Global stock markets plunge on coronavirus fears

Global stock markets

Global financial markets saw some of the sharpest falls in years on Monday after a rise in coronavirus cases renewed fears about economic slowdown.

In the US, the Dow Jones and S&P 500 posted their sharpest daily declines since 2018, with the Dow falling 3.5% or more than 1,000 points.

The S&P 500 ended the day 3.3% lower, while the Nasdaq sank 3.7%.

The UK’s FTSE 100 share index closed 3.3% lower, the sharpest drop since January 2016.

In Italy, which has seen Europe’s worst outbreak of the virus, Milan’s stock market plunged nearly 6%.

In contrast, the price of gold, which is considered less risky, hit its highest level in seven years at one point.

The moves came as the outbreak continued to spread outside of China, with Iran, South Korea and Italy reporting a surge in cases.

About 77,000 people in China, where the virus emerged last year, have been infected and nearly 2,600 have died.

More than 1,200 cases have been confirmed in about 30 other countries and there have been more than 20 deaths. Italy reported three more deaths on Monday, raising the total there to six.

“There has been so much complacency in recent weeks from investors, despite clear signs that China’s economy is facing a large hit and that supply chains around the world were being disrupted,” said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.

“Markets initially wobbled in January, but had quickly bounced back, implying that investors didn’t see the coronavirus as a serious threat to corporate earnings. They may now be reappraising the situation.”

The losses on the Dow and S&P 500 in the US wiped out their gains for the year. Firms such as Nike, Apple and Walt Disney, which do major business in China and rely on it to make goods, were some of the hardest hit, with shares down more than 4%.

Travel companies also continued to suffer. In the UK, the biggest faller in the FTSE 100 was EasyJet, which sank 16.7%, while Tui and British Airways owner IAG were both down by more than 9% at the close.