Coronavirus: Global shares skid as COVID-19 cases rise

Global shares skidded Wednesday as reports of rising numbers of coronavirus cases deepened the gloom over the likely impact on the world economy.

France’s CAC 40 slipped 3.6 per cent to 4,241.02 in early trading, while Germany’s DAX shed 2.9 per cent to 9,648.42. Britain’s FTSE 100 plunged 3.9 per cent to 5,450.63 after major banks announced they were scrapping dividend payments, bringing their share prices sharply lower.

U.S. shares were set to drift lower with Dow futures down 3.2 per cent at 21,070.50. S&P 500 futures dipped 3.4 per cent to 2,496.97.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 dropped 4.5 per cent to finish at 18,065.41.

The Bank of Japan’s quarterly survey, or “tankan,” showed sentiment among Japan’s large manufacturers fell in the January-March period, marking the fifth straight quarter of decline, according to the central bank. The tankan measures corporate sentiment by subtracting the number of companies saying business conditions are negative from those responding they are positive.

The key index, which measures sentiment among large manufacturers, fell to minus 8 from zero in October-December, the worst result in seven years. Sentiment among non-manufacturers was also dismal as the service sector, tourism and other businesses have also been hit hard by the outbreak.

Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 added 3.6 per cent to 5,258.60, while South Korea’s Kospi dipped 3.9 per cent to 1,685.46. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 2.2 per cent to 23,085.79, while the Shanghai Composite edged 0.6 per cent lower to 2,734.52.

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India’s Sensex fell 4.7 per cent. Shares also fell in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

On Wall Street overnight, stocks plunged, closing out their worst quarter since late 2008, when the S&P 500 lost 22.6 per cent.

The Fed has promised to buy as many Treasurys as it takes to get lending markets working smoothly after trading got snarled in markets that help companies borrow short-term cash to make payroll, homebuyers get mortgages and local governments to build infrastructure. Congress, meanwhile, approved a $2.2 trillion rescue plan for the economy, and leaders are already discussing the possibility of another round of aid.

Among the next milestones for investors is Friday’s U.S. jobs report, which will likely show a sharp drop in payrolls. Companies soon will begin reporting their earnings results for the first quarter. Analysts are looking for the steepest drop in profits since early 2016, according to FactSet.

The numbers may get even worse in this quarter.

The number of known coronavirus cases keeps rising, and the worldwide tally has topped 860,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. The United States has the highest number in the world: more than 189,000 people.

Most people who contract COVID-19 have mild or moderate symptoms, which can include fever and cough. But others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems may get pneumonia and need to be hospitalized. More than 42,000 people have died worldwide due to COVID-19, while more than 178,000 have recovered.

ENERGY: U.S. benchmark crude fell 26 cents to $20.22 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It gained 39 cents to $20.48 a barrel Tuesday. Brent crude, the international standard, lost $1.24 to $25.11 per barrel.

CURRENCIES: The dollar cost 107.67 Japanese yen, up from 107.52 yen on Tuesday. The euro fell to $1.0944 from $1.1034..

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