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China virus sends shiver through markets as risks mount

Stock MarketsJan 21, 2020 04:09AM ET
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© Reuters. The London Stock Exchange Group offices are seen in the City of London, Britain

By Ritvik Carvalho

LONDON (Reuters) - Global shares took a beating on Tuesday, wiping out all gains made at the start of the week as mounting concerns about a new strain of coronavirus in China sent a ripple of risk aversion through markets.

Authorities in China confirmed that a new virus could be spread through human contact, reporting 15 medical staff had been infected and a fourth person had died.

Safe-haven bonds and the yen gained as investors were reminded of the economic damage done by the SARS virus in 2002-2003, particularly given the threat of contagion as hundreds of millions travel for the Lunar New Year holidays.

"I'm not an expert in the pandemics, but you can look at previous examples like the SARS outbreak which also originated from Asia," said Cristian Maggio, Head of Emerging Markets Strategy at TD Securities in London.

Noting that China had initially downplayed the full extent of the SARS outbreak, he said "I think the market might be fearing something similar."

The mood swing saw MSCI's All-Country World Index slip 0.4%, wiping out gains made at the start of the week on Monday. Asian markets were hit particularly hard.

Hong Kong, which suffered badly during the SARS outbreak, saw its index fall 2.8%.

Japan's Nikkei lost 0.9% and Shanghai blue chips 1.7%, with airlines under pressure. The caution spread to E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 which eased 0.5%.

The chill in Asia carried over to European markets, where shares of luxury goods makers - which have large exposure to China - were among the biggest fallers. (EU)

Germany's 10-year government bond yield touched one-week lows. [GVD/EUR]

Investors had already been guarded after the International Monetary Fund trimmed its global growth forecasts, mostly due to a surprisingly sharp slowdown in India and other emerging markets.

There had been some relief as U.S. President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron seemed to have struck a truce over a proposed digital tax.

The two agreed to hold off on a potential tariffs war until the end of the year, a French diplomatic source said.

Trump is due to deliver a speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos later on Tuesday, and trade and tariffs could be on the agenda.

In a tweet late on Monday, Trump said he would be bringing "additional Hundreds of Billions of Dollars back to the United States of America! We are now NUMBER ONE in the Universe, by FAR!!"

ALL STEADY AT BOJ

The Bank of Japan cited lessened trade risks when nudging up forecasts for economic growth after holding a policy meeting on Tuesday.

As widely expected, the BOJ maintained its short-term interest rate target at -0.1% and a pledge to guide 10-year government bond yields around 0%, by a 7-2 vote.

Japan's yen picked up a bid on the safe-haven move and the dollar dipped to 109.93 from an early 110.17. It also gained on the euro, leaving the single currency lower to the dollar at $1.1090.

Against a basket of currencies, the dollar was steady at 97.638, just off a four-week high of 97.729.

The Australian dollar took a knock from the flu worries since it attracts large numbers of Chinese tourists, who tend to be big spenders over the Lunar New Year holidays.

Australia said it would step up screening of some flights from Wuhan.

The outbreak was particularly badly timed as the tourism industry has been mauled already by bushfires sweeping the country.

Spot gold hit a 2-week high of $1,568.35 per ounce, but traded 0.2% lower in early deals in London.

Oil prices slid nearly 1%, having earlier gained on the risk of supply disruption in Libya. [O/R]

Brent crude futures fell 1% to $64.60 a barrel, while U.S. crude fell 0.92% to $58.09 a barrel.

China virus sends shiver through markets as risks mount
 

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Comments (9)
Thom Miller
Thom Miller Jan 21, 2020 9:44AM ET
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Trump hadn’t realized that the Chinese coronavirus was part of his Phase 1 trade deal. And according to everyone who’s read through it, that’s about all he got.
Chris Snyder
Chris Snyder Jan 21, 2020 7:36AM ET
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Captain Trips has arrived.
Ron Warren
Ron Warren Jan 21, 2020 6:16AM ET
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I want to see a video of the chimp throwing darts at the wheel of reasons for market movement.
Abba Sani
Abba Sani Jan 21, 2020 1:35AM ET
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Wow
Andrew Paeth
Andrew Paeth Jan 21, 2020 12:34AM ET
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“Bring out your dead, bring out your dead”...
Tobias Mueller
Tobias Mueller Jan 21, 2020 12:12AM ET
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Wuhan-China-SARS, Mk. II
Nicholas Lee
Nicholas Lee Jan 20, 2020 11:31PM ET
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Next 2nd waves of SARS is coming back...
Jon Benton
Jon Benton Jan 20, 2020 7:59PM ET
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Especially since ther going after Venezuela ?! Seek and Plunder ($$)
Fred Smith
Fred Smith Jan 20, 2020 7:51PM ET
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USA has its own gas station now. We don't need MidEast Speedy Mart anymore
Bill Chan
Bill Chan Jan 20, 2020 7:51PM ET
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US need Mideast to strengthen US dollar otherwise they will use Chinese Yuan
 
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