Coronavirus fears hit global shares and oil price

Worries over the continued spread of the coronavirus have hit financial markets, with stocks from Wall Street to Tokyo declining.

The three main US indexes closed down more than 1.5%, while London’s FTSE 100 index ended almost 2.3% lower.

Firms with significant sales in China were among the hardest hit.

The coronavirus has killed 81 people in China with almost 3,000 confirmed ill, while at least 44 cases have been confirmed abroad.

The outbreak has coincided with the Chinese New Year, when travel and spending typically spikes.

Many Asian stock markets were closed on Monday for the holiday, but concerns about the impact of the virus on the Chinese economy were felt globally, weighing on travel and fashion companies.

Oil prices also dropped more than 2%, with Brent crude falling to $59.32 a barrel, as traders fear demand could drop if China’s economy stalls.

“The timing [of the outbreak] could not have been worse,” analysts at Oxford Economics said in a research note.

In an attempt to slow the spread of the virus, China has announced travel curbs and quarantines, while companies in China have advised staff to work from home.

Businesses are also offering workers longer holidays, as well as telling employees returning from the most affected areas to stay away from work.

Analysts compared the situation to the 2002 outbreak of Sars, which killed almost 800 people. In the aftermath, China’s annual growth slumped from 11% to 9%.

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