Stock markets tumbled on Monday as the number of Coronavirus (now officially known as COVID-19) cases increased across the world.
As the centre of the outbreak of the virus, China continues to suffer more than anywhere else. The overwhelming majority of the worldwide cases are still in China, forcing authorities into a frenzy. People are unable to travel for work and millions are stuck in quarantine. American companies with a large presence in China, such as Apple and Nike, are failing to meet revenue projections and are bringing the struggles in China over to U.S. markets.
In such a globalised world, both the health and economic impact of the virus has spread very quickly. Other Asian countries such as Japan, Singapore, and South Korea are growing in fear of what the Coronavirus may bring. Outbreaks in Iran and Italy have shown that the virus is not as well-contained as had previously been thought. Italy’s inclusion in the borderless Schengen Area also plays into fears about the further spread of the virus. Although they have stated it is not a pandemic yet, the WHO has said that the world should prepare for one. Such a statement can only worsen the attitudes of investors.
Analysts believe that the decline in markets is due to the shock in the global supply chain. For example, in the case of companies like Apple and Nike, an absence of manufacturing in China has led to lower production of iPhones or sneakers, interfering with what otherwise would have been a greater number of products to transport and sell across the world. Because there are so many companies that can be involved in any supply chain, negative effects of the virus are being felt all over the business world.
The Nikkei 225, the main stock market index in Japan, closed down 3.34% on 25 February. The FTSE 100 Index in London had its worst single-day performance on Monday since the 2016 Brexit referendum. In New York, the NASDAQ-100 Index NDX opened the week down nearly 400 points (4%) from its closing on Friday the 21st. The Dow Jones has fallen over 1,400 points over the course of both Monday and Tuesday.
While the equity markets have fallen worldwide, investors have flocked to much safer assets. The prices of gold and bonds have risen suddenly as investors have moved their money to prevent any further losses. The rising prices of “safe-haven” assets have coincided with the yield of the 10-year U.S. Treasury note, a benchmark in the pricing of fixed-income securities, falling to a record low on Tuesday.
The shift towards safe-haven assets demonstrates a lack of trust in the stock market amidst the uncertainty of the Coronavirus. There are many that worry that this could be the beginning of the end of nearly a decade of strong growth worldwide. It is still far too early to tell if the world economy is actually entering a decline but providing that authorities, particularly in China, can contain and relieve the anxiety around the virus, stock markets should return to growth. However, if the virus is harder to contain than thought and it takes several more months to subdue, the damage may be too much for economies to overcome. Regardless of how the virus is to be handled going forward, it is nearly impossible to know that there is a recession until it is too late.