World

Coronavirus wreaks financial havoc as infections near 100,000

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Passengers sit in Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport in London, Britain on March 6, 2020. PHOTO | REUTERS

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Summary

  • An increasing number of people faced a new reality as many were asked to stay home from work, schools were closed, large gatherings and events cancelled, stores emptied of staples like toiletries and water, and face masks a common sight.

Business districts around the world began to empty and stock markets tumbled on Friday as the number of coronavirus infections neared 100,000 and the economic damage wrought by the outbreak intensified.

An increasing number of people faced a new reality as many were asked to stay home from work, schools were closed, large gatherings and events cancelled, stores emptied of staples like toiletries and water, and face masks a common sight.

In London, Europe’s financial capital, the Canary Wharf district was unusually quiet. S&P Global’s large office stood empty after the company sent its 1,200 staff home, while HSBC has asked around 100 people to work from home after a worker tested positive for the illness. 

In New York, meanwhile, JPMorgan divided its team between central locations and a secondary site in New Jersey while Goldman Sachs sent some traders to nearby secondary offices in Greenwich, Connecticut and Jersey City.

The outbreak has radiated across the United States, surfacing in at least four new states plus San Francisco.

More than 2,000 people were stranded on the Grand Princess cruise ship after it was barred from returning to port in San Francisco because at least 35 people aboard developed flu-like symptoms. Test kits were delivered at sea to the vessel.

Moves by some major economies including the United States to cut interest rates and pledge billions of dollars to fight the epidemic have done little to allay fears about the spread of the virus and the widening economic fallout.

SINKING MARKETS

European stocks continued their slide after the Japanese market dropped to a six-month low, with 97 percent of shares on the Tokyo exchange’s main board in the red.

Airline and travel stocks have been among the worst hit as people cancelled non-essential travel.

“If this really ramps up, we could see a lot more kitchen- sinking updates from the travel industry and airlines,” said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG. “What’s impressive about the current move is it probably understates the degree of disruption we could be facing across the US and Europe.”

The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes US10YT=RR fell to a record low of 0.7650 percent as investors sought safe havens.

More than 98,000 people have been infected in over 85 countries and over 3,300 people have died, according to a Reuters tally. Mainland China, where the outbreak began, has accounted for more than 3,000 deaths, while the toll in Italy stood at 148.

At current rates, the number of confirmed cases of the virus will surpass 100,000 on Friday.

In the United States, the world’s economic powerhouse, at least 57 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed as the virus struck for the first time in Colorado, Maryland, Tennessee and Texas, as well as San Francisco in California. Some 230 people have been infected in total, and 12 have died.

Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft advised employees in the Seattle area to work from home, after some caught the virus. The companies’ work-from-home recommendation will affect more than 100,000 people in the area.

The US Senate on Thursday passed an $8.3 billion bill to combat the outbreak, joining a slew of countries including China and South Korea in bolstering their war chests.

Africa has recorded 29 cases so far in eight countries, none of which has resulted in death.

The virus has largely spared sub-Saharan Africa, but since last month has been detected in Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and on Friday the first case was reported in Cameroon.