Markets in Asia and the Middle East opened sharply lower on Monday as investors digested the relentless global spread of the coronavirus and turmoil in the oil markets. Shares in Saudi Aramco, the state oil giant, dropped 10 percent leading to a halt in trading on the Riyadh stock market.
Asian markets opened sharply lower on Monday as investors digested the relentless global spread of the coronavirus and turmoil in the oil markets.Tokyo was down 4.7 percent at midmorning on Monday, while Hong Kong was down 4.1 percent. Futures markets showed investors predicting sharp drops in Wall Street and Europe as well.
The coronavirus has unnerved investors as it spreads, clouding the prospects for global growth. Italy on Sunday put a broad swath of its industrial northern region under lockdown as the virus has spread, making it one of the biggest sources of confirmed infections outside China. France, Saudi Arabia, Iran and other countries also took further steps to stop the spread.
In the United States, the number of confirmed infections exceeded 500 cases. A top American expert said on Sunday that regional lockdowns could be necessary.A clash over oil between Russia and Saudi Arabia, two major producers, further unnerved investors. As the coronavirus hits demand for fuel, Saudi Arabia slashed its export oil prices over the weekend, starting an apparent price war aimed at Russia.
Lower oil prices could help consumers, but it could unsettle countries that depend on oil revenue to prop up their economies. In futures markets, the benchmark price for American and Europe oil supplies tumbled $10, or about one-quarter.Investors fled to the safety of the bond market, driving yields lower. In the market for U.S. Treasury bonds, yields broadly fell below the 1 percent level for both short term and long term holdings. The 10-year Treasury bond, which is closely watched, was yielding about 0.5 percent.
In other Asian markets, South Korea was down 3.6 percent. Shanghai was down 1.5 percent.
Italy reported a huge jump in deaths from the coronavirus on Sunday, a surge of more than 50 percent from the day before, as it ordered an unprecedented peacetime lockdown of its wealthiest region in a sweeping effort to fight the epidemic. The extraordinary measure restricted movement for a quarter of the country’s population.“We are facing an emergency, a national emergency,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in announcing the government decree in a news conference after 2 a.m.
The move is tantamount to sacrificing the Italian economy in the short term to save it from the ravages of the virus in the long term. The measures will turn stretches of Italy’s wealthy north — including the economic and cultural capital of Milan and landmark tourist destinations such as Venice — into quarantined red zones until at least April 3.
They will prevent the free movement of roughly 16 million people. Funerals and cultural events are banned. The decree requires that people keep a distance of at least one meter from one another at sporting events, bars, churches and supermarkets. The Italian outbreak — the worst outside Asia — has inflicted serious damage on one of Europe’s most fragile economies and prompted the closing of Italy’s schools. The country’s cases nearly tripled from about 2,500 infections on Wednesday to more than 7,375 on Sunday. Deaths rose to 366.
More and more countries have adopted or are considering stronger measures to try to keep infected people from entering and to contain outbreaks. More and more countries have adopted or are considering stronger measures to try to keep infected people from entering and to contain outbreaks.
On Sunday, Saudi Arabia cut off access to Shiite Muslim towns and villages in the east of the kingdom, cordoning off an area in Qatif Governorate where all 11 of the country’s confirmed coronavirus cases have been identified. And local Saudi media reported that the country would temporarily close down all educational institutions and block travel to and from a number of countries in the region. The kingdom had already suspended pilgrimages to the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
In Iran, which has been hit the hardest in the Middle East, state media reported that all flights to Europe would be suspended indefinitely. The health minister in France, one of Europe’s bigger trouble spots, announced a ban on gatherings of more than 1,000 people. The U.S. has counted at least 539 cases across 34 states — Connecticut reported its first case and Washington announced another patient being treated for coronavirus had died on Sunday — and the District of Columbia, and logged 22 deaths. Washington State, New York, California, Maryland and Oregon have declared emergencies.
A growing number of schools are shutting down across the country, raising concerns about the closings will affect learning, burden families and upend communities. The U.S. Army suspended travel to and from Italy and South Korea, now the world’s third largest hot spot, until May 6, an order that affects 4,500 soldiers and family members. And the Finnish armed forces announced that troop exercises planned for March 9-19 with Norway would be scrapped.
On Sunday, the leading U.S. expert on infectious diseases, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, said that it was possible that regional lockdowns could become necessary and recommended that those at greatest risk — the elderly and those with underlying health conditions — abstain from travel. Dr. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the Trump administration was prepared to “take whatever action is appropriate” to contain the outbreak, including travel restrictions in areas with a high number of cases.
“I don’t think it would be as draconian as ‘nobody in and nobody out,’” Dr. Fauci said on “Fox News Sunday.” “But there’ll be, if we continue to get cases like this, particularly at the community level, there will be what we call mitigation.”
Even as the rate of new infections appeared to taper in China, the number of cases around the world continued to rise on Sunday, with some of the biggest clusters emerging in Europe. Besides the sharp rise in Italy, Germany reported more than 930 cases; Switzerland’s total reached 281; and Britain’s health department said that three people with the virus had died and that the number of cases in the country had jumped to 273 by Sunday. The smallest E.U. nation, Malta, reported its first confirmed case on Saturday: a 12-year-old girl recently returned from a vacation in northern Italy. Her condition was described as good.
The Spanish authorities announced on Sunday that three more people diagnosed with coronavirus had died in Madrid, raising the number of coronavirus fatalities in the country to 13. There are now over 500 cases, the authorities said. Salvador Illa, Spain’s health minister, said at a news conference in Madrid that several cases in Spain were linked to people who recently traveled to Italy.
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