Coronavirus: Global shares mixed as fear over COVID-19 outbreak mounts

Click to play video: 'Financial experts talk economic impact of the coronavirus'
Financial experts talk economic impact of the coronavirus
WATCH: Financial experts talk economic impact of the coronavirus – Mar 10, 2020

European markets opened higher Wednesday after Asian shares mostly declined, as governments were ramping up aid for economies reeling from the virus outbreak.

France’s CAC 40 gained 2.5 per cent to 4,750.03, while Germany’s DAX rose 2.3 per cent to 10,712.97. Britain’s FTSE 100 added 1.4 per cent to 6,043.49. U.S. shares were set to open lower with Dow futures down 1.0 and S&P 500 futures 1.1  per cent lower.

READ MORE: Coronavirus — TSX, Wall Street rebound after record-setting declines

The Bank of England cut its key interest rate by half a percentage point to 0.25 per cent as an emergency measure in response to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. The central bank said the move would “help support businesses and consumer confidence at a difficult time.”

Countries are shifting into damage-control as infections spread, prompting sweeping controls on travel, closures of schools and cancellations or postponements of sports events and many other public activities.

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Australia’s government announced a $1.6 billion virus-fighting package and reportedly plans an additional $6.5 billion in economic stimulus. Japan and Thailand also have announced fresh help for businesses and workers.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Stock markets in Canada, crude oil prices collapse'
COVID-19: Stock markets in Canada, crude oil prices collapse

But pessimism prevailed in Asia.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 lost 2.3 per cent to finish at 19,416.06. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 plunged 3.6 per cent to 5,725.90. South Korea’s Kospi shed 2.8 per cent to 1,908.27. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng fell 0.6 per cent to 25,231.61, while the Shanghai Composite dipped 0.9 per cent to 2,968.52.

India’s market bucked the trend, with the Sensex picking up 0.9 per cent after reopening following a holiday on Tuesday.

“After the strong rebound yesterday, Asian markets were quite flat this morning. There is consistent fear about the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. as well as in Europe,” said Louis Wong of Philip Capital Management.

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“Investors are still worried that those fiscal stimulus packages may not be able to contain the virus outbreak as well as to mitigate the impact on the economy,” he said.

Worries are growing that a prolonged outbreak may bring on recession.

While they won’t cure illnesses or get quarantined workers back into factories, spending and stimulus programs would put cash into the hands of households and businesses while health experts try to corral the virus.

Click to play video: 'COVID-19: Pence expects “dramatic” increase in ability to test for COVID-19 across U.S.'
COVID-19: Pence expects “dramatic” increase in ability to test for COVID-19 across U.S.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

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The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 58,000 have so far recovered.

READ MORE: Coronavirus — How is the COVID-19 outbreak affecting gas prices in Canada?

But because the virus is new, experts can’t say for sure how far it will ultimately spread. That has investors worried about a worst-case scenario for corporate profits and the economy, where factories and supply chains are shut around the world due to quarantines and people stay huddled at home instead of working or spending.

ENERGY: Oil prices, which plunged 25 per cent on Monday amid a price war between producers, have steadied in the past two days. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 32 cents to $36.90 per barrel. It rose $2.86, or 8.3 per cent, to $37.22 a barrel on Tuesday. Benchmark U.S. crude fell 48 cents to $33.88 a barrel. It rose $3.23 to $34.36 a barrel on Tuesday.

CURRENCIES: The dollar fell to 105.10 Japanese yen from 105.64 yen on Tuesday. The euro rose to $1.1323 from $1.1283.

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