Business

Global stocks plummet again in worst week since 2008 financial crisis

Posted February 27, 2020 8:24 p.m. EST
Updated February 28, 2020 5:42 a.m. EST

— Global stock markets plummeted for a seventh consecutive day on Friday as the coronavirus continued to spread, increasing fears that the epidemic will wipe out corporate profits and push some of the world's biggest economies into recession.

China's Shanghai Composite closed down 3.7%, bringing losses for the week to 5.6%, the index's worst performance since April 2019. Japan's Nikkei ended down 3.7% and benchmark indexes in Australia and South Korea both shed 3.3%.

European stocks suffered even greater losses, with Germany's DAX dropping as much as 5% in early trading and London's FTSE 100 shedding 4.4%. In Italy, where 17 people have now died as a result of the virus, the benchmark FTSE MIB index was down nearly 4%.

US stock futures were also sharply lower Friday, suggesting that the country's three main indexes will resume their plunge after a sharp sell-off on Thursday during which the Dow suffered its worst ever points loss, dropping 1,191 points, or 4.4%. The S&P 500 suffered a similar fall and has slid more than 10% from its recent peak.

Taken together, global stocks are on track for their worst week since the global financial crisis. The MSCI index, which tracks shares in many of the world's biggest companies, has fallen 8.9% — its worst percentage decline since October 2008.

There have been more than 83,000 global coronavirus cases, with infections on every continent except Antarctica. The virus has killed at least 2,800 people around the world. At least 11 European countries now have confirmed infections, and health officials in South Korea confirmed 571 additional cases on Friday.

Investors have been spooked in recent days by a sharp increase in the number of warnings from companies including Ab Inbev, Disney, Apple, Microsoft and Qualcomm who say the coronavirus is hitting their business. IAG, the owner of British Airways, and Chinese search giant Weibo became the latest to do so on Friday.

Major firms have seen a sharp reduction in demand for the products and services, especially in Asia. But manufacturing, tech and pharmaceutical industries have also seen their supply chains disrupted by factory closures in China that have limited production.

Where the outbreak goes from here is far from clear, and that's also hammering markets and business. On Friday, IAG said that "ongoing uncertainty" over the outbreak's potential impact and duration mean it's not possible to quantify the total cost. Its shares dropped more than 8% in London.

Baidu said that revenue could drop as much as 13% in the first quarter compared to the same time last year. But what happens next is an open question. "The coronavirus situation in China is evolving," Baidu said in a statement. "Business visibility is very limited."

The corporate warnings paint a dire picture of the effect that the coronavirus is having on some of the world's biggest economies. Growth in China is expected to slow significantly, and other economies such as Japan and Germany could slide into recession as the outbreak compounds weakness caused by factors including the trade war between the United States and China.

If the coronavirus outbreak becomes a global pandemic, $1 trillion could be wiped off the world economy, with recessions in the United States and the eurozone, according to economists at Oxford Economics.

Oil prices, meanwhile, are in a bear market, having dropped more than 20% from recent highs as demand has dried up. Brent crude futures, the global benchmark, have slid more than 26% since early January, and are now at $50.37, their lowest level in 14 months. US oil futures are trading near $45 per barrel — also their lowest level in 14 months — and are down nearly 29% from early January.

— Anneken Tappe and Julia Horowitz contributed to this report.

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