As of 28 February, the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has affected 83’635 people globally. In mainland China there have been 2,788 deaths among 78,824 cases, mostly in the central province of Hubei. More than 12,000 people affected in China have already recovered. The coronavirus has spread to over 30 countries. The most badly affected include Japan, with 850 cases, including 691 from a cruise ship docked in Yokohama, and four deaths. Italy has recorded 650 cases and 17 deaths, while South Korea has recorded 2,337 cases and 13 deaths. There have also been deaths in Hong Kong, Taiwan, France, Iran and the Philippines.
We do not yet know how dangerous the new coronavirus is, and we will not know until more data comes in. The mortality rate is around 2% in the epicentre of the outbreak, Hubei province, and less than that elsewhere. For comparison, seasonal flu typically has a mortality rate below 1%. Health officials have warned of the potential for severe disruptions to daily life from the spread of the coronavirus.
Markets have reacted strongly to the spike in cases recently. The yield on the benchmark US government debt has fallen to an all time low of 1.20%, and the S&P 500 collapsed 4.4% at close on 27 February.
In Europe, stock markets have also nosedived sending the Stoxx 600 to its lowest level since December, losing more than 9% of its value over the past week as investors have moved to safe-haven assets.
Concerns about the outlook for global growth have hit oil markets as the price of Brent crude has fallen to USD 54/barrel.
The sell-off across markets has been significant on growing fears that the impact of the virus will be more widespread than first hoped. Fraying sentiment for equities has been triggered by the spread of the virus beyond China and countries such as Italy have imposed a strict quarantine across at least 10 towns near Milan, the country’s financial and business centre.
The exact impact on growth is hard to quantify at this stage, but a rising number of infections outside China means greater disruption for the global economy. Sectors led by travel and leisure, basic resources, auto and parts will continue to be particularly effected. Equity havens of utilities, healthcare and real-estate have also suffered notable declines, highlighting the broad sentiment.