Markets Plunge Across the World as Coronavirus Hits Global Economy

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SWITZERLAND, FEBRUARY 28 – Fears that a coronavirus pandemic could tip the world economy into recession sent global stocks into a tailspin Friday, with markets on track for their worst week since the financial crisis.

European markets fell sharply in early trading, led by losses in the travel and resources sectors. Earlier, benchmark indexes in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai all slumped, despite indications that the coronavirus outbreak may be slowing in China.

But new cases of the virus continued to surge outside of China, which on Friday announced 327 new cases and 44 deaths. South Korea’s tally surpassed 2,300, while countries from New Zealand to Belarus confirmed their first cases, among almost 50 nations now afflicted, as governments respond by shutting schools and canceling events. A day earlier, infections soared in Europe and the Middle East, while the first known case in sub-Saharan Africa was confirmed in Nigeria.

Investors have watched the outbreak’s progress with increasing concern, dumping risk assets and piling into havens such as U.S. Treasury bonds. U.S. crude futures slipped again Friday, raising expectations that officials from oil-exporting nations will cut output after they meet next week.

Here are the latest developments:

  • Stocks in Europe and Asia tanked as the specter of prolonged economic disruption haunted investors. Japan’s Nikkei index ended 3.7 percent lower.
  • There looked set to be far more coronavirus cases confirmed outside China, the epicenter of the crisis, than within it. China announced 327 new cases and 44 deaths. South Korea announced 571 new cases Friday, bringing its total to 2,337, while New Zealand announced its first case.
  • US President Trump tweeted that the virus was spreading “very slowly in the U.S.” and suggested his political opponents were blaming him for the outbreak. His remarks came forward after a whistleblower alleged that the U.S. government sent workers without proper training for infection control or appropriate protective gear to greet evacuees from Wuhan, China.
  • Organizers of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics said they would announce next week how they plan to hold the torch relay, which is likely to be scaled down. On Thursday, Japan asked schools to close until early April.

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