come to China now, to help us in this battle.

Stocks in fresh slide as virus fears grow

South Korea starts mass testing religious sect as cases soar

Edward White and Kang Buseong report from Seoul:

South Korean officials said Wednesday they had started mass testing of more than 200,000 members of a quasi-religious sect believed to be at the heart of an outbreak of coronavirus hitting Asia’s fourth-largest economy.

The country, the worst hit by the virus outside of China, is on edge with 12 deaths and 1,261 people with confirmed infections after hundreds of new cases were reported by the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday.

Most of the new cases continue to be located in Daegu, the country’s fourth-biggest city, which has been at the centre of the outbreak in the country. In Daegu, most infections have been linked to a pseudo-Christian sect, known as the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, and a hospital at the neighbouring town of Cheongdo.

The number of confirmed cases is expected to rise in the coming days; tests of almost 32,000 people have been carried out and a further 20,716 are under way.

Seoul has promised to test all of the 215,000 members of the Shincheonji sect after receiving a list of the group’s members and amid rising public anger over the group’s role in spreading the disease. However, there is also mounting criticism of Moon Jae-in, the president, because his government has not restricted travel to the country from China despite other countries blocking Chinese travellers in recent weeks.

Earlier on Wednesday, US Forces Korea confirmed that a US soldier had tested positive for coronavirus in South Korea, in the first confirmed case for the US military. The US has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea to support the country against a potential attack from North Korea and the announcement came a day after the US and South Korea said they were considering scaling back joint military exercises on the Korean peninsula owing to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

Markets Insight: Investors remain complacent despite sell-off

Nouriel Roubini writes for FT Opinion:

Investors are deluding themselves about how severe the coronavirus outbreak will be. Despite this week’s big sell-off in equity markets, the worst is yet to come.

Until this week, the market reaction to the virus has been mild — after a dip in late January, US and global equities rallied to new highs. This complacency was based on a number of flawed assumptions.

First, that the epidemic would be contained mostly to China, rather than becoming a global pandemic. Second, that it would be contained and peak before the end of the first quarter, thus limiting the economic damage to China and the global economy. Third, that the growth path would be V-shaped, with a strong rebound in the second quarter and beyond. Fourth, that policymakers — both monetary and fiscal — would take strong early actions to support economies and markets, if things were to weaken significantly.

It is becoming clear that this is a global pandemic rather than a China-focused epidemic. And we do not know yet how many other countries in Asia and other parts of the world will experience a severe outbreak of the virus — most likely many more.

Read the full piece here.

Nouriel Roubini is professor of economics at the Stern School of Business, NYU and Co-Founder of Rosa & Roubini Associates

EmoticonGlobal sell-off intensifies

European stocks are sliding in the first hour of trading, with the Stoxx 600 index recently off 1.5 per cent. The regional benchmark has now lost more than 8 per cent of its value since the record highs it touched one week ago.

US stock futures had been pointing to a stable open on Wall Street later in the trading day, but have now also turned lower.

Esty Dwek, head of global market strategy at Natixis Investment Managers, said the recent spread of cases in Japan, South Korea and Italy has raised concerns “the impact to growth could be broader and last longer than initially anticipated.”

South America’s first possible case as man tests positive in Brazil

Persis Love reports:

The first possible case of coronavirus has been reported in South America, pending the results of a retest before being confirmed, Brazil’s health ministry has announced.

After returning from northern Italy last week, the patient admitted himself to hospital in Sao Paulo yesterday showing symptoms of a fever, cough, sore throat and cold. The hospital carried out tests for Covid-19 and sent the samples to a national lab for a second set of results before the case is declared official.

The patient, a Sao Paulo resident aged 61, had been on a work trip in Lombardy, where the coronavirus cases in northern Italy are concentrated.

Medical workers say Bali unprepared for Covid-19 outbreak

George Hammond writes:

Bali is severely underprepared to cope with an outbreak of coronavirus, medical workers on the Indonesian island have warned.

Should the virus spread to Bali, local hospitals are ill-equipped to deal with it, according to doctors interviewed by the FT. “There’s a lack of facilities and I pray we won’t be infected,” said Ni Ketut Pande Sri Widnyani, senior doctor at Sanjiwani Gianyar hospital. “Right now we’re not up to the required standard,” she said of the hospital.

Bali has a population of 4m and is a hugely popular holiday destination, with tourism accounting for 80 per cent of the local economy.

To date, no cases have been confirmed in Indonesia, but the credibility of that reporting has been questioned by some international experts, given the country’s roughly 270m population and close ties to China.

Mainland Chinese made up around a fifth of the more than 6m international visitors to Bali last year, many of them from Wuhan, the city at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak. A large number of Indonesians also work in China.

“As a major destination for visitors from China we would expect to see infected patients,” said Ian Mackay, a virologist at Queensland University in Australia.

Read Stefania Palma and Febriana Firdaus’ report on the island here.

Lufthansa looks to cut costs as cancellations bite

German airline Lufthansa has grounded 13 aircraft following the cancellations of parts of its schedule in response to the virus.

The carrier, whose shares have fallen 15 per cent over the past week, has cancelled all flights to and from the Chinese mainland, and also trimmed its service to Hong Kong following lower passenger demand.

The group – which also operates Swiss and Austrian Airlines as well as its flagship brand – has moved to lower staffing costs following the disruption. The airline has announced it is offering all employees unpaid leave and exploring the expansion of part-time work options.

It is too early to estimate the expected impact on earnings, Lufthansa added.

Number of cases passes 81,000

The number of people infected by the novel coronavirus continued to rise overnight, pushing past 81,000. More than 2,700 people have now died, though the number of people reported to have recovered has also increased.

Steve Bernard, Interactive Design Editor, has mapped the figures:

Six new cases announced in Spain

Daniel Dombey reports from Madrid:

The spread of Coronavirus has increased in Spain, with six cases announced on Tuesday, almost all of them of people who had recently been in Italy.

The cases included a 24-year-old man in Madrid, a woman in Barcelona, a third case in the Valencia region, and the wife and two friends of an Italian doctor on holiday in Tenerife whose infection had been announced the previous day.

Before this week, there had been just two cases of coronavirus in Spain, neither of them on the mainland.

Austria hotel put into lockdown after receptionist tests positive

Sam Jones in Zurich

Police have imposed an indefinite lockdown on a 5-star hotel in Innsbruck, Austria, after it emerged that one of the country’s two confirmed coronavirus cases had worked there as a receptionist.

Guests at the Grand Hotel Europa have been told they cannot leave or re-enter the hotel, a 108-room venue in the centre of the city, capital of the Tyrol region and one of Austria’s most popular winter sports hubs.

“No one can get in and out of the hotel to make sure that if other infected people are staying in the hotel, the virus won’t be spread,” Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer told a press conference on Tuesday evening.

“All these measures have one purpose – to stop the virus and its spread. There is no reason to panic,” he said.

Mr Nehammer added he could not rule out authorities imposing further quarantines in other areas where cases are found.

Both of the individuals infected by Covid-19 in Austria are 24-year-old Italians, in a relationship, and are currently in an isolation ward in an Innsbruck hospital.

It is thought one of them had recently travelled to northern Italy, where they came into contact with the disease.

EmoticonEuropean stocks fall following Wall Street sell-off

European stocks have fallen for a third straight day, rejoining a global sell-off sparked by escalating concerns over the impact of the coronavirus.

The regional Stoxx Europe 600 index fell 0.8 per cent, taking its losses this week to more than 6 per cent. There were similar losses across the major financial capitals in continental Europe, while London’s FTSE 100 traded at its lowest levels in over a year as it fell 0.4 per cent.

US futures pointed to moderate gains at the open, suggesting investor sentiment is at least stabilising following a run of heavy selling and rush into haven assets. The yield on the benchmark US 10-year Treasury note rose two basis points off its all-time record lows to 1.35 per cent.

Danone trims 2020 sales growth goal because of outbreak

Leila Abboud reports from Paris:

Danone has scaled back its sales growth and profit margin targets for 2020 as the coronavirus dents demand in China, its second-largest market, and it embarks on a €2bn spending plan to reduce its reliance on non-recycled plastic packaging and cut carbon emissions.

The maker of Evian bottled water and Alpro plant-based yoghurts said on Wednesday that it would aim for 2-4 per cent comparable sales growth this year, instead of the earlier target of 4-5 per cent.

The health crisis in China will shave off about €100m in sales in the first quarter mostly from the bottled waters business, and delay some new product launches in baby formula.

Meanwhile, Danone’s operating margin is expected to reach more than 15 per cent this year, below the 16 per cent or above it had earlier promised.


Diageo to take profit hit of up to £200m from virus

Diageo, the world’s biggest spirits maker, has warned the coronavirus outbreak will knock its profits this year by up to £200m – around 5 per cent of last year’s total – as much of its Asian market goes into lockdown.

The drinks group behind Johnnie Walker whisky, Smirnoff vodka and Tanqueray gin said that trade had dried up in China, the heart of the outbreak, where bars and restaurants have been closed and there has been a “substantial reduction” in banqueting.

In other Asian markets – notably South Korea, Japan and Thailand – trade has also been hit as events have been postponed, conferences and banquets have been reduced and tourism has dropped off.

As a result, the group expects a negative impact on net sales of £225m to £325m, and a £140m to £200m hit to operating profit.

Europe: what you missed

An American soldier in South Korea has been infected with coronavirus, in the first confirmed case within the US military. The news came a day after the US and South Korea said they were considering scaling back joint military exercises on the Korean peninsula owing to concerns about the spread of the virus, which has so far reported 12 deaths and 1,146 cases in the Asian country.

Asia-Pacific stocks are lower for the third day in a row, following a sharp sell-off in the US yesterday. Most benchmarks in the region have now erased any gains for the year.

Hong Kong is launching a HK$10,000 handout for residents over the age of 18, in a move designed to stimulate an economy weakened by protests and the coronavirus. The measures are expected to cost HK$71bn and benefit around 7m people.

Japan, which is still expecting to host the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo this summer, has asked that professional sports matches and music concerts be cancelled or delayed over the next two weeks. The move is designed to control the spread of the virus.

Health authorities in China reported 52 new deaths from coronavirus up to the end of Tuesday, with all fatalities in Hubei province, the centre of the outbreak. That took the total number of deaths to 2,715. There have been a total of 78,064 cases in the country.

Kuwait suspends flights to Singapore and Japan

Simeon Kerr reports from Dubai

Kuwait has suspended flights to Singapore and Japan in the latest measure to stem the spread of coronavirus as the number of infections from those returning from neighbouring Iran rises to 11.

The Gulf state said late on Tuesday that any Kuwaitis returning from these two countries, which have reported new virus cases, would be quarantined and non-Kuwaitis would not be allowed to enter.

The measures mirror similar decisions made by Kuwait regarding travel to and immigration from other epicentres of the virus, including South Korea, Thailand and Italy. Kuwait’s land border with Iraq has also been closed to limit the spread of the virus.

Gulf states are scrambling to limit their exposure after reporting a surge of infections from Iran, where the number of deaths has risen to 16, the largest number outside of China.

Bahrain has registered 26 cases, all of whom arrived from Iran via Dubai and Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. The tiny kingdom on Wednesday closed universities and training centres for two weeks as a precautionary measure.

The number of cases in Oman has risen to four.

The UAE, which on Tuesday barred flights to Iran for at least a week, has reported 13 cases, three of whom have recovered. The UAE’s cases include Chinese tourists and visitors from Iran.

The state-owned carrier of Qatar, which has not reported any cases, will for two weeks from Wednesday reduce the frequency of its service to Iran’s capital and suspend flights to Mashhad, Shiraz and Isfahan. Qatar Airways also said it would operate flights to South Korea with a smaller aircraft.

Coronavirus “brings renewed uncertainty” – Hong Kong stock exchange

Primrose Riordan reports from Hong Kong

Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing acknowledged the coronavirus “brings renewed uncertainty” to the region as it reported what it said was its highest ever revenue in 2019.

The increase in revenue came despite major protests last year in the city which tipped the territory into recession.

The exchange said its revenue was 3 per cent higher on the previous year to HK$16.3bn (US$2bn) in 2019, in line with estimates, while it had a 1 per cent increase in profit attributable to shareholders, to HK$9.39bn, slightly below analyst forecasts.

“Very strong Stock Connect revenue, a buoyant IPO market and good returns from investments offset macro-driven softness in trading volumes in the Cash and Derivatives Markets,” HKEX chief executive, Charles Li, said.

The exchange said there had been an 18 per cent drop in the average daily trades of equity products last year compared to 2018.

HKEX says they had 183 companies list in 2019, which raised $314.2 billion – a 9 per cent increase on the year before.

Japan set to delay sports matches and concerts

Robin Harding reports from Tokyo

Japan is requesting the cancellation or delay of professional sports matches and concerts for the next two weeks in an effort to control the spread of coronavirus.

Speaking at a meeting of the government’s anti-virus task force, prime minister Shinzo Abe said: “The next one or two weeks are crucial to preventing the spread of the virus, so considering the infection risk of sporting and cultural events that bring large crowds together, we request that they be cancelled, postponed or greatly reduced in size for the next two weeks.”

The government request comes a day after it launched a new anti-virus strategy, focused on slowing and containing the spread of the disease, rather than preventing it altogether. Japan now has 157 cases, excluding evacuees from China.

So far, Japan has insisted that this summer’s Tokyo 2020 Olympics will go ahead as planned, but the request to postpone sporting events sets a precedent that could be invoked if the virus is still circulating in the summer.

Coronavirus fears knock Asia stock markets

Hudson Lockett reports from Hong Kong

Asia-Pacific stocks sold off for a third day on Wednesday as concerns mounted that the spread of coronavirus could escalate into a pandemic, pushing most benchmarks in the region into the red for 2020.

The falls for Asian equities followed a second day of sharp falls for global stocks, with the S&P 500 shedding 3 per cent as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned it was likely the virus would cause a pandemic that could cause “severe” disruptions to daily life.

Tokyo’s Topix fell 0.8 per cent, taking it almost 7 per cent lower in 2020, while in Seoul a fall of 1.1 per cent for the Kospi index left it down more than 5 per cent for the year to date. On Wednesday China’s CSI 300 index of Shanghai- and Shenzhen-listed stocks dropped as much as 1.5 per cent, briefly erasing its gains for the year before walking back losses to be flat at the end of the morning session.

In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index dropped 0.5 per cent as the government announced a slew of stimulus measures and warned that the virus could further weigh on the city’s already battered economy.

Sydney’s S&P/ASX 200 index tumbled 2 per cent, leaving it up just 0.6 per cent for the year and one of the only major stock benchmarks in the region not in the red this year.

Coronavirus sparks new Singapore-Hong Kong rivalry

The rivalry between Asia’s two main international financial hubs usually centres on business and finance. But since the coronavirus outbreak, Hong Kong and Singapore’s competition has acquired a new dimension — their ability to deal with epidemics.

Read our full coverage here.

EmoticonHong Kong announces $1,200 handout for residents

Hong Kong’s finance secretary announced a HK$10,000 ($1,283) handout for residents to boost local consumption following months of protests and the hit to the economy from coronavirus.

In his budget on Wednesday, Paul Chan said the government would give permanent residents above the age of 18 the funds to relieve financial burdens. He added that the measure would cost HK$71bn and benefit around 7m people.

“The social incidents in the past months and the novel coronavirus epidemic have dealt a heavy blow to Hong Kong’s economy,” Mr Chan said, referring to anti-government protests that took off in June.

Mr Chan expects the city’s economy to contract by 1.5 per cent to 0.5 per cent in 2020.

Coronavirus spread threatens global recession – Moody’s Analytics

Coronavirus threatens to spark US and global recessions in the first half of 2020 if it becomes a pandemic, according to Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.

Mr Zandi estimates the chance of a pandemic has now risen to about 40 per cent from 20 per cent previously as “the chance that the virus will be contained to China appears increasingly tenuous.”

The number of cases of the virus reported in China have been falling, but outbreaks in South Korea and Italy have highlighted the potential for Covid-19 to spread quickly among populations outside China.

“The coronavirus has been a body blow to the Chinese economy, which now threatens to take out the entire global economy. A global recession is likely if COVID-19 becomes a pandemic, and the odds of that are uncomfortably high,” Mr Zandi said.

Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned the public to prepare for a coronavirus outbreak in the US. “The current global circumstances suggest it is likely this virus will cause a pandemic,” she said.

Moody’s Analytics forecasts that if the outbreak remains contained to China and is under control by the spring then the country’s economy will contract in the first quarter, while full-year growth will be cut by a full percentage point to 5.4 per cent.

Under that scenario, the US economy will see 1.3 per cent growth in the first quarter, down 0.6 percentage points because of the virus.

Emoticon

US soldier tests positive for virus as South Korean cases soar

By Edward White, Song Jung-a and Kang Buseong in Seoul

A US soldier has tested positive for coronavirus in South Korea, in the first confirmed case for the US military.

A 23-year-old man is in self-quarantine at a residence off-base having visited two army camps in South Korea in recent days.

“KCDC and USFK health professionals are actively conducting contact tracing to determine whether any others may have been exposed,” the US Forces Korea said in a statement.

The announcement came a day after the US and South Korea said they were considering scaling back joint military exercises on the Korean peninsula owing to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. The US has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea to support the country against a potential attack from North Korea.

The number of confirmed coronavirus in South Korea continued to soar as testing efforts were ramped up. The country, one of the worst hit by the virus outside of China, has reported 12 deaths and 1,146 people with confirmed infections after reporting 169 new cases on Wednesday morning, according to the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Almost all the new cases reported on Wednesday came in Daegu, the country’s fourth-biggest city, which has been at the centre of the outbreak in the country. In Daegu, most cases have been linked to a pseudo-Christian sect, known as the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, and a hospital at the neighbouring town of Cheongdo. But there is also some criticism that the government has not acted swiftly enough to follow other countries in blocking travellers from China.

The number of confirmed cases is expected to rise in the coming days. Tests of almost 30,000 people have been carried out and a further 16,700 are underway. The government has promised to test all of the 215,000 members of the Shincheonji sect.

“It still looks like the tip of the iceberg … More draconian measures are needed to stop the spread of the virus,” said Kim Woo-joo, a professor of infectious medicine at Korea University Guro Hospital.

China reports 52 deaths from coronavirus

Health authorities in China reported 52 new deaths from coronavirus up to the end of Tuesday, with all fatalities in Hubei province, the centre of the outbreak. That took the total number of deaths to 2,715. The country had reported 71 deaths for the previous day.

There were 406 new cases of the virus in the mainland on Tuesday, taking the total number to 78,064. There were 508 reported cases on Monday.

Virgin Australia forecasts $50m hit from low demand

Jamie Smyth reports from Sydney

Virgin Australia Group has warned the coronavirus outbreak could cost it A$50-75m ($33m-$49.5m) in the six months to end June due to weaker demand, prompting the struggling carrier to slash flight capacity and restructure its fleet.

Australia’s second biggest airline said on Wednesday it would retire 12 aircraft by October 2020 to cut costs, a move which would reduce overall flight capacity by 3 per cent in 2020 and 5 per cent in 2021.

“The coronavirus outbreak is having a significant effect on the travel industry and we are also seeing weaker domestic and international demand,” said Paul Scurrah, Virgin Australia chief executive. “We are responding to this with immediate steps to minimise impact to the Group’s financial position.”

Virgin unveiled the shake-up as it reported an A$88.6m loss after tax for the six months to end 2019, compared to a profit of A$73.8m in the same period last year.

Asia stocks fall after Wall Street sell-off

Stocks in Asia-Pacific dropped on Wednesday morning, following on from a sharp sell-off on Wall Street on a warning over the spread of the coronavirus in the US and new cases in Europe.

South Korea’s Kospi fell 1.6 per cent as the number of cases in the country neared 1,200, while the Topix in Japan was down 1.5 per cent and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was down 2 per cent.

Wall Street fell for the second consecutive day on Tuesday as US health officials warned Americans to prepare for the spread of coronavirus. The S&P 500 tumbled 3 per cent, taking its losses since a record high last Wednesday to 7.6 per cent. S&P 500 futures appeared more steady, rising 0.4 per cent.

Officials at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned of the need to prepare for person-to-person transmission in the US and said it was no longer a question of if the virus would spread in the country, but when and how many people would be affected.

Gold, which is seen as a haven in times of uncertainty was up 0.5 per cent at $1,643 an ounce. The yield on 10-year US Treasuries was a touch higher after a rush to the safety of government debt pushed it to a record intraday low on Tuesday.

“The potential economic impacts [from coronavirus] remain highly uncertain,” ANZ said in a note. “Reduced trade and people flows, workplace absenteeism, supply chain disruption, and the impact on consumer and business sentiment are all going to weigh on growth.”

Italy quarantines a dozen cities in coronavirus outbreak


The Italian authorities has placed a dozen cities in the north of the region below emergency quarantine after the range of described coronavirus bacterial infections topped 100 on Sunday, in the largest outbreak of the virus so significantly in Europe.

Italian key minister Giuseppe Conte introduced on Saturday that people really should not go away impacted cities in the northern locations of Lombardy and Veneto unless of course they experienced distinctive permission general public gatherings and situations were being suspended and some faculties and universities will close.

Among the towns in Lombardy impacted are Codogno, Castiglione d’Adda and Casalpusterlengo. Citizens in all a few cities, which lie to the south-east of Milan, ended up explained to to continue to be indoors on Friday right after 6 coronavirus scenarios had been diagnosed.

On Sunday the Italian authorities introduced that the total infection rely experienced arrived at 132 89 of the conditions are found in Lombardy where two aged persons have died in the outbreak.

Other cases consist of 24 in Veneto, two in Emilia-Romagna and just one reported scenario each individual in Lazio and Piedmont. Ansa, the Italian newswire, reported on Sunday that there ended up suspected but unconfirmed instances in Milan and the area of Umbria.

The particular measures have been enforced across an location with a population of about 50,000 folks. Residents have been instructed by the Italian governing administration to continue to be in their properties and the country’s civil safety company has handed an crisis decree. All those who crack the instruction possibility fines or imprisonment.

A person wearing a face mask rides a bicycle in the town of Codogno, which has been closed by the Italian government due to a coronavirus outbreak in northern Italy, February 23, 2020. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo
A bicycle owner putting on a encounter mask rides throughout an pretty much vacant street in Codogno © Flavio Lo Scalzo/Reuters

Milan mayor Giuseppe Sala reported on Sunday that he had requested all schools in the town to shut for a 7 days, and many huge Italian corporations, like the lender UniCredit, have instructed workforce in the affected cities to not appear into do the job.

Numerous Serie A football fixtures, which include Inter Milan’s match towards Sampdoria, have been suspended.

Manner designer Armani mentioned it would hold an vacant show in Milan on Sunday, the remaining working day of the city’s vogue 7 days the occasion will in its place be livestreamed on the net. MIDO, the world’s greatest eyewear trade honest, which is thanks to get position in Milan at the stop of February, claimed it was suspending the function until June as a end result of the outbreak.

Authorities in Veneto were documented to be considering suspending the Venice Carnival, which is now having place.

Mr Conte explained Italy had adopted “rigorous and meticulous controls” just after two Italian citizens in their late seventies died from the infection.

Luca Zaia, regional governor of Veneto, stated the speedy spread of the virus showed that nearby-to-area transmission experienced transpired and it would no for a longer period be enough to check out to isolate travellers from China to stem the outbreak.

Giulio Gallera, a Lombardy councillor for welfare, tried to serene concerned locals.

“The information we want to give is that in the space of the outbreak, the measures taken are effective and favourable,” he instructed reporters. “The intention is to comprise the scenario as substantially as probable.”

Additional reporting by Reuters

Coronavirus latest: China vows to ‘liquidate’ virus by end of March



Israel confirms first case of virus

Ilan Ben Zion reports from Tel Aviv:

Israel’s Health Ministry has said that testing of the eleven citizens evacuated back to the country from the Diamond Princess cruise ship found that one woman has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The case marks the first case in Israel. The remainder of the group tested negative.

The group of eleven Israelis landed at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport earlier this morning on a government-chartered flight after being evacuated off the Diamond Princess in Japan.

Upon arrival, paramedics transported the arrivals to a nearby hospital for a two-week quarantine at a special isolation facility. Four other Israeli nationals who were aboard the cruise ship and contracted coronavirus remain hospitalised in Japan.

Hubei chief seeks to block more case revisions

Yuan Yang in Beijing reports:

Hubei’s provincial party secretary has pushed to block more revisions to the coronavirus figures and requested officials to add back the cases that were removed.

The directive from Ying Yong follows a week in which several adjustments were made, mostly without explanation, to the reporting methodology in Hubei, the province in China where the virus was first detected.

The provincial health commission deputy head defended the adjustments as in line with national guidelines.

Mr Ying was appointed last week to lead Hubei province as part of the national government’s attempt to present a fresh front on the push to contain the Covid-19 virus. His announcement may yield another surge in cases in the coming days, if officials take heed.

Commodities poised for sell-off, Goldman says

Henry Sanderson in London reports:

Commodities are poised for a sell-off once they price in the disruption to global supply chains due to the coronavirus, Goldman Sachs has said.

The virus has created the “largest disruption to commodity-related activity” since the financial crisis yet commodity prices have risen on hopes of stimulus, according to the bank’s analysts.

“The promise of stimulus has led to commodities acting like equity markets, in our view, ignoring the physical realities of the disruption today,” said analyst Jeff Currie.

Goldman said supply and demand is “out of balance in nearly every market” and it expects “significant downside risks to commodity prices” before Chinese stimulus later this year.

“The recent rally however, is overdone,” it said.

In contrast, gold is likely to rise to $1,750 a troy ounce as investors look for portfolio diversification, Goldman said. If the disruption from the virus stretches on into the second quarter, it could go even higher to $1,850, the bank said.

Mr Currie added:

The bottom line is we still see gold as a strategic allocation to protect a portfolio from geopolitical risks such as the current outbreak, de-dollarization and negative real yields.

Eurozone manufacturing decline eases even as virus hits supply chains

All through the European morning we have been bringing you survey data on the health of the single-currency economy. Investors are watching this closely, and the news has been better than expected.

Data for the eurozone has shows a regional drop in manufacturing activity eased in February, despite the impact of the virus.

“To the extent that markets and forecasters were coming into this release with fears of a virus hit, those fears have been convincingly dispelled, at least for now,” said Claus Vistesen, chief eurozone economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, said the region’s economy picked up momentum “despite many companies having been disrupted in various ways by the coronavirus”. He added the impact of the disease had caused supply problems, and showed some signs of hitting travel and tourism numbers.

The key figures are for regional powerhouse Germany. While its headline PMI figures improved, signs of the impact from the virus lingered.

The slower pace of decline in German factory activity was largely due to new domestic orders, while foreign orders fell markedly, and at their fastest rate for three months in February. Indeed, goods producers reported “a slump in both exports and sentiment, linked to the impact of the coronavirus on activity in China and the wider region”, according to the report.

Ingram Pinn: Supply and demand

Companies grappling with the supply chain disruptions include Apple supplier Foxconn, Samsung, which has begun flying electronic components for its latest Galaxy phones from China to its factories in Vietnam, and LG Electronics.

Pearson to face hit from closed universities and test centres in China

Pearson said the coronavirus outbreak would have a commercial impact on the educational publisher, with some universities and testing centres in China closed in recent weeks in order to contain its spread, writes Mark Di Stefano in London.

Outgoing chief executive John Fallon made the comments during Pearson’s annual results on Friday, which showed the company had reported a drop in sales exacerbated by results from its struggling US textbook business.

Mr Fallon predicted there would be a “short term” commercial impact on Pearson’s profits, although any impact would be limited as China makes up just 3 per cent of the company’s revenues.

With schools, universities, testing centres closed through until the end of March that will have some short-term commercial impact.

People can carry on learning from home because of Pearson’s online capabilities and partnerships with Chinese technology companies, he added.

We are not looking to make a short-term commercial advantage from that.

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German manufacturing slowdown eases

It is a busy morning for investors hoping to quantify the impact of the coronavirus on the European economy, with a steady drip of surveys released this morning.

The news from Germany’s manufacturing sector was better than feared. The PMIs – surveys of industry executives – showed a slump in German manufacturing activity eased in February, although factory activity was lodged in contraction.

The flash PMI figures, based on about 80 per cent of responses, offer one of the first significant snapshots of how companies are dealing with the economic fallout from the deadly Covid-19 that has claimed more than 2,200 lives and disrupted supply chains.

France’s manufacturing data however was less rosy. The euro traded 0.3 per cent higher against the dollar following that (relatively) strong performance in Germany.

South Korea declares ‘special zones’ as outbreak deepens

South Korea has declared a major city and its neighbour “special care zones” in an attempt to contain one of the worst outbreaks of the coronavirus outside China.

The emergency measures, in which authorities have told citizens of Daegu and Cheongdo to confine themselves to their homes, came as authorities in China reported a sharp rise in patients in Beijing and as three Chinese provinces revealed outbreaks in their prisons.

Read more from Song Jung-a in Seoul.

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Coronavirus disrupts manufacturing activity in France

Valentina Romei writes:

Manufacturing activity in France slumped to a seven-month low in February, weighed down by disruption related to the outbreak of coronavirus.

France’s IHS Markit purchasing manager index for manufacturing dropped to 49.7 in February, down from 51 in the previous month and below the 51.3 forecast by economists polled by Reuters. This was the lowest reading in seven months.

Eliot Kerr, economist at IHS Markit, said:

Automotive sector weakness, the prolonged discontinuation of Boeing 737 Max production and supply-chain issues related to the coronavirus, all negatively impacted on French manufacturers in the latest survey period.

However the slip in manufacturing activity was compensated by the resilience of the services sector, with a PMI reading that rose to 52.6 in February from 51 in the previous month, pushing the composite index, an average of the two sector, up to 51.9 from 51.1 in the previous month.

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China ambassador to Russia says virus ‘will be liquidated’ by March end

Henry Foy in Moscow reports:

China will eradicate the coronavirus on its territory by the end of March, the country’s ambassador to Moscow has told Russian lawmakers.

“We can win a complete victory over this virus,” Zhang Hanhui said at a meeting with Ivan Melnikov, first deputy speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament.

“Outside of Hubei, in other regions, we can win this victory already this month. And in the centre of the epidemic, the disease will be liquidated next month,” he said, in remarks published by Russian state news agencies.

“Today, more than 18,000 people have been discharged from hospitals. In many provinces and regions, except the central part, there have been no new infections for more than 10 days. In Hubei, especially in Wuhan, the number of infected people is decreasing,” Mr Zhang said, adding that the virus’ mortality rate in Hubei was around 2 per cent, and just 0.55 per cent in the rest of the country.

Nissan and Honda push back China plant restarts again

Kana Inagaki reports from Tokyo:

Nissan and Honda have once again delayed the restart of some of their plants in China as the coronavirus outbreak continues to disrupt global car supply chains.

Honda said it now expects to suspend production at its three plants in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the centre of the deadly outbreak, until March 10 and plans to resume production sometime after March 11, in compliance with guidance from local authorities.

The company said it does not expect disruptions to plants outside of China but warned the impact would start to be felt elsewhere if the restart in Wuhan is substantially delayed from mid-March.

Meanwhile, Nissan said it would keep its plants near the centre of the outbreak closed after February 24 — the day it had hoped to resume production — and did not provide a new date for reopening. The carmaker did, however, restart its operations at its plant in the northeastern city of Dalian.

Nissan had earlier reduced production at its plants in Japan due to issues with procuring components from China.

Israel evacuates 11 citizens from Diamond Princess

Ilan Ben Zion reports from Tel Aviv:

Eleven Israelis evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan landed at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport early Friday morning on a government-chartered flight.

Upon arrival, paramedics transported the arrivals to a nearby hospital for a two-week quarantine at a special isolation facility.

Four other Israeli nationals who were aboard the Diamond Princess and contracted coronavirus remain hospitalized in Japan.

Sheba Medical Center director Professor Yitshak Kreiss told Israel’s Army Radio the facility is treating them “as if they have a high chance of contagion, but they may all turn out negative”.

Israel has had no confirmed cases of the coronavirus. Earlier this week the country’s health authorities adopted strict regulations to help prevent the disease’s spread. The interior minister barred entry to foreign nationals who had spent time in China, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Macau in the past two weeks, and the health ministry ordered Israelis returning from those countries to undergo a two-week home quarantine.

Health ministry spokesman Eyal Basson said that as of Thursday, over 500 Israelis had been ordered to do a period of home isolation after returning from East Asia.

With the third national elections in under a year less than two weeks away, and people under self-quarantine barred from leaving their homes, Basson said the health ministry is “in the process of drafting guidelines allowing those in home isolation to vote”.

Citic Bank and AIBank give hot pot chain Haidilao $298.5m loan

China’s Citic Bank and AIBank will loan hot pot chain Haidilao Rmb2.1bn ($298.5) to help it weather the coronavirus outbreak after the group temporarily shut its restaurants.

AIBank, a joint venture between Citic Bank and technology company Baidu, praised Haidilao on its WeChat account for not laying off any of its 100,000 employees and for donating tens of thousands of do-it-yourself hot pot sets to hospitals in Hubei province.

Haidilao suspended operations in mainland China on January 28. It said on February 2 that the suspension would continue to “support the epidemic prevention and control”.

The bank said it had decided to provide support to the chain after seeing the “big love” from Haidilao in the face of the challenge from the outbreak. The restaurant group likened the loan to sending charcoal in snowy weather.

Hot pot involves cooking pieces of meat or vegetables into a communal pot of broth.

Haidilao shares are down 7 per cent from a mid-January peak.

Taiwan reports 2 new coronavirus cases

Kathrin Hille reports from Taipei

Taiwan reported two more confirmed cases on Friday, bringing its total count to 26.

The two new cases are the 20-year-old granddaughter and the daughter of case 24, a woman in her 60s for whom it remains unclear how she was infected.

The two latest cases mark Taiwan’s second family cluster infection in less than a week.

China expects sharp fall in trade on coronavirus disruptions

Sue-Lin Wong reports from Hong Kong

China’s exports and imports will fall sharply in January and February due to disruptions from the coronavirus outbreak, the country’s commerce ministry said on Friday.

The public health emergency has prevented many businesses from restarting operations after the lunar new year holiday and has disrupted the country’s supply chain, said Li Xingqian, director of the ministry’s foreign trade department, according to Chinese state media.

Europe: what you might have missed

There were more revisions for coronavirus figures from Hubei, the centre of the outbreak, as the province added 220 previously unrecorded cases from its prison system. That took the overall number of new cases to the end of Thursday to 631 from 349 a day earlier.

The number of new deaths in China from the virus was 118, level with the previous day and taking the total deaths to 2,236.

Coronavirus cases were recorded in prisons in Shandong and Zhejiang provinces in China’s east.

New clusters of cases in Beijing and a jump in the number diagnosed in South Korea to 156 unnerved investors. South Korea’s Kospi was down 1.5 per cent in afternoon trading and gold, which is seen as a haven at times of uncertainty, rose to its highest in more than seven years at $1,629 an ounce.

An international airline body has warned that a fall in demand and flight cancellations triggered by coronavirus could take $29bn off revenue for carriers in 2020.

Hubei adjusts coronavirus count to add 220 prison cases

Hubei province, the centre of the coronavirus outbreak, restated the number of cases of the virus up until Thursday to include 220 cases previously unaccounted for in its prisons.

That takes the total number of new cases in Hubei to 631 on Thursday against the previous day’s tally of 349.

The governments of Shandong and Zhejiang on Friday announced 229 cases in their prisons.

Beijing sees sharp increase in coronavirus cases

Sue-Lin Wong reports from Hong Kong

A hospital in central Beijing has reported a sharp increase in the number of coronavirus patients, with 36 suspected cases as of Thursday.

Eight medical staff, nine cleaners and 19 patients at Fuxing Hospital in Beijing’s Xicheng district are suspected of having been infected with the virus, the city’s government said on Thursday.

The district ranks second behind Wuhan for “infection density” measured as the number of confirmed cases per square kilometre, according to Global Times, a Chinese state media tabloid.

There are also three confirmed cases at Peking University People’s Hospital, also in Xicheng district.

Coronavirus cases surge among inmates in two China prisons

Don Weinland reports from Beijing

Two prisons in China reported sudden surges in cases of coronavirus on Friday.

The government of Shandong province in eastern China said on Friday morning that it had recorded 202 new cases in the province a day earlier, 200 of which were at a prison in the city of Rencheng, according to local media.

Separate reports said that officials in Zhejiang province on Friday morning also acknowledged 27 new cases in Shilifeng prison. The prison had previously reported seven cases.

It was unclear why the two provinces, hundreds of kilometres apart, both reported serious outbreaks at prisons at the same time.

At a press conference on Friday morning, a senior provincial official, Yu Chenghe, admitted that the sudden surge in cases at the Rencheng prison “reflected that we did not grab the outbreak situation tightly enough”.

Asia stocks slip after jump in S Korea coronavirus cases

Hudson Lockett reports from Hong Kong

Stocks fell in Asia on Friday as the number of coronavirus cases in South Korea soared, with a drop in US treasury yields underscoring investor concerns over the economic fallout of the outbreak.

South Korea’s benchmark Kospi index dropped 1.2 per cent, making it the worst performer in the region as authorities confirmed the number of cases in the country had surged to 156.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dropped 1 per cent, while China’s CSI 300 was down 0.1 per cent.

Havens benefitted from the risk-off sentiment, with gold rising 0.3 per cent to $1,623 per ounce and yields on 10-year US Treasuries falling 2 basis points to 1.499 per cent, dropping below 1.5 per cent for the first time in nearly six months. Bond yields fall as prices rise.

Analysts at Nomura estimated China’s official manufacturing PMI could drop to a range of 30 to 40 in February, from 50 in January. Readings below 50 indicate contraction.

The analysts added that “markets might underestimate the scale of the current growth slump”.

South Korea vows ‘strong and swift’ measures to combat disease

Song Jung-a reports from Seoul

South Korea’s prime minister, Chung Sye-kyun, has vowed to take “strong and swift” measures to prevent further spread of the coronavirus amid growing concerns that the outbreak is spiralling out of control.

The country on Friday reported 52 new cases of the Covid-19 virus, including 33 cases traced to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu, about 235km south-east of Seoul. The spike in new cases has brought the total number of people infected in South Korea to 156, according to Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mr Chung declared Daegu and Cheongdo as “special care zones” as a cluster of new cases were reported there in recent days. Daegu is South Korea’s fourth-largest city and home to 2.4m people. Daegu mayor Kwon Young-jin has asked citizens to not travel, while Mr Chung has pledged to concentrate state support to the region by supplying more hospital beds, medical personnel and equipment.

“The government has so far focused on curbing infections coming from outside the country. From now on, the government will further prioritise preventing the virus from spreading locally,” Mr Chung said.

The Seoul city government said on Friday it would ban public rallies in the central business district and close down Shincheonji’s churches in Seoul. It would also temporarily shut more than 3,000 public welfare facilities across the capital.

More infections are likely to be reported by Shincheonji followers. Daegu city authorities said on Friday that more than 400 church members of 3,000 surveyed were showing symptoms.

Tracking the coronavirus outbreak

Steven Bernard on the FT’s data visualisation team has crunched the latest numbers on the coronavirus outbreak. More than 76,000 people globally have been infected with Covid-19, while the death toll has climbed above 2,200.

See more here

China reports 118 new coronavirus deaths

Health authorities in China recorded 118 new coronavirus deaths to the end of Thursday, taking the overall figure to 2,236. That was in line with the figure from a day earlier.

There were 889 new cases across mainland China, taking the total to 75,465. The number was higher than the previous day’s figure, when 394 cases were recorded after some cases were removed following negative laboratory tests for the virus.

Airline body warns of $29bn loss for carriers over coronavirus

A fall in demand for air travel sparked by coronavirus could result in a $29.3bn hit to global airline revenues in 2020, according to an industry body.

The International Air Transport Association forecasts airlines in the Asia-Pacific region could lose $27.8bn in revenue with Chinese airlines losing $12.8bn in the domestic market alone.

Two-thirds of Chinese passenger planes have been grounded as a result of the virus and passenger numbers fell 70 per cent from January 27 to February 12, compared to a year earlier, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

It forecasts a 13 per cent full-year fall in passenger demand in Asia-Pacific for 2020 in what its director general expects to be a “very tough year for airlines”.

“The estimated impact of the Covid-19 outbreak also assumes that the centre of the public health emergency remains in China,” Iata said. “If it spreads more widely to Asia-Pacific markets then impacts on airlines from other regions would be larger.”

US and European airlines have cancelled flights to China, while Singapore Airlines has scaled back flights across its network up until the end of May. Qantas Airways has reduced flights to Asia, citing weak demand.

The estimates are based on how the Sars outbreak hit air travel in 2003, when demand dropped for six months but then saw an “equally quick recovery”, Iata said.

Hubei records 115 new deaths from coronavirus

Alice Woodhouse reports from Hong Kong

Hubei, the Chinese province at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak, reported 115 new deaths to the end of Thursday, taking its total to 2,144. Provincial health authorities said there were 411 new cases, up from the previous day’s tally of 349. The case tally dropped sharply this week after hundreds of clinically diagnosed cases were ruled out following laboratory testing.

There were 319 new cases in Wuhan, the city where the virus was first found, down from 615 a day earlier.

Two Diamond Princess passengers test positive in Australia

Alice Woodhouse reports from Hong Kong

Australian health authorities said two passengers who were evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan have tested positive for coronavirus.

The country evacuated 164 people from the ship in Japan after they tested negative for Covid-19 and did not show any symptoms before the flight.

Australia’s department of health said six people showed minor respiratory symptoms or fever and that they had been separated from the wider group.

More than 600 passengers on the vessel tested positive for coronavirus and two have died. The Diamond Princess was held in quarantine in Japan, but the virus spread through the ship.

The Australians were evacuated from the ship and held in quarantine in Australia for 14 days. Several other countries have arranged evacuations for their nationals.

Coronavirus hottest: Impact strikes businesses and economies as demise toll exceeds 2,000


Drop in site visitors to Hong Kong underscores developing financial woes

Hong Kong has described a sharp fall in the range of people arriving from mainland China and abroad, underscoring the hefty toll the coronavirus outbreak has experienced on the territory’s economic system.

The selection of people from mainland China tumbled to just 643 on Monday, when compared with nearly 37,000 on January 24, the earliest day in which data are readily available on the Hong Kong Immigration Section web site.

Hong Kong’s final decision, successful February 8, to force all persons getting into from mainland China to endure a obligatory 14 day quarantine activated an instant and steep drop in the number of men and women arriving from the mainland.

Would-be site visitors coming from other international locations have also shunned the metropolis — 1 of the world’s money capitals and a gateway for a lot of to other elements of Asia. Whole visits by those people coming from abroad registered just 2,368 on Monday, a tenth of the January 24 count.

Customer quantities to Hong Kong had by now fallen substantially on the effects of months of often violent protests that frightened absent vacationers from the mainland and elsewhere.

The figures on the tumble in modern months corroborate anecdotal accounts of citizens and guests who say shops, eating places and public transit continue being significantly fewer busy than standard for this time of 12 months. Travellers who enter by means of the airport are subject to temperature checks and recurring bulletins warning of fines for individuals who are not truthful in disclosing their journey historical past.

Hong Kong has verified 62 instances of Covid-19, with two individuals owning died of the illness. The second loss of life, a 70-yr-previous, was documented on Wednesday.

The tumble in visitor arrivals underscores the financial pain that the Covid-19 outbreak has already caused for Hong Kong. Vacationers expended some HK$328bn ($42bn) in 2018, in accordance to the city’s tourism board.

Hong Kong’s “high dependence” on tourism earnings — the sector accounts for 9.4 for every cent of gross domestic solution — is a person rationale Hong Kong “stands as the most vulnerable overall economy in Asia ex-Japan to Covid-19”, according to economists at Nomura. They notice that tourism from mainland China accounts for 78 per cent of the tourism industry’s contribution to GDP.

The Japanese lender expects the Hong Kong overall economy to contract 4.5 for every cent in the to start with quarter from the very same period final calendar year. That would mark a 3rd-straight quarter of contraction for an economy that was now reeling from clashes among protestors and police and US-China trade tensions.

Analysts at Moody’s, the scores agency, additional: “The outbreak arrives at a time when the Hong Kong economic climate is presently fragile because of to the slowdown in world wide trade, softer development in mainland China, and ongoing protests, which have strike retail and tourism most difficult.”

Moody’s expects Hong Kong’s GDP to contract 1.2 per cent this yr, matching the decline in output recorded in 2019.

(Specific thank you to morph.io contributor coolsunwind, who wrote a code that scrapes the passenger website traffic data).

Coronavirus most recent: Chinese shares rally 2% on new stimulus steps


Nomura slashes 1st-quarter progress forecast for China

Nomura has lowered its base case forecast for Chinese financial expansion to 3 for each cent for the initial a few months of 2020, a a few-share fall from the fourth quarter last yr.

So a lot problems has been performed to China’s financial state, the Japanese fiscal providers group stated in a take note to buyers on Monday, that “it is as well late to avoid what is probably to be the most significant quarterly drop in genuine GDP development” considering that the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.

The coronavirus outbreak, which has contaminated just about 72,000 and been the cause of 1,775 deaths, has wreaked havoc on the Chinese economy by closing manufacturing vegetation and disrupting international source chains. All but a handful of the deaths have been in mainland China.

That has prompted some to forecast that growth in the world’s next-most significant economic climate in gross domestic product or service could drop beneath the essential 6 for every cent mark in 2020. Nomura has absent even even more with its quarterly outlook.

China is at the same time sustaining demand and source shocks, prompting a “fear factor” among the Chinese shoppers that is “palpable”, Ting Lu of Nomura’s world-wide economics workforce claimed in a report on Monday.

The Chinese are preventing crowded spots such as searching centres and eating places and this in flip will slash buyer paying out, which contributed nearly three-fifths of the country’s GDP advancement last year. On the provide aspect, the government’s steps to incorporate the virus have blocked transportation and disrupted factory manufacturing as tens of millions of personnel have been stranded at home after the lunar new 12 months holiday break.

China could experience a “stark trade-off” if the virus Covid-19 worsens: “the for a longer time the lockdown of towns, the bigger the price to economic development – and it can be an exponential raise if offer chains crack down, corporations run into income move difficulties and are unable to pay their workers”, Nomura explained in its notice to traders.

But President Xi Jinping explained in a commentary published in an influential Chinese Communist party journal about the weekend that the country’s leaders “still want to deliver this year’s financial and social targets”. That has fuelled market place expectations that Beijing could ramp up stimulus in purchase to make certain targets are fulfilled.

Joe Biden activities leave New York donors with sinking emotion


The menu was champagne, sliders and tuna tartare. The company ended up well mannered, and the applicant upbeat. But whether or not Joe Biden remaining his Manhattan fundraising occasions with more Wall Avenue support than when he entered was anybody’s guess. 

“We dropped the initial two primaries, but they make up 2 for each cent of the delegates needed to get elected,” the Democratic presidential prospect defined to about 75 donors early on Thursday night at Sarabeth’s cafe on Central Park South.

A few of several hours later on, he was creating the pitch yet again, this time to a diverse very well-heeled group of Wall Avenue dealmakers and legal professionals, at The Wayfarer, a single block south of Sarabeth’s. 

“I really feel seriously, truly superior,” Mr Biden explained. “You’re placing me in a position to be in a position to be pretty competitive in the subsequent two primaries [in Nevada and South Carolina]. And then it goes from there.”

After blistering losses in Iowa and New Hampshire, Mr Biden’s marketing campaign is scrambling to reassure donors that the former US vice-president — and just one-time Democratic frontrunner — can earn the race to consider on Donald Trump in November.

In public, Mr Biden’s most important backers are responding — supplying $800,000 at the two Manhattan occasions, according to his campaign. Having said that, in personal, quite a few donors expressed problem about his prospects — particularly with Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire previous New York mayor, using his wealth to target the Super Tuesday primaries on March 3.

A person donor who attended the Sarabeth’s function reported that even though there are however optimists in the Biden camp, he and lots of many others thought the former vice-president needed wins in the Nevada caucuses and South Carolina principal to be however practical.

“I consider on paper he’s the best prospect. [But] there is not a tonne of pleasure for him,” the donor stated just after providing the maximum $2,800 main donation.

A senior banker at a boutique investment decision financial institution who has also backed Mr Biden, mentioned the former vice-president’s days have been numbered. “It’s really hard to see him execute so terribly but we need to have to get serious about supporting any individual who can initial defeat the insane socialist (Bernie Sanders) and then Trump.”

Last year, Mr Biden’s campaign raised $59.5m, but expended $50.6m of that by year’s finish, a lot of it on boosting Mr Biden in Iowa in the hope that a powerful overall performance in the to start with caucus condition would help his on the net fundraising.

By contrast, Mr Sanders, the winner in New Hampshire, elevated about $96m in 2019 — much of it from tiny donors — and ended the yr with $18.2m on hand. Pete Buttigieg, the previous South Bend, Indiana, mayor who concluded to start with in Iowa, lifted $76m in 2019, and ended the yr with $14.5m.

Mr Biden is also a lot more reliant on high web-value donors than his rivals. About a third of his funding very last calendar year arrived from donors who had presented $2,800 or extra to him or his super PAC, in accordance to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.

By contrast, donors offering $2,800 or additional accounted for 21 for each cent of the cash likely to Mr Buttigieg, 18 for every cent to Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar and just 4 for each cent to Ms Sanders and Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren — which means they can all faucet more of their backers for donations throughout the 12 months.

Not all of Mr Biden’s donors had been downbeat. Jim Chanos, the hedge fund supervisor who served to increase $500,000 for Mr Biden previous 12 months at his Upper East Aspect house, said he was remaining loyal regardless of the previous vice-president’s fifth-location end in New Hampshire.

“A applicant is not a momentum stock, even with what Wall Avenue could possibly feel,” Mr Chanos told the FT. “You assistance them simply because you consider in them.”

Some others mentioned they ended up re-analyzing the discipline, using calls from Mr Bloomberg and considering Ms Klobuchar and Mr Buttigieg, moderates who performed greater than Mr Biden in New Hampshire.

Ms Klobuchar attended a Manhattan fundraiser on Wednesday with 150 donors. The preceding 7 days, she lifted $3m in the 48 hours next her strong efficiency in a New Hampshire debate. 

Just one key Biden donor outside the house of New York said he experienced currently supplied revenue to Ms Klobuchar. The donor claimed he experienced been disappointed by Mr Biden’s fundraising procedure, primarily when compared with Barack Obama’s.

“When [Obama] was working, he was burning up the mobile phone,” he explained. Mr Biden, by distinction, “never calls”.

“I was not amazed,” he claimed.

A top New York corporate attorney and major donor for Mr Biden mentioned he was planning to divert cash to other reasonable candidates, even though Mr Biden remained his favorite.

“The objective is to get rid of Trump and for the longest time Biden appeared to be finest put to do that simply because he was viewed as to be the most electable. The problem is that he isn’t successful elections at the instant as we’ve witnessed in the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries,” claimed the law firm. “If he doesn’t win in Nevada I and a lot of others on Wall Avenue will commence backing Pete [Buttigieg] or Amy [Klobuchar].”

Irrespective of the bleak outlook for Mr Biden, lots of of the donors explained they saw two silver linings to the New Hampshire benefits: the underwhelming overall performance of Ms Warren, the Massachusetts senator witnessed as a Wall Street nemesis, and the point that centrists candidates in race received a lot more votes than Mr Sanders, a democratic socialist.

As a person banker put it: “Everyone expected Warren’s supporters to back again Bernie at some position. But as a substitute they are likely for Klobuchar and partly Buttigieg.”

Coronavirus latest: EU warns outbreak poses risk to economy


Chinese hotels empty out as people avoid travel

Hotel occupancy in China all but collapsed last week with travellers staying put as the coronavirus outbreak worsens.

There was an 85 per cent drop-off in occupancy rates in the first week of February, compared to the same period a year ago, figures from Citigroup show.

That marks an escalation on the previous week – when they were down roughly 70 per cent – and the week before – when they were off around 40 per cent.

The bank said the drop-off likely stemmed from people cutting down on travel, either voluntarily or because of a government-imposed restrictions.

The country has been in a state of lockdown since the lunar new year holiday with authorities imposing severe travel restrictions. While an extension of the holiday break has now ended, many businesses remain closed.

The decline in Chinese tourism has also been felt abroad, with Chinese visitors accounting for 150m overseas trips in 2019. At least 14 countries have now banned or limited flights from mainland China.

EmoticonVirus concerns return to global markets

Concerns over the impact of the coronavirus have swept back through stock markets after China reported a jump in cases.

The Stoxx Europe 600 index, a gauge of the region’s biggest companies, was recently down around 1 per cent, while futures tied to the S&P 500 were 0.8 per cent lower.

The rate of infection is one of the key drivers for market reaction to the outbreak, and investors had spent the first three days of this week banking that a slowdown in reported cases heralded a limited economic impact from the disease.

But Beijing has since sacked its top two officials in Hubei, the province at the centre of the coronavirus epidemic, just hours after announcing a sharp rise in new infections and deaths from the disease. Hubei reported 14,840 new cases — a tenfold surge over the number reported on Wednesday, while new deaths more than doubled to 242. The sudden increase stemmed from changes in the methodology for how officials are counting coronavirus cases.

“The key indicator to watch is the growth rate of reported cases and deaths,” said Seema Shah, chief strategist at Principal Global Investors.

If the change in methodology does result in a rise in the growth rate of reported cases, market sentiment will inevitably deteriorate, reversing the more upbeat tone of recent days as markets had become increasingly reassured that the virus will soon plateau.

Investors moved into government debt, perceived as a safe space in times of market stress. The yield on the US 10-year Treasury – which moves in the opposite direction to the bond’s price – fell five basis points to 1.58 per cent.

Scientists add to debate on disseminating information of virus

Two scientific papers published this week have added to the debate on the speed of how information about the disease came out of Wuhan, and then from China to the rest of the world, reports Primrose Riordan in Hong Kong.

Two of the authors of the first paper are involved in advising the World Health Organization on the virus, including John Mackenzie whose criticism of China’s response was reported by the Financial Times last week.

They have suggested that policies around reporting outbreaks may need to be altered since it took 17 days from when data was first collected to when the genome sequence – key to developing diagnostic tests – was released.

“Achieving the right balance between information sharing and scientific publication is important during an . . . outbreak response,” the authors said.

The second paper looked at whether some information was coming out too quickly.

Harvard’s Maimuna Majumder, and Kenneth Mandl discussed how “pre-prints” – drafts of research that has been yet to be peer reviewed – and news reports spread and started to influence international governments’ health policy even before peer reviewed papers.

“Despite the advantages of speedy information delivery, lack of peer review can also potentially translate into issues of credibility and misinformation – intentional and unintentional alike,” the authors said.

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EU warns of ‘key’ risk to region’s economy from coronavirus outbreak

The coronavirus outbreak has emerged as a “key downside risk” for the euro area’s growth prospects, the European Commission said as it released its winter forecasts on Thursday, writes Sam Fleming in Brussels.

The EU left its outlook for euro area growth this year and next unchanged at 1.2 per cent compared with its last set of projections in 2019. The commission raised its inflation forecast for 2020 to 1.3 per cent from 1.2 per cent previously, and to 1.4 per cent in 2021.

But the commission said its outlook was based on an expectation that the virus outbreak peaks in the first quarter, with “relatively limited global spillovers”.

It warned: “The longer it lasts, the higher the likelihood of knock-on effects on economic sentiment and global financing conditions.”

Paolo Geniloni, the EU’s economics commissioner, stressed the uncertainty surrounding the outlook for the virus. He pointed out that parallels with the economic impact of the Sars outbreak in 2003 were only partly helpful given the jump in China’s share of global activity since that time.

Hong Kong rugby tournament postponed

George Hammond reports:

The Hong Kong Sevens is the latest sporting event to be postponed as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

The HSBC and Cathay Pacific-sponsored rugby tournament will be pushed back from April until October, the first delay to the tournament in its 44 year history.

A number of other major sporting events in China have also been delayed, including Formula One’s Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai.

Spread of Covid-19 depends on China’s success in containing it

The spread of the novel coronavirus would depend on China’s success in containing the disease, the UK’s top medical official said on Thursday, reports Bethan Staton in London.

If Covid-19 is brought under control there, Chris Whitty, the chief medical officer, told the BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, other countries would have spillover cases that would probably be contained. If not, further spread globally would be difficult to prevent, he added.

Unless the seasons come to our rescue then it is going to come to a situation where we are going to have it in the UK and Europe in due course.

The strategy is to contain and delay any spread until the summer, giving authorities a better chance to control it, Professor Whitty said.

If we are going to get an outbreak into the UK then putting it back in time… is a big advantage.

He said emergency Cabinet meetings had been convened to discuss the outbreak.

Many different models exist on how the disease would spread, with “huge confidence intervals of uncertainty” around the numbers, said Prof Whitty, in comments on previous estimates, by professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College, that 60 per cent of people in the UK could catch the disease,

Usual measures to prevent the spread of disease such as hand washing remained the best way to control spread, Prof Whitty said.

A large proportion probably the great majority have a relatively mild disease. We don’t know what proportion of people have this illness without symptoms.

Catholic church suspends masses in Hong Kong

Nicolle Liu in Hong Kong reports:

The Hong Kong Catholic church has announced a temporary suspension of all public masses for two weeks to avoid transmission of the coronavirus through public gatherings.

Church members may participate in online masses and receive the Holy Communion spiritually, said Cardinal John Tong, the Apostolic Administrator.

“I hope that everyone can understand this is not an easy decision,” he said.

The city today confirmed another locally transmitted case of coronavirus, bringing the total to 51, with one death linked to the virus.


Coronavirus set to knock oil demand growth to slowest since 2011

Anjli Raval, Senior Energy Correspondent, reports:

Oil demand this year will see the slowest rate of growth since 2011 as the coronavirus outbreak hits Chinese consumption and its impact spreads across the global economy, the International Energy Agency said.

In its monthly oil market report, the Paris-based body said that it had cut its 2020 growth forecast to 825,000 barrels a day from the 1.2m b/d it had initially expected.

“The consequences of Covid-19 for global oil demand will be significant,” the IEA said on Thursday. Transport and services shutdowns in China and a halt to industrial activity are expected to hit exports and the broader economy.

The impact of the spread of the virus has already been sharp for oil prices, prompting global producers to discuss whether a deepening of production cuts is necessary to bolster the market.

Brent crude, the international oil benchmark, has fallen in recent weeks from $65 a barrel in January to just under $56 today.

Events and information business Relx reschedules China exhibitions

Patricia Nilsson reports:

Relx, the FTSE 100-listed information, analytics and scientific publishing company, has rescheduled a fifth of its upcoming exhibitions in China, saying the outbreak’s impact on its business is still “uncertain”.

“Our exhibition halls in China are not operating and have rescheduled some [shows] already,” Nick Luff, the company’s chief financial officer said.

“Nine have been rescheduled, [whether more shows are affected] will depend on how the virus evolves and what the Chinese government will do,” he said, adding it was too early to estimate the impact on revenues.

The group, which on Thursday reported 2019 results in line with expectations, has over the past decade transformed from being a trade magazine publisher into focusing on legal services, risk analysis, as well as academic publishing and exhibitions.

The company had been scheduled to set up 45 exhibitions in China this year, a business that Mr Luff said was worth roughly one per cent of the group’s gross revenues, which in the year ending December 2019 reached £7.9bn.

Map: Tracking the spread of coronavirus

The FT’s data visualisation team has updated its map, tracking the spread of coronavirus. Have a look:

Citigroup offers relief measures to Hong Kong clients

George Hammond writes:

Citigroup is the latest bank to offer relief measures to its Hong Kong customers. The Wall Street bank, which has a considerable presence in the city, is offering clients of its commercial bank extensions on import trade loans and waiving fees for new clients opening accounts between now and the end of August.

The bank is also waiving credit card late charges for some consumer bank clients and softening mortgage repayment terms for those in financial difficulty.

“Through these relief measures, we hope to play a part in supporting the Hong Kong community as we weather the current situation together. We have every confidence that the city will bounce back just as it always did in the past, and we will be here for our clients every step of the way,” said Angel Ng, CEO for Citi Hong Kong.

China coronavirus death toll rises to 1,367

The number of deaths from coronavirus rose to 1,367 in China to the end of Wednesday according to figures reported by state television. There were 15,152 new cases of the virus in the country taking the total count to 59,804.

The new figures include 13,332 from Hubei that were clinically diagnosed, instead of relying only on laboratory testing, which saw a spike in the number of reported cases at the centre of the outbreak.

Pernod cuts targets, citing coronavirus impact

Pernod Ricard trimmed its annual operating profit goal as the coronavirus outbreak in China, the spirits maker’s third-largest market, was likely to have severe impact on its third quarter, writes Leila Abboud in Paris.

The family-backed company on Thursday said its operating profit from recurring operations would grow between 2 to 4 percent this year, down from the 5 to 7 per cent it earlier predicted.

For the maker of Martell cognac and Jameson whiskey, China represents about 10 per cent of global sales and 15 per cent of core operating profit.

The scaled-back profit target was based on the assumptions that bars would remain closed until the end of June in Hubei province, where the virus was first detected, and that travel retails outlets would also see lower traffic through June.

“Looking to the second half, the environment remains particularly uncertain from a geopolitical standpoint, with the additional pressure related to the Covid-19 outbreak,” Pernod Ricard said in a statement.

While we cannot currently predict the duration and extent of the impact, we remain confident in our strategy.

Global stocks slip as investors weigh rise in reported cases

Katharine Gemmell reports:

European stock markets fell in early trading following a sharp jump in reported deaths and infections of coronavirus in China.

Hubei, the province at the centre of the outbreak, reported 14,840 new cases — a tenfold surge over the number reported on Wednesday, while new fatalities more than doubled to 242.

The Stoxx Europe 600 fell 0.4 per cent in early trading, having hit record highs earlier this week. The index is still more than 1 per cent higher for the week.

Jim Red, strategist at Deutsche Bank, said: “A jump in the number of cases in Hubei this morning following what appears to be a change in methodology in the way cases are diagnosed has seen markets stall in Asia.”

However, he added that the extent of the drops are “fairly modest.”

Asian shares posted modest declines, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng 0.3 per cent lower and the CSI 300 index of mainland Chinese equities closing down 0.6 per cent.

China car sales tumble in January as virus adds to woes

Christian Shepherd reports:

Sales of both traditional and electric cars plummeted in China in January, as the outbreak of a new coronavirus has put the world’s largest automotive market on firm course for a third year of shrinking sales.

Wholesale car sales fell 20 per cent year-on-year in January, while electric vehicles, including hybrids and battery powered engines, fell 54 per cent, the China Association of Automotive Manufacturers announced on Thursday.

The latest figures add to mounting woes for an industry struggling with declining demand since 2016, when an end to tax cuts on small engine vehicles pushed sales growth into reverse for the first time in decades.

Last year, prior to the outbreak of the virus in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, home to a number of automotive manufacturers and part suppliers, CAAM had already predicted another year of decline in 2020.

The coronavirus has caused serious disruptions to normal operations in the industry in the short term and would likely have a “butterfly effect” that would ripple through the global industry, CAAM said, likely dragging down this year’s total sales by 5 per cent.

BMW, Toyota, and VW have had to delay production plans due to government orders extending the national lunar new year holiday for all non-essential businesses.

Nestlé says ‘too early’ to measure virus impact

Judith Evans, Consumer Industries Correspondent, reports:

Nestlé, the world’s biggest food company, said it is too soon to say exactly what kind of hit it will take from the outbreak of coronavirus.

China is the second biggest market for the group, which is behind brands including KitKat and Nescafé, representing 8 per cent of global sales.

Commenting as the company reported its full-year results for 2019, chief executive Mark Schneider, said: “It is too early to quantify the financial impact of this outbreak at the present time.”

He added:

In the past few weeks, the spread of the coronavirus has required extraordinary effort from our team in China … We are working closely with the Chinese authorities as they take measures to contain this epidemic.

Australia extends travel ban on visitors with recent China travel history

Jamie Smyth reports from Sydney:

Australia has extended its coronavirus travel ban on visitors who have travelled through China and are not citizens or permanent residents by at least a week on the advice of its medical authorities.

Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, said on Thursday the government is taking a cautious approach to prevent the spread of the virus but was mindful of the economic impact the ban is having on the tourism and education sectors.

“Our first responsibility, my first responsibility is the health and wellbeing of the Australian people. That is the top priority,” he told reporters.

Mr Morrison said Australia’s national security committee would review the ban again in seven days’ time in consultation with the nation’s medical authorities.

Australia’s economy is closely linked to China, which is the nation’s largest trade partner with two-way trade worth A$215bn in 2018. About 100,000 Chinese students studying in Australia remain stranded in China due to the travel ban, which was implemented a fortnight ago to try and prevent the spread of the virus.

Hubei death toll jumps, China replaces official

If you are just waking up in Europe, let us catch you up on the latest coronavirus developments:

Hubei, the centre of the outbreak, reported a sharp jump in new deaths and cases after it changed its methodology to include clinical diagnoses and not just cases confirmed by laboratory tests. The province reported 242 deaths took place on Wednesday, more than double the previous day’s count, while the number of new cases jumped to 14,840 from 1,638. The national figure for China is yet to be released. Read more here on what international experts think of China’s official counting system.

The Chinese Communist party has replaced its top official in the province, marking the most senior party member to be held accountable for the health crisis. Party chief, Jiang Chaoliang, will be replaced by the mayor of Shanghai, who is thought to be close to President Xi Jinping.

Stock markets fell modestly on Thursday with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index down 0.3 per cent while China’s CSI 300 shed 0.6 per cent, which S&P 500 futures dipped 0.3 per cent.

Vietnam has become the first country outside China to lock down a village to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Japan has said it will allow elderly passengers on a quarantined cruise ship to be moved onto land after the number of cases of coronavirus on the vessel rose to 218.

Vietnam locks down village over coronavirus cases

John Reed reports from Manila:

Son Loi, a village in northern Vietnam about 40km north-west of Hanoi, has been put on lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Vietnamese state-controlled media reported on the move on Thursday, one of the first such instances of an entire residential area being sealed off outside China to prevent transmission of the disease.

VNExpress said that Vin Phuc province, where Son Loi is located, had “locked down” the commune for 14 days because seven people had contracted the coronavirus. Vin Phuc province accounts for the majority of Vietnam’s 16 confirmed coronavirus cases to date.

It said that this was the latest effort by authorities in the northern province to contain the disease after a three-month-old girl tested positive for the virus.

It reported that authorities had increased the number of disease checkpoints there from five to eight, and established mobile shops, and provided food and face masks to over 10,600 people. Vietnam shares a long border with China.

National outbreak numbers from China still not announced

China has typically released the latest national figures on the coronavirus outbreak around 8am or 9am in the Beijing morning. That has not been so today.

The lack of new data from the National Health Commission by 1pm may raise eyebrows after it emerged earlier that a change in reporting methodology caused a sharp jump in the number of cases and deaths in Hubei, the province that has been hardest hit and where scientists think this strain of the virus made the leap to humans.

In Hubei, clinical cases, which have been identified through symptoms of viral pneumonia in patients who have had CT scans and not laboratory testing, have been included for the first time.

The province reported 242 deaths took place on Wednesday, more than double the previous day’s count and the number of cases, confirmed through lab tests or clinically diagnosed, surged to 14,840.

The FT reported on Wednesday that public health experts have called into question whether China has under-reported cases of the deadly virus. You can read our full analysis here.

Hong Kong tells civil servants to work from home until February 23

Nicolle Liu and Alice Woodhouse report from Hong Kong:

Hong Kong has extended its call for civil servants to work from home for at least an extra week to minimise the spread of coronavirus.

Government workers have been asked to work from home until February 23 “to reduce social contacts and the risk of the spread of the novel coronavirus in the community”. This directive has been in place since February 5.

The city has 50 confirmed cases of coronavirus and one death linked to the virus.

The government also called on employers to make flexible work arrangements to reduce contact between people.

Japan confirms another 44 coronavirus cases on cruise ship

Robin Harding reports from Tokyo:

Japan has confirmed another 44 diagnoses of coronavirus on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship, said health minister Katsunobu Kato, taking the total number of cases to 218.

The Diamond Princess, which has been quarantined in Yokohama since February 3rd, has had more cases of the illness than any country outside China. A Japanese quarantine officer also fell victim to the virus after boarding the ship.

Mr Kato announced a new approach to the quarantined passengers, saying that those who are elderly or have chronic health conditions will be allowed to disembark and go into quarantine ashore, especially if they are staying in internal cabins with no window.

The Diamond Princess had roughly 3,700 passengers and crew on board when it arrived in Yokohama. Diagnosed cases of coronavirus have already been moved to hospitals ashore.

Emoticon

China replaces top official in crisis-hit Hubei

Christian Shepherd reports:

The Chinese Communist party has replaced its top official in Hubei, the province at the centre of the outbreak of a new coronavirus, marking the most senior party member to be held to account for the public health crisis.

Jiang Chaoliang, who had been party chief of Hubei since 2016, will vacate his position, China’s state broadcaster reported.

Ying Yong, the mayor of Shanghai who has risen through China’s legal affairs bureaucracy and is thought to be close to President Xi Jinping, has taken over Mr Jiang’s role, CCTV said.

The reshuffle of high ranking party members is the latest escalation of drastic measures taken by the Communist party to bring under control the outbreak, which has become the greatest challenge to Mr Xi’s rule since he took office in 2012.

HSBC to offer personal loans to customers in industries hit by coronavirus

Primrose Riordan reports from Hong Kong

HSBC said it would offer HK$30,000 (US$3864) personal loans to those working in the airline, hotel, catering and retail industries hit by the coronavirus in the latest sign of how the city’s financial sector has responded to government calls to ease pressure on indebted residents.

The loans were announced as the bank laid out its first measures for personal customers after revealing relief for business customers this week.

The bank also said its customers could apply to defer the principal repayment on their mortgages by up to 12 months.

Westerdam cruise ship finds port after rejection by several countries

Robin Harding reports:

The Westerdam cruise ship has docked in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, after a long search for a port that saw it turned away from Japan, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand for fear of the coronavirus.

Local officials are on board the vessel prior to disembarkation, said the operator Holland America Line. “Guests will disembark in Sihanoukville over the next few days and transfer via charter flights to Phnom Penh for forward travel home,” it said.

There are 1,455 passengers and 802 crew on board the vessel, which originally sailed from Hong Kong bound for Yokohama, but was denied permission to enter Japanese ports because of rumours of coronavirus. “All guests on board are healthy and despite erroneous reports there are no known or suspected cases of coronavirus on board, nor have their ever been,” said HAL.

EmoticonHong Kong extends school closures to March 16

Nicolle Liu reports from Hong Kong:

Hong Kong has said schools will remain closed for an extra two weeks, as the city seeks to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Kevin Yeung, education secretary, said schools would remain closed until at least March 16. The government had previously said schools would reopen on March 2 but that the situation would be reassessed closer to the time.

The city has 50 confirmed cases of coronavirus.

MGM Resorts scraps guidance on virus uncertainty

Primrose Riordan reports:

MGM Resorts which operates Macau casinos has withdrawn its 2020 forecast as it warned the financial pain from the coronavirus outbreak could reach beyond the first quarter of the year.

“As a result of the increased volatility in our business due to coronavirus as well as the market-wide weakness in Far East baccarat in Las Vegas, MGM Resorts believes it is appropriate to withdraw its fiscal 2020 full year financial targets,” the US-listed company said late on Wednesday New York time.

MGM Macau and MGM Cotai had to suspend their operations in early February under government instructions, and the company said they were “unable to predict” when its operations would restart.

MGM said it could have a “material effect” on their first quarter results, and “potentially thereafter”.

Read the full story here.

Asia stocks fall as Hubei coronavirus count jumps

Hong Kong and Chinese stocks fell on Thursday after a sharp jump in coronavirus cases in the centre of the outbreak shook markets.

The Hang Seng index was down 0.2 per cent, putting the index on track to snap two days of gains and China’s CSI 300 also shed 0.2 per cent. Elsewhere in the region, Topix index was down 0.3 per cent in Japan and South Korea’s Kospi is up 0.5 per cent.

Hubei reported 242 deaths to the end of Wednesday, more than double the previous day’s count and new cases surge to almost 15,000. That jump came after cases with a clinical diagnosis were included in the count for the first time, prompting a reassessment of the situation by investors.

S&P 500 futures are down 0.3 per cent, trimming earlier steeper declines. The onshore renminbi was 0.1 per cent weaker against the US dollar.

Robert Carnell, ING’s chief economist in Asia-Pacific, said the latest number of coronavirus cases in Hubei “may not be as bad as it sounds” as the change in methodology makes the number look higher and that if the old methodology is followed then the count is below that of the previous day.

He said it will take time to assess what the new approach means when measuring the spread of the virus.

Mr Carnell also pointed to the number of cases outside China, which “aren’t on such a clear downtrend” and noted that the tone of the World Health Organisation must also be considered on top of the figures from China.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday that the number of new confirmed cases in China appeared to have stabilised but that “This outbreak could still go in any direction”.

A quiet morning in Hong Kong

It is definitely not business as usual in central Hong Kong, where many workers appear to be staying home.

The following picture was taken around 8am and shows a sparsely populated street. Building lobbies and restaurants were also quiet. Some commuters queued for bus services, but many buses appeared to be fairly empty.

US coronavirus cases rise to 14 as quarantined patient tests positive

The US has reported its 14th case of coronavirus in a patient who returned to the country on an evacuation flight from Hubei province, China, the centre of the outbreak.

The person returned to the US on a flight on February 7 and has been held in quarantine in California. The case is not linked to another infected patient who returned on a different flight and has been held in a separate facility, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

There are “likely to be additional cases in the coming days and weeks, including among other people recently returned from Wuhan,” the CDC said.

US citizens evacuated from Wuhan have been held in quarantine for 14 days after their return with 95 people already discharged and 600 people remaining under quarantine.

China accused of under-reporting coronavirus outbreak

The dramatic increase in confirmed infections and deaths from coronavirus in Hubei, the centre of the outbreak, comes as healthcare workers and international experts have raised questions about whether China is under-reporting cases.

Yuan Yang and Nian Liu, my colleagues in Beijing, delved into these accusations in a story that the FT published late on Wednesday. Below is an excerpt — the piece can be read in its entirety here.

Frontline healthcare workers, patients and international experts have accused China of under-reporting the number of coronavirus victims in the country, saying authorities were conducting inadequate testing and medical facilities were overwhelmed.

Health experts have questioned the timeliness and accuracy of the figures, saying the testing system captured only a fraction of the cases in China’s poorly run hospitals.

Neil Ferguson, a professor of epidemiology at Imperial College London, said only the most severe infections were being diagnosed and as few as 10 per cent of cases were being properly detected, in a video released by the university.

In Wuhan, the city in Hubei at the centre of the outbreak, the official figures for confirmed cases could capture as few as 1 in 19 infections, according to a paper published by Prof Ferguson.

Read more here.

Rise in cases sparks market jitters

Daniel Shane reports:

Stock markets slipped after China’s Hubei province reported a sharp uptick in deaths and infections from the coronavirus after authorities changed their methodology for diagnosing cases.

Officials in Hubei, the centre of the outbreak, said on Thursday that there were 14,840 new cases of the disease, or a more than ten-fold increase compared to using the prior methodology. The number of deaths from the coronavirus jumped by 242, the data released on Thursday but based on Wednesday’s count showed.

That has put pressure on markets, as investors had been banking on the growth of infections having already peaked. In early trading in Asia on Thursday, Japan’s Topix index fell 0.5 per cent. S&P 500 futures slipped 0.4 per cent, after the Wall Street benchmark hit a new all-time high overnight.

“This certainly doesn’t sound good… as on the first glean there could be a serious case under-reporting going on,” said Stephen Innes, chief market strategist at currency trading firm AxiCorp, of the methodology change.

Hubei reports sharp rise in new cases and deaths as methodology changed

Alice Woodhouse reports from Hong Kong:

Hubei province, the centre of the coronavirus outbreak, reported 242 new deaths from coronavirus to the end of Wednesday, more than double the previous day’s count and new cases surged to 14,840 as authorities included patients diagnosed through clinical methods.

It had reported 94 deaths a day earlier and 1,638 cases. That takes the number of deaths in the province to 1,310.

The jump in numbers came after the province included “clinically diagnosed” cases, which have been identified through symptoms of viral pneumonia who have had CT scans and not laboratory testing.

S&P futures fell on the news, down 0.4 per cent while the Japanese yen, seen as a haven during times of uncertainty strengthened 0.2 per cent and the offshore renminbi weakened 0.2 per cent against the dollar.

Japan’s Topix was down 0.5 per cent.

Coronavirus most recent: Markets rebound as trader fears about outbreak simplicity


Hong Kong shares rally 1% as trader sentiment recovers

Hong Kong and Chinese equities marketplaces and commodities climbed on Tuesday, developing on a rebound from current lows as traders weigh the economic and company hit from the coronavirus outbreak.

Hong Kong’s Dangle Seng index led the way, climbing 1.2 for each cent in its initial get in the past 3 buying and selling classes. The CSI 300 barometer of shares traded in Shanghai and Shenzhen climbed about .7 per cent.

The CSI 300 has rallied virtually 8 for every cent in the earlier 6 periods, with the Hold Seng up about 5 for every cent in excess of that period. Equally indices nonetheless keep on being close to 5 for every cent below their January peaks.

Brent crude, which has been strike not too long ago by issues that the outbreak will subdue demand in China, climbed 1.4 for each cent on Tuesday to $53.99 a barrel. Copper, an critical industrial metallic found as an economic bellwether, rose 1 for every cent in early London Steel Exchange dealings, in accordance to Bloomberg information.

Goldman Sachs mentioned on Tuesday that “hazard appetite” amongst buyers has bounced again as “virus fears fade.”

“The timing of the recovery is broadly in line with earlier epidemics, when equity recovered about three to four months from the outbreak,” the New York bank explained.

“Moreover, our emerging markets workforce has located that Google queries peaked previous week, which historically marked the trough in risky belongings.”

Still, lots of buyers continue to be deeply uncertain about the effect of the crisis on China’s economic system — the world’s largest emerging marketplace.

Citigroup on Monday slashed its forecast for Chinese economic development in the first a few months of 2020 to a yr on yr charge of 3.6 for every cent, from an before forecast of 4.8 for every cent. It also trimmed its outlook for the year by .2 percentage details to 5.3 for each cent.

“Broader and more rapidly distribute of novel coronavirus necessitates a reassessment of its economic affect,” the financial institution reported, noting that developments because the stop of January had been “worse than we experienced expected.”

It included:

Regardless of some initial positive indications like the decline of new suspected and verified conditions, the unidentified attributes of 2019-nCoV these kinds of as uncertainties about the incubation period, untrue detrimental final results in testing and undetected channels for contagion recommend the turning point will be however days, if not weeks, absent, not to point out the hazard affiliated with the post-getaway significant transit.

Soldier kills 26 folks in Thailand capturing rampage


A soldier went on a shooting rampage in north-eastern Thailand and held hostages in a searching mall, killing 26 people prior to himself remaining shot lifeless by stability expert services in 1 of the country’s worst incidents of gun violence in current several years.

Deputy primary minister Anutin Charnvirakul mentioned in a Fb put up on Sunday early morning that law enforcement and military services forces shot and killed the gunman after they surrounded Terminal 21 mall in Nakhon Ratchasima, in which he experienced held quite a few individuals. 

Police identified the gunman as Jakrapanth Thomma, 32.

Thailand’s key minister Prayuth Chan-ocha frequented wounded survivors around the scene of the shooting on Sunday, wherever he told reporters: “It was a individual conflict . . . over a dwelling deal.” Mr Prayuth added that the dispute was with a relative of the soldier’s commanding officer.

The incident started on Saturday afternoon when the soldier opened fire in a dwelling in advance of relocating to an army camp and then to the mall, which was whole of consumers for a a few-day Buddhist holiday weekend. 

The commanding officer was one particular of the men and women killed ahead of the soldier moved on to the shopping mall, according to Reuters and Thai media studies.

The shooter posted messages on his Fb account in the course of the episode. Social media posters and some mainstream media ran livestream footage from individuals inside the mall. On Saturday evening, as a special forces operation was starting to prevent the shooter, Thailand’s broadcasting authority named on media organisations and men and women submitting footage from the scene to prevent carrying out so. 

Overnight, news shots from the scene showed security forces top people to basic safety out of the mall. 

Fb stated it experienced taken down the man’s account just after news of the attack emerged and had identified a shorter Fb Reside write-up by the attacker, but it did not exhibit any violence. The US social media group said it had taken measures to avert many others from reposting the movie. 

“We have taken out the gunman’s presence on our expert services and have observed no evidence that he broadcasted this violence” on Facebook Are living, the organization stated. “We are doing work all over the clock to take out any violating information linked to this assault.” 

The mass shooting comes at a time when Thailand’s government is currently the issue of community criticism for its reaction to the coronavirus outbreak. There have been 32 claimed circumstances of the sickness in the Southeast Asian state, which has prompted a collapse in vacationer arrivals. 

Mass shootings are uncommon in Thailand, but guns are offered on the black market place. In the latest years there have been quite a few incidents of gun violence through political unrest, as perfectly as in the south of the country where by stability forces are preventing a separatist insurgency. 

Follow on Twitter: @JohnReedwrites

Coronavirus: President Trump praises China’s response to outbreak


Battery maker Umicore CEO warns on impact to China EV market

Henry Sanderson reports:

Belgian battery materials maker Umicore has warned that the coronavirus will “amplify” an economic slowdown in China and hit the electric car market.

Marc Grynberg told the Financial Times:

There is a distinct risk … China is the largest EV market in the world … A larger chunk of that supply chain may be affected by the coronavirus. But it’s too early to tell if the effect will be protracted or material.

Europe’s largest cobalt refiner said it did not expect EV sales in China to “show a material degree of recovery” this year, even before the impact of the virus.

The outbreak of coronavirus will “amplify the economic slowdown,” he said.

Sales of new energy vehicles – which includes plug-in hybrids and fuel cell vehicles – fell by 4 per cent last year in China after Beijing reduced subsidies for buyers of EVs. Mr Grynberg said growth for battery materials was likely to be driven by growth in Europe this year, as carmakers boost sales of EVs to meet strict CO2 guidelines.

“I have a positive view on Europe whereas I’m cautious not to say pessimistic on China,” he said.

Singapore confirms three more cases as it raises alert to orange

Singapore has reported another three coronavirus cases, which include those with no travel history to China or links to previously confirmed cases, taking the city state’s total to 33, reports Stefania Palma in Singapore.

Singapore on Friday raised its risk assessment for the virus from yellow to orange. Four of the cases have had no connection to infected individuals or travel history to China.

The increased alert level means taking a number of additional measures, such as urging event organisers to “cancel or defer non-essential large-scale events”, the ministry of health said on Friday.

The city state has requested employers to ensure staff check their temperatures regularly, at least twice a day, as well as enhance “business continuity plans“ including splitting workers into segregated teams.

Schools will suspend inter school and external activities until the end of the March holidays and the government advises people not to shake hands.

The three new cases include Singapore citizens – two women and a man – aged 42, 39 and 53. Of Singapore’s confirmed cases, two patients have been discharged, two are in critical condition and the others are mostly stable or improving.

Trump praises Chinese ‘discipline’ in countering virus

Donald Trump has weighed in on Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, taking to Twitter to compliment China on its “great discipline”.

The US president was unsparing in his praise for his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, whom he described as “strong, sharp and powerfully focused”.

Mr Trump’s comments follow criticism from Beijing over the US response to the outbreak, in particular a ban on foreign nationals who have travelled to China in the previous two weeks from entering the US.

On Twitter today, Mr Trump insisted: “We are working closely with China to help.”

Taiwan cutting transport links with China

Kathrin Hille in Taipei writes:

Taiwan is drastically cutting its air and sea links with China, as the country tries to protect against new infections.

The radical limits are set to hamper the hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese who do business or work in China. Over the past decade, the two sides have opened direct flights between hundreds of Chinese cities and Taiwan’s main airports, flying Chinese tourists to Taiwan and Taiwanese to China for work and travel.

Starting on Monday, all direct flights to and from Chinese airports other than Beijing Capital, Shanghai Pudong, Shanghai Hongqiao, Xiamen, and Chengdu will be suspended until the end of April, Taiwan’s Epidemic Management Centre said. Taiwan is also suspending ferry links between its outlying islands of Kinmen and Matsu with China’s Fujian Province.

The cuts will make it extremely difficult for many Taiwanese companies to keep managing their China operations. More than 1m Taiwanese live and work in China, and Taiwanese-owned companies especially in electronics manufacturing are among China’s largest exporters and employers.

While Taiwan suspended the admission of Chinese citizens late last month – the first country to do so as part of its epidemic response measures – its own citizens are still allowed to travel to and from China, although they have to self-quarantine for 14 days every time they come home.

Taiwan also announced that from Monday, all travellers arriving in the country after transit in any Chinese airport including Hong Kong and Macao will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Singapore grants companies more time to submit annual reports

Regulators in Singapore have given companies a two-month reprieve to submit their annual reports and hold their annual shareholder meetings as the effects of the coronavirus outbreak take hold.

The Singapore Exchange Regulation said on Friday it would grant an extension until June 30 to groups holding their AGMs to approve their earnings reports for the year to December 31 2019. Companies must send their annual reports to shareholders and the exchange at least 14 days before their meeting.

SGX RegCo said its decision follows comments from auditors of their “practical difficulties in performing statutory audits”, due to authorities’ measures in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Criteria include companies that call China their main place of business or have significant operations there. Added to that, their statutory audits for FY Dec 2019 were affected due to the travel restrictions and/or other measures imposed by the authorities in response to the virus, the statement from SGX RegCo said.

Singapore’s Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority said it will waive the fees to any company seeking an extension providing they fulfil the criteria.

Chinese copper traders declare force majeure over coronavirus

Sun Yu reports from Beijing:

Copper traders in China, the world’s largest buyer of the metal, have asked miners from Chile to Nigeria to cancel or delay shipments as the deadly coronavirus outbreak hits demand.

Multiple Chinese copper buyers said they had scrapped or postponed overseas orders by declaring force majeure since the end of January, when Beijing began to report a surge in coronavirus infections.

Copper, a barometer for the health of the global economy, is the latest commodity to fall victim to the epidemic.

China’s efforts to contain the virus, ranging from restricting highway traffic to extending the lunar new year holiday, have affected industrial activity and raised concerns about growth in the world’s second-biggest economy. 

Chinese buyers of liquefied natural gas have also considered declaring force majeure, a clause that identifies natural disasters or other unavoidable catastrophes as cause for not fulfilling a contract.

Click here for more on this story.

Honda says it can avoid ‘major’ virus hit if plants reopen next week

Kana Inagaki reports from Tokyo

Honda said it does not expect a major impact on its earnings from the coronavirus outbreak in China if the Japanese carmaker can reopen its three plants in Wuhan on February 14, a new timeline it set on Friday.

While rival Fiat Chrysler has warned that one of its European plants will be forced to halt its production in a matter of weeks due to a parts shortage, Honda said it does not expect production outside of China to be halted from supply chain disruptions if it can stick with its latest schedule.

“We don’t see a major impact on our operating profit if we can resume as scheduled,” Seiji Kuraishi, Honda’s executive vice-president, said at a news conference in Tokyo. “If the shutdown is extended, it will be a different matter.”

Mr Kuraishi said the company keeps about three days worth of inventory for car components, saying it was working to minimise the impact by putting priority on producing parts that could face shortage soon.

While car-assembly plants in Wuhan will be reopened on February 14, production is expected to resume in the week of Feb 17 after the company completes checks on employee safety, manufacturing lines and parts supplies.

Its four other plants in China outside of Wuhan are expected to reopen on February 10.

Global shares steady after week of records outside China

European stocks were flat in early trading on Friday, as global markets paused following a week of strong gains outside China.

Futures pointed to modest losses on Wall Street, where the focus will be on US jobs numbers later on Friday. Asian shares had a quiet session. Mainland Chinese indexes ended the week deep in the red following Monday’s aggressive sell-off, with the CSI 300 index of Shanghai and Shenzhen-listed shares down 2.6 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was 0.3 per cent lower on Friday.

The composite Stoxx 600 of Europe’s biggest companies fell 0.2 per cent, coming off Thursday’s record close. New York’s S&P500 also finished Thursday trading at an all-time high.

David Lafferty, global market strategist at Natixis Investment Managers, said initial weakness across Asian markets in response to the virus “was a knee-jerk reaction”.

At such an early stage, it is simply fear of an open-end, hard-to-handicap event. Having seen the response from China, markets are rebounding.

Markets have rallied in spite of the fact that the virus is still spreading rapidly.

EmoticonBurberry shares fall following virus warning

Shares in Burberry have fallen 3 per cent at the open after the luxury fashion group warned over the coronavirus’s impact on Chinese sales.

“It is more serious in Hong Kong than the protests,” said chief financial officer Julie Brown, referring to the street protests that caused sales there to halve from 8 per cent of the group total in the three months to end-December. “This has had even more significant impact on our Hong Kong business.” 

Shares in Burberry have now fallen 17 per cent since mid-January.

Shares in France’s L’Oréal rose 2 per cent even as it warned the outbreak of the coronavirus would cause a temporary slowdown in the beauty market in China, a key driver of its growth, and also affect travel retail, although it was “too early to assess” the extent of the risk. 

Biotech company sees ‘unprecedented’ interest in its virus tests

Diagnostics company Novacyt said it is in talks with NHS hospitals and Public Health England over a test for coronavirus which it says will give a result in less than two hours.

Researchers are racing to develop effective, portable tests for the current strain of coronavirus, and shares in the Anglo-French medical company have more than doubled in value since it announced it had developed one last week.

On Friday, Novacyt said it has seen “unprecedented” interest in its new tests, and has received 33,000 orders from around the world. It has already sold some to British hospitals for trials, and has applied to US authorities for emergency regulatory approval.

Graham Mullis, chief executive, said:

We have received unprecedented interest in our test and anticipate demand continuing to grow.

Semiconductor group labels virus situation ‘a negative lottery’

By Kathrin Hille in Taipei

The world’s largest semiconductor testing and packaging company has warned it is unable to predict how the novel coronavirus epidemic will impact its business.

Taiwan-based ASE Technology Holding said whether and when it could resume production in China following the Lunar New Year holiday was entirely in the hands of government officials.

Chinese authorities are scrambling to contain the spread of the disease with a raft of restrictions on economic activity and the movement of people.

“These measures will determine the availability of labour, the health of the supply chain and the health of overall demand,” said Ken Hsiang, the company’s head of investor relations. He called the outbreak a “negative lottery” which had sparked an overabundance of caution on the personal, corporate and national government levels.

“The impact on our business is unpredictable,” Mr Hsiang said on a call with investors. ASE said it had considered not giving any guidance, and added that although it had decided against that option, investors should regard its outlook with a wider variance than usual.

ASE forecast revenues in its core chip assembly, testing and materials business in the three months to March 31 to be roughly similar to the level seen in the second and third quarters of last year – between NT$59bn and NT$67bn, and revenues in its electronics contract manufacturing business to be flat compared with the same period a year ago – about NT$35bn.

The company said its forecast took into account expectations of higher labour costs due to the disruption caused by the outbreak. ASE said that in an optimistic scenario, its China-based production could return to 85 per cent of normal levels by the end of this month.

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Wuhan government mourns death of doctor, state media says

Chinese state media has reported that Wuhan’s local government has expressed “deep condolences and sadness” over the death of Li Wenliang, the doctor who warned over the spread of the coronavirus.

In a statement reported on Xinhua, Wuhan’s municipal government said: “We express our deep condolences and sadness, pay our tribute to him for fighting on the front line against the epidemic, and show our sincere sympathy to his family.”

The death of the doctor, who was censored by the government over his earlier warnings, has sparked an outpouring of grief and anger in China.

The news, which emerged overnight, dominated social media site Weibo on Friday, where users heavily criticised the government over its handling of the crisis.

Also on Friday, China’s central government said it was sending a team to Wuhan to investigate “problems reported by the masses” involving Li Wenliang.

Read more on the impact of Li Wenliang’s death here.

Burberry warns coronavirus impact on its business will worsen

The fashion house has told the stock exchange that visits to its Chinese stores have greatly reduced because of travel restrictions, while its international shops, which are popular destinations for wealthy Chinese tourists, will likely also be affected.

Burberry said:

Our most recent guidance for the year ended March 2020 predates the impact of the coronavirus outbreak and we wanted to update the market.

Currently 24 of our 64 stores in Mainland China are closed with remaining stores operating with reduced hours and seeing significant footfall declines. This is impacting retail sales in both Mainland China and Hong Kong S.A.R.

The spending patterns of Chinese customers in Europe and other tourist destinations have been less impacted to date but given widening travel restrictions, we anticipate these to worsen over the coming weeks.

Chief executive Marco Gobbetti commented:

The outbreak of the coronavirus in mainland China is having a material negative effect on luxury demand. While we cannot currently predict how long this situation will last, we remain confident in our strategy. In the meantime, we are taking mitigating actions and every precaution to help ensure the safety and wellbeing of our employees.

Burberry has been focusing its expansion strategy on mainland China to take advantage of a shift by the nation’s luxury goods shoppers towards buying at home instead of when they visit Europe and the US.

In the three months to November, Burberry told analysts on an earnings call, sales growth in mainland China was running in the “high teens”.

The group’s business in Hong Kong has already been suffering because of widespread pro-democracy protests in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory.

Burberry reported a 38 per cent decline in Hong Kong sales for the quarter to last November. But on that earnings call Mr Gobbetti also said: “”we expect China to remain the greatest contributor to luxury growth over the next five years.”

Thai official says tourists refusing to wear masks should be “kicked out”

John Reed reports from Bangkok

A senior Thai government official said on Friday that “farang” (European or white) visitors to the country who refused to wear face masks should be “kicked out”.

Anutin Charnvirakul, Thailand’s health minister and deputy prime minister, made the remarks at an event in which he handed out surgical masks to ward off transmission of the coronavirus.

He said that while Chinese and other Asian tourists were accepting the masks, some Europeans were not wearing them.

“Those ‘farang’ tourists – that’s something the embassies should be notified of and the public as well,” Mr Anutin said. “They don’t care about the big picture and these tourists are in the country, we’re giving the masks to them and they still refuse.”
He added: “They need to be kicked out of Thailand.”

Thailand’s tourist industry, which accounts for more than 10 per cent of GDP in south-east Asia’s second-largest economy, is reeling from a collapse in visitor arrivals from the mainland. China accounted for more than 10m of the 38m foreign tourists who visited the country last year.

On February 1-5, the latest dates for which data are available, international arrivals at Bangkok’s main Suvarnabhumi airport were down nearly 40 per cent on the same period a year ago, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand. Arrivals were down 52 per cent at the Thai capital’s Don Mueang airport, a hub for budget flights to China.

Prayuth Chan-ocha’s Thai government has come under criticism on social media for its handling of the crisis.

Cruise ships become prison hulks

Earlier on Friday, it emerged that infections on board a cruise ship quarantined off the coast of Japan had trebled to 61.

The Diamond Princess is already one of the most potent images of this week’s escalation in the corona virus.

Across the region, the plans of other cruise ships have also been thrown into turmoil, raising questions over whether some passengers will be able to disembark.

The Westerdam will not be allowed to dock in Tokyo, while Taiwan has said it will not allow foreign passengers on the Super Star Aquarius, due back today, to land.

Read more detailed coverage from FT’s reporters in the region here.

Australia’s largest travel agency warns of virus impact on earnings

Jamie Smyth reports from Sydney

Flight Centre, Australia’s largest travel agency, warned on Friday the spread of the coronavirus would make it difficult for the group to achieve its earnings guidance for the 2020 financial year.

Graham Turner, Flight Centre managing director, said on Friday it was too early to predict the virus’s overall impact but revealed it had already adversely affected its corporate travel operations in China, Singapore and Malaysia, which together generated A$625m in transaction value in 2019.

“It is impossible to predict the virus’s impact on our business or on leisure and corporate travel in general at this early stage, but it will impact travel patterns to some degree in the near-term,” he said.

Flight Centre said it had encouraged staff in its China corporate travel business to take leave over the next few weeks, while the outlook remains uncertain. Other businesses could be affected in the upcoming months, such as corporate travel, leisure travel and hotels and resorts, the group said.

Flight Centre said it would be difficult for it to deliver full-year earnings guidance of A$310m to A$350m. The group said its first-half profit before before tax was likely to be slightly above the midpoint of its A$90-110m guidance.

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Chinese official says Hong Kong evacuations would be an “over-reaction”

Sue-Lin Wong reports from Hong Kong

A top Chinese official in Hong Kong said any evacuations of foreign citizens and diplomats from the Asian financial centre due to the coronavirus outbreak would be an “over-reaction.”

Xie Feng, China’s foreign ministry commissioner in Hong Kong, made the comments after US airlines United and American said on Wednesday they were suspending flights to Hong Kong, in a blow to territory.

The United States and Australia are among several countries that have barred entry to foreign nationals flying from mainland China. There are growing concerns for people flying from Hong Kong to other countries that similar restrictions will be implemented.

The commissioner, addressing the territory’s diplomatic corps on Friday, said: “It is our hope that you will assess the outbreak in a science-based and calm manner and avoid overreaction such as evacuation of citizens and diplomats,” noting that the World Health Organization does not recommend the evacuation of citizens from Hong Kong at present.

As the coronavirus spreads to dozens of countries, Mr Xie called the “shocking hatred and violence” directed against some people of Chinese citizenship and descent around the world “lethal.” “The novel coronavirus will be defeated but the virus of discrimination, hatred and racism will have far more devastating impacts if left unchecked.”

Foxconn adds production line for medical face masks

Kathrin Hille reports from Taipei

Apple supplier Foxconn, the world’s largest electronics manufacturer, is building a production line for face masks and expects to have a daily capacity of 2m by the end of the month.

“There is no change in the company’s main business,” Foxconn Industrial, one of the Taiwanese company’s biggest affiliates in China which is normally focused on factory automation, said in a statement to the Shanghai Stock Exchange on Friday. “The addition of a production line for medical face masks is for the purpose to quickly meet the needs of fighting the epidemic based on the local government’s demands against the background of prevention of novel coronavirus pneumonia.”

The company said the mask line at a plant in Shenzhen had started trial production, a revelation which indicates that the Chinese government’s ban on all but essential manufacturers returning to work before next Monday, is being implemented flexibly.
Foxconn Industrial said the masks produced at the new line were intended mainly to protect its own workers against infection, but the company might provide some externally as well later.

Hon Hai, the group’s Taiwan-listed flagship, has refused to provide details to the media on how its factories in China, where it employs roughly 1m people, are affected by the outbreak. It did not communicate the mask production measure to shareholders in Taiwan.

Hong Kong banks plan relief measures for borrowers

Hudson Lockett reports from Hong Kong

Hong Kong banks are planning to roll out temporary relief measures for customers put in difficult straits by the coronavirus, according to the territory’s de facto central bank.

The Hong Kong Monetary Authority said in a letter yesterday that the outbreak was “adversely affecting the Hong Kong economy” and that some banks were considering measures, including principal moratorium for residential and commercial mortgages, fee reduction for credit card borrowing and restructuring of repayment schedules for corporate loans.

The HKMA said it encouraged other banks to follow suit and added that lenders “should adopt a sympathetic stance in dealing with customers facing financial stress due to the novel coronavirus”.

What’s happening on Friday

An update on the latest developments

– Li Wenliang, the doctor who warned of the virus’s outbreak, has died in Wuhan. News of his death first began circulating on Thursday and was confirmed overnight, prompting an outpouring of grief and anger in China. Total deaths from the coronavirus reached 636 on Friday.

– Cases of coronavirus have trebled on a cruise ship that is quarantined off the coast of Japan. The Diamond Princess, which is carrying around 3,700 passengers, now has a total of 61 cases.

– Hong Kong doctors, who say they are dealing with 80 to 90 suspected cases a day, have warned over a shortage of medical equipment. Concerns over Hong Kong and Macau have also risen elsewhere – Taiwan is requiring visitors from the two cities to self-quarantine for 14 days.

Toyota extends shutdown of its plants in China

Kana Inagaki reports from Tokyo

Toyota has extended the shutdown of its plants in China until Feb 16 as the coronavirus outbreak wreaks havoc on global supply chains.

The world’s second-largest carmaker, which has 12 plants in China for cars and vehicle components, said its decision took into account guidelines from local authorities and issues to do with its parts supply and logistics. It had originally hoped to restart operations from Monday.

“We are treating the week starting from Feb 10 as a period for our team to prepare for the return to normal operations from next week and beyond,” the company said in a statement on Friday.

The decision by Toyota came a day after the carmaker said it expected a dent to car sales in China as the spreading epidemic depresses consumer spending.

Rival Fiat Chrysler has also warned that one of its European plants will be forced to halt production in a matter of weeks, as its struggles to source key parts from Chinese suppliers.

S&P says coronavirus will hit Chinese GDP in 2020

S&P on Friday said it expects China GDP growth to slow to 5 per cent in 2020, on the back of the economic impact of the coronavirus.

The rating agency added that it expects “lost ground” to be made up the following year.

It added that it anticipates a “material effect on global growth”:

The global impact will be felt through four real economy channels: sharply reduced tourism revenues, lower exports of consumer and capital goods, lower commodity prices, and industrial supply-chain disruptions. These spillovers could become larger if markets start to price in the risk of a material global slowdown and financial conditions tighten as risk premia rise across asset classes.

In 2019, the Chinese economy grew 6.1 per cent, the lowest rate since 1990.

Hong Kong and Macau citizens required to self-quarantine in Taiwan

Kathrin Hille reports from Taipei

Hong Kong and Macau citizens visiting Taiwan are required to self-quarantine at home for 14 days after entry, as of today.

The move comes alongside heightened worries over those who have passed through Hong Kong and Macau, as well as mainland China.

Foreign nationals who don’t have Taiwan resident status and visited or were residents of mainland China, Hong Kong or Macau in the past 14 days are also not allowed to enter, as of today.

Chinese nationals are currently not allowed to enter Taiwan, in line with measures that took effect late last month.

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Cases of virus treble on quarantined cruise ship in Japan

Robin Harding reports from Tokyo

Japan has found another 41 cases of coronavirus on board the Diamond Princess, a cruise ship in quarantine off Yokohama, bringing the total on the vessel to 61. The cases were found after tests on 273 passengers who either showed symptoms or had close contact with those who did, according to the health ministry.

In total, there are around 3,700 passengers on board the ship. Diagnosed cases of coronavirus are being evacuated to hospitals in the Greater Tokyo area while all the remaining passengers have been asked to quarantine themselves in their cabins for two weeks.

Following criticism for an overly relaxed approach to the new pathogen, prime minister Shinzo Abe vowed to step up Japan’s response, saying yesterday that foreign passengers on board the Westerdam, another cruise ship that was due to visit the country, will not be permitted to disembark.

Hong Kong doctors warn of shortages of protective equipment

Primrose Riordan reports from Hong Kong

Hong Kong doctors who say they are dealing with 80 to 90 suspected cases of coronavirus each day are warning that they could run out of equipment to protect them from the novel coronavirus in as soon as a week’s time, and have accused the local government of missteps in handling the outbreak.

There have been at least 24 confirmed cases and one death in the city linked to the virus. Local authorities have declined calls from medical staff to shut all border crossings with mainland China. Hospital workers began strike action on Monday.

Dr Arisina Ma, the president of the Hong Kong Doctors Association, said due to equipment shortages, the hospital authority had advised that only doctors in “high risk” areas which were dealing with suspected novel coronavirus cases should wear the full suite of medical protective equipment, such as masks, hair nets, and other facial and body coverings.

“Even in the high risk area we worry that supply might run low soon, if we don’t have new supply maybe some of the N95 mask or personal protective equipment may run out in a month’s time or even in a week’s time,” Dr Ma said.

She said private hospitals have stopped taking any suspected cases of the virus, and were redirecting people to public hospitals, which are already under pressure.

Hong Kong authorities announced this week they would shut some border crossings with mainland China and that people coming across the border would be quarantined for 14 days from Saturday.

Dr Ma said the Hong Kong government missed a chance to limit the spread of the virus by implementing border controls and now it was not clear how the quarantine would work.

“I have no idea where the government can find quarantine facilities,” Dr Ma said.

Chinese whistleblower doctor dies after coronavirus infection

Li Wenliang, the Chinese doctor who became a hero to millions for raising the alarm over the coronavirus epidemic, died after he became infected with the virus.

Li shot to fame when he warned fellow medics in an online chat group in December that seven new pneumonia cases had been identified. His comments were shared on Weibo with the hashtag “Wuhan SARS” before the posts were scrubbed by censors. He was then accused of “rumour mongering” by Chinese authorities as they scrambled to downplay the outbreak.

Read our full coverage of Li Wenliang

Death toll hits 636 in China

The number of deaths in China from novel coronavirus rose to 636 as of the end of Thursday, Chinese health authorities announced.

China has confirmed 31,161 cases of the virus.

Melco shelves Crown share purchase over coronavirus

Jamie Smyth reports from Sydney

Melco Resorts and Entertainment, the Hong-Kong-listed casino company, has abandoned plans to raise its stake in Australian rival Crown Resorts to 19.99 per cent over the significant hit to its business from the coronavirus.

Melco, which is controlled by Lawrence Ho, said it would reassess all its non-core investments in light of the severe drop in tourism in Asia to integrated resorts facilities following the outbreak of the virus, which has temporarily closed all casinos in Macau.

“As a result of this decision, Melco will not pursue its planned investment in Australia for the second tranche of shares in Crown Resorts Limited (“Crown”) … at this time, its capital needs to be deployed on its core assets,” said Melco in a statement.

In May, Melco announced it would spend A$1.76bn ($1.2bn) on a 19.99 per cent stake in Crown, which is controlled by Australian billionaire James Packer, a former business associate of Mr Ho. The Hong-Kong listed casino operator has already acquired an initial 10 per cent stake in Crown but the remaining shares have not changed hands as Australian authorities have initiated a probity investigation into Crown and the intended share sale to Melco.

Shares in Macau casino operators have fallen sharply since the territory ordered the temporary closure of all resorts due to the coronavirus.