European stocks slide 2% as coronavirus outbreak spreads to more countries – CNBC

European stocks plummeted further on Thursday as the rapid spread of coronavirus continues to dominate market sentiment.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 fell 2% in early trade, with travel and leisure stocks plunging 3.7% to lead losses as all sectors and major bourses traded sharply in the red.

The spread of the coronavirus — which has now infected more than 81,000 people and killed over 2,700 — continues to rattle markets and policy makers around the world.

The European countries of Estonia and Denmark both reported their first confirmed cases of coronavirus Thursday morning.

It comes as China’s National Health Commission said there were 433 new confirmed cases and 29 additional deaths as of Feb. 26. South Korea, where there is the second largest outbreak after China, confirmed a surge of 334 more cases on Thursday morning, bringing the country’s total to 1,595. In Japan, a woman has tested positive for the virus for a second time. Asia Pacific markets mostly dropped in Thursday afternoon trade.

Meanwhile in the U.S., President Donald Trump said Wednesday that Vice President Mike Pence will be in charge of the U.S. response to the coronavirus outbreak.

In Europe, attention remains focused on the escalation of cases in Italy; 424 people have the virus (up from an initial three people last Friday) and 12 people have died. Although the majority of cases remain concentrated in the north, the virus has now spread to a handful of other regions and as far south as Puglia and Sicily. Trump said that the U.S. could consider restricting travel to Italy and South Korea but would not do so yet.

Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn has said his country is at the beginning of a coronavirus epidemic after new cases sprung up that can no longer be traced to the virus’s original source in China.

Euro zone data on economic sentiment and consumer confidence for February and flash inflation data for Spain in February are due.

Earnings in focus

Standard Chartered posted a 46% rise in annual profit on Thursday but warned that the coronavirus will slow progress towards its 10% ROTE (return on tangible equity) target. The British lender’s shares fell 2.9% in early trade.

WPP shares plunged 12.9% to the bottom of the Stoxx 600 after the world’s largest advertising firm saw a slowdown in fourth-quarter sales and projected a flat 2020, while easyJet dropped 9.7% as airlines continue to be hammered by the coronavirus outbreak.

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