Markets

European stocks close sharply lower as China virus fears intensify; Stoxx 600 down 2%

Key Points
  • Chinese officials have now confirmed more than 2,700 cases of the new strain of coronavirus, which originated in the city of Wuhan, with the death toll rising to 80 and 461 people in critical condition.

European stocks closed sharply lower on Monday as fears over the economic fallout from the Chinese coronavirus outbreak intensify.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 ended the session 2.3% lower, with the China-exposed basic resources sector plunging 4.3% to lead losses as all sectors and major bourses traded firmly in negative territory.

Chinese officials have now confirmed more than 2,800 cases of the new strain of coronavirus, which originated in the city of Wuhan, with the death toll rising to 81 and 461 people in critical condition. The virus has now been detected in a host of other countries in Asia and beyond, including the U.S., France, Australia and Canada.

Traditional safe-haven assets such as gold and the Japanese yen surged as investors sought shelter from the potential economic impact, with the specter of the SARS crisis of 2003 hanging over markets.

Stocks on Wall Street took a sharp downward turn on Monday, with the Nasdaq tumbling by almost 2%.

Back in Europe, further downward momentum for equities came as German business sentiment was shown to have deteriorated in January, according to the latest Ifo Institute survey, falling from 96.3 in December to 95.9 and missing the Reuters consensus forecast of 97.0.

The Ifo Institute also projected that Europe's largest economy will likely grow by 0.2% in the first three months of 2020 as demand in the ailing industrial sector slowly returns.

Italy's right-wing Lega party has failed in its bid to oust the center-left Democratic Party (PD) from its northern stronghold of Emilia-Romagna, falling short in a closely-watched regional election on Sunday.

In corporate news, Reuters reported on Monday, citing sources, that the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) is looking into the role of the Credit Suisse board in the lender's recent spying scandal.

Stocks on the move

Travel stocks took a significant hit from coronavirus fears in early trade, with Air France KLM shares falling 5.6%, while British Airways parent International Consolidated Airlines Group slid 5.4% and London-listed Easyjet shed 5%.

Shares of CNH Industrial fell 7% to end Monday's session at the bottom of the European benchmark.

There were few success stories in the Stoxx 600, with Wienerberger's shares rising by a modest 1.5% to top the index.

NMC Health's London-listed shares climbed almost 1% after The Capital Group Companies increased its stake in the Abu Dhabi-based hospital chain.