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Business

AFP
January 31, 2020

Markets struggle after WHO declares virus emergency

Business

AFP
Fri, Jan 31, 2020
Traders work after the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on January 29 2020 in New York City, the US. Picture: AFP/JOHANNES EISELE

LONDON: Stock markets struggled Friday after the World Health Organization declared a global health emergency over China´s spreading deadly virus.

With hours to go until Britain finally leaves the European Union, the London stock market sank 0.8 percent in late morning deals as a relief rally for the pound hurt exporters.

Frankfurt and Paris shed 0.2 percent and 0.4 percent respectively around midday, after Asia was also gripped by virus worries in a volatile end to the week.

The novel coronavirus epidemic, which originated in the central Chinese city Wuhan, has so far killed 213 people and spread to at least 19 countries including two cases declared on Friday in Britain.

China's National Health Commission meanwhile said nearly 10,000 people have been infected.

"Coronavirus is currently spreading six times faster than SARS. Unless a cure is found, this could push a fragile world economic recovery into reverse," warned Douglas McWilliams, deputy chairman at British research group the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR).

He added: "It is clear that unless a cure and a vaccination are found rapidly, the fragile recovery that we predict is at risk. That is why — from an economics point of view — it is so vital that a cure and a vaccine is found."

Separately, the EU's official statistics agency announced Friday that the 19-member single currency area had already suffered a sharp slowdown after a turbulent year of Brexit uncertainty and trade spats with US President Donald Trump.

The eurozone economy grew 1.2 percent over the year, down from 1.8 percent in 2018 and well off the 2.7 percent seen in 2017.

Meanwhile, the Geneva-based WHO invoked a global health emergency on coronavirus — but stopped short of recommending trade and travel restrictions that could have had a bruising effect on key global growth engine China.

"This is not a vote of no confidence in China," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesushe said, praising Beijing for its swift action to tackle the outbreak.

'We must act now'

China has locked down a swathe of its centre, effectively quarantining millions of people in their cities and halting travel around the country.

"We must all act together now to limit further spread... We can only stop it together," said Tedros, who travelled to China this week and met with President Xi Jinping.

Foreign airlines — including British Airways and Lufthansa — have begun cancelling or curtailing flights to and from China, and a number of governments are recommending citizens do not visit the country.

Investors initially applauded the WHO´s move, plunging back into markets that have lost altitude over recent days as the 2019-nCoV crisis has worsened.

"Coronavirus fears continue to remain a dominant driver of market sentiment, with the continued proliferation of the virus providing a huge cause for concern," noted IG analyst Joshua Mahony.

"Growth fears remain relevant as the virus continues to spread," he also warned.

World oil prices firmed Friday after plunging the previous day to three-month lows on virus-linked demand fears in China, which is a major market for raw materials including crude.

Key figures around 1130 GMT

London - FTSE 100: DOWN 0.8 percent at 7,322.12 points

Frankfurt - DAX 30: DOWN 0.2 percent at 13,125.60

Paris - CAC 40: DOWN 0.4 percent at 5,849.36

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 0.4 percent at 3,675.60

Hong Kong - Hang Seng: DOWN 0.5 percent at 26,312.63 (close)

Tokyo - Nikkei 225: UP 1.0 percent at 23,205.18 (close)

Shanghai - Composite: Closed for a public holiday

New York - DOW: UP 0.4 percent at 28,859.44 (close)

Pound/dollar: UP at $1.3120 from $1.3093 at 2200 GMT

Euro/pound: DOWN at 84.04 from 84.26 pence

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.1026 from $1.1032

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 108.93 from 108.96

Brent Crude: UP 0.3 percent at $58.47 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: UP 0.4 percent at $52.32