Markets

European stocks close lower as UK coronavirus cases confirmed; UK set to leave EU today

Share
Key Points
  • The coronavirus death toll has now hit 213 with confirmed cases rising to 9,692, according to Chinese health officials, while the World Health Organization on Thursday declared the outbreak a global health emergency.
  • Friday is a landmark day for Europe as the U.K. is set to officially leave the European Union at 11:00 p.m. London time, ending a 3 1/2 year exit process, but beginning an 11-month transitional period.

European stocks closed lower on Friday after the first two cases of the coronavirus, which has hammered markets this week, were confirmed in the U.K.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 ended the session 1% lower, with basic resources falling 1.7% to lead losses as all sectors and major bourses were in the red.

In a statement Friday, England's Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty said that two patients had tested positive for the new strain of coronavirus and were in the care of the country's National Health Service (NHS). A sixth case was confirmed in Germany by health officials in the southern state of Bavaria.

The coronavirus death toll has now hit 213 with confirmed cases rising to 9,692, according to Chinese health officials, while the World Health Organization on Thursday declared the outbreak a global health emergency. The U.S. also confirmed its first human-to-human transmission.

However, French diagnostics company Novacyt on Friday announced the launch of a test to identify the specific strain of coronavirus, sending its share price surging. U.S. biotech firm Vaxart then announced the initiation of a program to develop a vaccine.

Losses for European markets were deepened as initial GDP (gross domestic product) growth estimates published Friday revealed that the euro zone economy grew less than expected in the fourth quarter of 2019, while core inflation slowed, which will likely concern the European Central Bank (ECB).

Quarter-on-quarter, euro area GDP rose 0.1% for a 1.0% year-on-year gain, according to Eurostat, below Reuters polling estimates of 0.2% and 1.1% respectively.

Asian stocks were mixed on Friday after Chinese manufacturing data met expectations, with Japan's Nikkei 225 leading gains which were contained by concerns over the coronavirus and its potential impact on the global economy. South Korea's Kospi plunged 1.35%.

Stocks on Wall Street were trading lower Friday as concerns over the coronavirus outbreak weighed on investor sentiment. The Dow Jones Industrial Average led losses, tumbling 1.5%.

Friday is a landmark day for Europe as the U.K. is set to officially leave the European Union at 11:00 p.m. London time, ending a 3 1/2 year exit process, but beginning an 11-month transitional period, during which time British and European leaders will attempt to hash out a new trade agreement.

Both S&P and Moody's warned on Thursday that Britain's credit rating would be under pressure if a post-Brexit trading relationship limits U.K. access to the European single market.

Stocks on the move

Shares of antivirus developer Avast surged 7.6% on Friday to lead gains on the Stoxx 600. The stock rebounded from heavy losses in the previous session, which came after the company closed a subsidiary caught in the middle of a data privacy scandal.

Signify shares climbed 7%, while SES stock jumped 5.8% on the back of rising fourth-quarter profit. Danske Bank rose 4% after a report suggested U.S. authorities may struggle to fine the lender over money laundering.

At the other end of the European benchmark, Spain's Banco de Sabadell plunged almost 14% after reporting a surprise fourth-quarter net loss, while British broker Hargreaves Lansdown tumbled 8.2% as new asset growth slowed following the downfall of star fund manager Neil Woodford.

Electrolux stock slid 2.3% after missing fourth-quarter earnings expectations and issuing a warning over potential costs arising from the coronavirus outbreak.