Global stocks tumbled Thursday after novel coronavirus cases and deaths surged to a daily high, stoking fears among investors that the epidemic’s fallout could be worse than anticipated.
China’s Hubei province — home to the city of Wuhan, where the flu-like illness originated — reported nearly 15,000 new cases and 242 deaths, a one-day record. More than 13,000 of the new cases were “clinically diagnosed,” however, meaning Hubei officials included patients showing symptoms and not just those with confirmed lab-test results. Official government figures already use that standard.
“The surge in reported cases reported today is a one-off change due to methodology and by itself, doesn’t imply an acceleration in the pace of infection,” Seema Shah, the chief strategist at Principal Global Investors, said in a morning note.
“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,” she added.
The novel coronavirus, which causes a disease now known as COVID-19, has infected more than 60,000 people, killed almost 1,400, and spread to more than 25 countries. It has severely disrupted Chinese manufacturing and commerce — threatening economic growth this year — and forced the likes of Apple, Disney, and Starbucks to shut some or all of their locations in the country.
Here’s the market roundup as of 11:20 a.m. in London (6:20 a.m. in New York):
European equities have slumped. Germany’s DAX slid 1%, Britain’s FTSE 100 tumbled 1.6%, and the Euro Stoxx 50 dropped 1.2%.
Asian indexes closed lower. China’s Shanghai Composite dropped 0.7%, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng slid 0.3%, and Japan’s Nikkei fell 0.1%.
US stocks were set to open lower. Futures underlying the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 dropped 0.8%, and Nasdaq futures slid 0.9%.
Oil prices dropped with West Texas Intermediate down 0.6% at $50.90 a barrel, and Brent crude down 1% at $55.20.