Asian markets take another hit as virus sweeps globe

27 February, 2020 12:00 AM printer

HONG KONG: Asian markets fell on Wednesday, with the coronavirus spreading rapidly around the world and health chiefs warning that governments were not prepared for the outbreak.

The heavy selling, after a day of relative calm caused by bargain-buying, followed another rout on Wall Street where all three main indexes lost around three percent after officials said COVID-19 would likely take hold in the United States, report agencies.

With cases being reported in new countries—and lockdowns in nations including Austria, Italy and Spain—traders are growing increasingly fearful about the impact on the global economy.

The death toll is now at more than 2,700 while those infected are approaching 80,000, although new cases in China, the epicentre, are falling.

At the World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva, Bruce Aylward, who headed an international expert mission to China, hailed the drastic quarantine and containment measures taken by the country.

But he told reporters that other nations were “simply not ready” for reining in the outbreak, adding: “You have to be ready to manage this at a larger scale... and it has to be done fast.”

The WHO said countries must “prepare for a potential pandemic”—a term used to describe an epidemic that spreads widely throughout the world.

Tokyo and Shanghai each ended down 0.8 percent, having shed more than three percent Tuesday, while Hong Kong lost 0.7 percent.

Sydney shed more than two percent, while Seoul, Singapore, Wellington and Jakarta were all down more than one percent. Manila tumbled almost four percent as it resumed trading after a one-day holiday. Taipei and Bangkok were also well down.

In early trade, London fell 0.5 percent, Frankfurt sank one percent and Paris was off 0.7 percent.

“What we appear to be seeing is the realisation that global economic growth could well come to a halt as the combined effects of a flu virus and belated attempts to stem the spread of it across the globe, raise the prospect of an economic sneeze,” said CMC Markets UK analyst Michael Hewson.