Last Update 16:30
Saturday, 22 February 2020

Europe equities rebound as fears ease over China virus

AFP , Friday 24 Jan 2020
The closed Huanan Seafood in China
This Jan. 17, 2020, photo, shows the closed Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China. China reported Monday, Jan. 20 a sharp rise in the number of people affected in a pneumonia outbreak caused by a new coronoavirus, including the first cases in the capital. (AP)
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Europe's main stock markets ended the week in positive territory Friday after Asian indices halted their slide, with investor nervousness easing over the rapid spread of a viral illness in China.

"There's a hope that the coronavirus is contained, particularly in China," Interactive Investor analyst Richard Hunter told AFP.

"And that's something of a relief rally -- (and) also with the earning season so far so good.

"So the last few days provided an opportunity to investors to buy on the cheaper side," Hunter added.

OANDA senior market analyst Edward Moya warned, however, that "concerns are growing that the travel bans in place (in China) will start to have a major impact on the economy" which could trim Chinese GDP by 1 percentage point or more.

"Oil's beating continues as the lockdown situation keeps getting worse in China," added Moya as the price of Brent cruise and WTI sagged by around 2.0 percent.

After adding 1.6 percent during the afternoon, London's benchmark FTSE 100 ended the session 1.0 percent ahead of Thursday's close while Frankfurt posted a gain of 1.4 percent and Paris rose by 0.9 percent.

Wall Street was more cautious, dipping some two hours into trading after edging 0.3 percent higher minutes after the opening bell.

Asian stock markets had earlier halted their slide with investor nerves eased after a week of volatility.

China's coronavirus infection has killed at least 26 people while the number of confirmed cases has leapt to 830, health officials said.

Authorities have shut down public transport in 13 cities -- together home to more than 40 million people -- around the epicentre of the outbreak in Wuhan.

"Markets are fearful the virus could spread, and even if it doesn't the impact on China could be large," added National Australia Bank analyst Tapas Strickland.

However, the World Health Organization has stopped short of declaring a global health emergency -- a rare instrument used only for the worst outbreaks.

For Capital Economics' Caroline Bain, "we suspect that any hit to global growth from the coronavirus will be temporary and probably smaller than during the SARS outbreak in 2003."

Market penicillin

"The WHO has provided a hefty dose of market prescribed penicillin that has lowered investors' fever for the time being," said AxiCorp chief market strategist Stephen Innes.

Hong Kong was down nearly four percent for the week but closed 0.2 percent higher after a half-day session ahead of the Chinese New Year holiday.

Mainland bourses began their week-long break for the holiday, a day after the Shanghai exchange shed nearly three percent in its worst pre-Lunar New Year market fall on record.

Fears remain that the holiday -- when hundreds of millions of people travel across China -- could catalyse a further spread of the virus and knock-on market headwinds.

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