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.

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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.