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Latest news about coronavirus: European airports prepare for “unprecedented shock”

UK banks offer loan repayment vacations for customers affected by the virus

A number of UK lenders have introduced measures to provide assistance to customers affected by the coronavirus epidemic, ranging from mortgage holidays to free refinancing.

The UK’s leading lender, Lloyds Banking Group, said Tuesday that it had allocated up to £ 2 billion to be used to support small British businesses with measures that include loan repayment holidays.

Rival RBS has also established measures that include mortgage repayments and loans for up to three months for its personal customers, in line with the support provided to customers affected by the floods. TSB has stated that it will provide mortgage repayment vacations for up to two months.

Santander said he had “a team of experts on hand to support customers who have been affected by the coronavirus” and would consider options including deferring or reducing payments.

Lloyds said he anticipated the spread of the virus affecting the cash flows of small businesses as supply chains are disrupted and employees forced to stay home. He said he will use the £ 2 billion set aside to provide new interest-free loans to businesses with cash flows of up to £ 25 million and – for the worst consequences – the loan repayment holidays.

The moves come after the Italian government said it would suspend mortgage payments and other household bills across the country during the coronavirus epidemic.

Barclays was unable to immediately provide information on the measures they were taking to provide customer support during the outbreak.

The UK has been paying cheap loans for 10 years

Tommy Stubbington reports:

The UK paid a record low loan costs on Tuesday in a 10-year bond auction in the latest demonstration of investor hunger for safe assets with the spread of coronavirus.

The £ 2.25 billion sale, which has attracted over £ 5 billion in offers, comes a day ahead of a state budget that is expected to announce a significant increase in loans.

Gilts were blown away by a massive global government bond rally on Monday, pushing yields on some sub-zero maturities for the first time and an all-time low of 0.08 percent for the 10-year benchmark. Yields rose again on Tuesday when a semblance of calm returned to the markets, but the auction with a yield of just 0.31 percent comfortably set a record high for the sale of a new 10-year debt.

Pooja Kumra, senior interest rate strategist at TD Securities, said he expected the government to sell £ 145-150 billion for next fiscal year, compared to around £ 130 billion in 2019-2020. As long as fears of the coronavirus grip market demand, it is likely to remain strong as investor prices in the Bank of England cut rates.

“The market is driven by expectations of extreme easing from central banks around the world,” said Kumra. “But if risk appetite improves, you will see yields rise as investors focus on increasing emissions.”

European airports prepared for “shocks of unprecedented proportions”

Transport correspondent Tanya Powley reports:

European airports will serve 187 million fewer passengers in 2020 as the spread of coronavirus has turned into a “shock of unprecedented proportions” for the industry, his commercial agency warned.

ACI Europe on Tuesday said airports across Europe would see a 67 million drop in airport passenger numbers in the first quarter of 2020, a 13.5 percent drop from normal.

For the year, this will see airports serve 187 million fewer passengers, down 7.5 percent in a year that predicted 2.3 percent growth.

This will result in a loss of 1.32 billion euros in revenues in the first quarter alone, according to the commercial body.

ACI Europe has warned that airports across the continent are facing a “full-blown crisis”. He called on the Italian government to respond quickly to a request made by Italian airports for emergency support measures as the country crashes in an attempt to stem the spread of coronavirus.

Olivier Jankovec, general manager of ACI Europe, said: “For now, airports in Italy are clearly the most affected. Even before yesterday’s decision to block the entire country, Italian airports have already faced a dramatic free fall in passenger traffic, with reductions that exceeded 60% in most locations over the weekend. But what they are preparing now is a total collapse of air connectivity and the prospect of losing most of their revenue. “

Jankovec added that with airlines drastically reducing capacity, the situation of airports is rapidly deteriorating across Europe.

“As a result, the Covid-19 epidemic is turning into a shock of unprecedented proportions for our sector. In addition to Italy, we cannot rule out that airports elsewhere at some point may also need relief measures to cope with cash flow pressures and continue to play their role as critical infrastructure. This will require support from governments and the European Commission, “he said.

Irish leaders abandon travel plans to the United States for St. Patrick’s Day

Arthur Beesley reports from Dublin:

Northern Ireland leaders have discarded plans to travel to Washington on Wednesday for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations as fears of the coronavirus epidemic.

Arlene Foster, prime minister of the region’s power-sharing executive, and Michelle O’Neill, deputy prime minister, said they would instead focus on emergency planning for an escalation of the Covid-19 epidemic. Regional authorities are dealing with 12 confirmed infections.

“This was a difficult decision, but we felt that, in light of the developing situation, it was the only one we could take,” said Ms Foster, leader of the democratic trade unionists. “The deputy prime minister and I were both involved in yesterday’s Cobra meeting and will continue to engage with ministerial colleagues and health professionals to ensure that our response is guided by the latest scientific advice.”

O’Neill, deputy leader of Irish nationalists Sinn Féin, said: “As executive leader it is important to support critical decision making in relation to Covid-19’s response.”

Iran calls those who die for coronavirus “martyrs”

Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran reports:

Iran has called doctors and nurses “health defenders”, a term similar to that used for fighters who protect borders and that those who die from the virus are considered “martyrs”, allowing family members to get the state protection.

Deaths have risen to 291 in Iran, the government said Tuesday, from 237 the previous day, with confirmed cases reaching 8,042.

Iran is struggling with a shortage of medical equipment, which means that a dozen of its doctors and nurses have been infected with the virus and some have died from the disease.

U.S. sanctions do not apply to food and medicine, but Iranian officials argue that being cut off from the global financial system and cutting revenue because of sanctions on oil exports make imports expensive and time consuming.

The World Health Organization and China as well as some European states and Russia have provided Iran with medical assistance.

Iran’s situation has been exacerbated because many ignore official warnings and are traveling before the Persian New Year next week. Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei canceled his New Year’s speech next week in the northeastern city of Mashhad in an attempt to encourage people not to spread the virus to other cities.

US junk bonds have had the most success since 2008 Monday

Premium investors are asking to hold US junk bonds that rose higher on Monday from the 2008 financial crisis as a sign of the extent to which fear had gripped the markets.

The yield difference between speculative-rated bonds and US government debt of the same maturity widened by 1.04 percentage points on Monday, according to data released at the end of the day in New York by ICE Data indices.

Spreads have always widened by such an extreme margin three more times since the late 1990s, the latter of which occurred during the global financial crisis.

The figures underscore the intense pressure the market suffered on Monday due to the slump in oil prices by a quarter. Treasury bond yields also fell sharply, which compounded the spread increase.

The drop in oil prices has been seen as a particularly serious problem for US junk bonds as the market includes many small energy producers who have borrowed heavily in a context of low interest rates in recent years.

Concerns had already increased over the economic ramifications of the coronavirus epidemic. A sharp slowdown or a recession should make it more difficult for companies to cope with and pay off their debt.

ParcelHero requires safer delivery methods

ParcelHero, which has predicted that home deliveries will double in the event of a coronavirus epidemic, urged retailers and couriers to step up and use safer methods to protect customers and drivers from any possibility of infection.

Deliveries to people’s homes have increased in the days since the parcel courier service said they would double, but the group added that the increase would move the “first line of the coronavirus to buyers’ doors.”

“All retailers must work with their delivery and courier partners to modify the home delivery protocols,” the group said in a statement Tuesday.

“The move from in-store shopping to home delivery makes a lot of sense,” said David Jinks, consumer research manager. “But home buyers need to know that they are not taking unnecessary risks as their purchases are delivered and drivers must feel they are not being endangered, especially if they are handing over families in personal isolation.”

Retailers and couriers insure delivery items in a way that minimizes the risk of infection, ParcelHero said, urging the more widespread use of online signatures on receipt.

“With the government saying it is working closely with retailers to ensure that people who insulate themselves at home receive essential supplies, a single approach to the delivery protocol and employee well-being is needed so that buyers and Delivery drivers may feel confident, “said ParcelHero on Tuesday.

BA and Wizz Air cancel flights to Italy

Transport correspondent Tanya Powley reports:

British Airways canceled Tuesday’s scheduled flights to Italy as the country crashes in an attempt to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Low cost airline Wizz Air said Tuesday that it will suspend all flights to Italy from Monday and stop flights to Israel from March 12.

“In light of the announcement by the Italian government and official travel advice from the United Kingdom government, we contacted all customers who should travel today,” said a BA spokesman.

BA said that all travelers who need to fly to or from Italy between now and April 4 have the option to rebook on a date until the end of May, move their destination to Geneva or Zurich or receive a full refund.

BA’s move comes when global airlines have suspended routes to Italy as the country enters quarantine in an attempt to contain Covid-19’s largest outbreak outside China.

Wizz Air has said that its suspension will last until April 3 in Italy, while flights to Israel will stop until March 23, based on the announcement by the Israeli authorities of a 14-day quarantine period for all passengers arriving in Israel.

The Polish president agrees not to organize large electoral demonstrations

James Shotter in Warsaw reports:

Polish President Andrzej Duda said he will not hold major demonstrations during his campaign for re-election, while the Czech Republic says all schools will close on Wednesday in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Central European countries have so far reported far fewer cases of the new virus than in western and southern Europe, with the Czech Republic having 40 and Poland 18. However, officials have warned that it is likely that the numbers are rising rapidly and that the governments of the region have stepped up countermeasures in recent days

The Czech government said Tuesday morning that all primary and secondary schools will close until further notice. It also banned all cultural, social and sporting events with over 100 participants.

In Poland, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said that all mass events, such as football matches, would be canceled. The country will also expand health checks at its borders – introduced yesterday on the passes from Germany and the Czech Republic – to include the passes from Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania

Mr. Duda, who is the favorite to win the Polish presidential election on May 10, said organizing rallies with hundreds of people present is too great a risk. His main rival, Malgorzata Kidawa Blonska, also claimed that he would not organize major demonstrations.

KKR closes London offices after employees test positive

Kaye Wiggins in London reports:

Private equity firm KKR closed its London offices after an employee tested positive for coronavirus, the company said in a statement.

Employees who had close contact with the person were told to quarantine for 14 days. All other employees will work from home until further notice and there will be a “thorough cleaning” of the company’s two London offices, the note said.

The person who has proven positive is “at home and is recovering well,” he said.

The NHS guide states that people should use his coronavirus advisory service if they have been in “close contact” with someone with the virus, which includes talking face to face for more than a few minutes and staying two meters away from the person for more than 15 minutes.

A KKR spokesperson said he had not identified any external professional contacts with whom the person concerned had been in close contact, using the definition of the NHS, in the past two weeks.

KKR had already banned nonessential travel and postponed large group events before the coronavirus case was reported.

Bloomberg first reported the case of the KKR coronavirus.

Japan is preparing an additional $ 4 billion package to cover virus costs

Kana Inagaki and Leo Lewis in Tokyo report:

Japan has compiled an additional financial package worth ¥ 430 billion ($ 4.1 billion) to help cover the rising costs of the coronavirus crisis while the Bank of Japan has stepped up its ETF purchases.

The central bank purchased 101.4 billion yen of equity ETFs on Tuesday in its fourth largest wave of purchases since the beginning of March. The move contributed to one of the most marked upside reversals of the Nikkei index since 1998 as the benchmark jumped from more than 4% down in the morning to close over 1% more later in the day.

The new financial measures – which included assisting workers forced to take free time to look after their children after school closes – came when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged the nation to cancel major events for another 10 days.

“It continues to be an extremely critical period to avoid a rapid national spread of infections,” said Abe.

The additional measures will bring the financial package of Japan to a total of 1.6 tons to stem the blow to small businesses, expand the distribution of masks and increase the testing capacity for coronavirus.

Five coronavirus cases at Deutsche Bank in Germany

Olaf Storbeck in Frankfurt reports:

A Deutsche Bank employee who works in a commercial hall in Frankfurt and four retail agents across the country have tested positive for coronavirus.

The lender on Monday evening cleaned up one of his business plans in Frankfurt in response to the confirmed case. Split operations have been carried out both in London and Frankfurt, with separate operators operating from different locations.

Germany’s main German financier has closed three branches in Cologne, Detmold and Kempten. A branch in Gelsenkirchen, where the first case was found at the weekend, was reopened on Tuesday after being thoroughly cleaned and manned by staff from other branches. More than 30 employees are now in quarantine.


Saudi Arabia intensifies the oil price war with a plan to maximize supply

Anjli Raval and David Sheppard in the London report:

Saudi Arabia will supply the oil market with 12.3 million barrels per day in April in a severe escalation in its price war following the collapse of a production agreement between OPEC and Russia to stabilize the market.

The level is 2.5 million barrels per day above what it was previously producing, suggesting that the kingdom will take barrels from storage to flood the market as it faces rivals in a fight for market share.

Saudi Aramco has spoken to customers and has agreed to provide them with these levels starting next month, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The kingdom said on Saturday it would cut export prices for its crude, triggering a slump in oil prices by up to 30% – the biggest one-day drop since the Gulf War in the early 1990s – Monday which it has ruined global finance markets.

The supply level is above what Saudi Arabia claims is its maximum sustained production capacity of 12 m b / d.

European equities up 3%

European equities rose 3% in morning trading and session highs, accelerating a rebound from Monday’s sell-off.

S&P 500 futures aimed at gains of almost 4% outdoors.

President Donald Trump said on Monday that he will propose an “important” economic aid package, including a possible payroll tax cut and measures to help hourly-wage workers, in an effort to reduce the negative impact of the coronavirus epidemic. .

Citigroup analysts said that although the exact composition and size of the package remains unclear, “the type of programs discussed by the administration and home democrats is macroeconomically significant.”

Italy suspends mortgage payments during the epidemic

Miles Johnson in Rome reports:

Italy’s deputy finance minister said the government would suspend mortgage payments and other household bills across the country during the coronavirus epidemic.

Laura Castelli, part of the five-star movement of the Italian coalition government, said in an interview on Italian state radio that the government has worked in recent days with the country’s banks to prepare for suspension.

The measures will stop payments for taxes and interest for small businesses and individuals during the crisis. He did not specify how long the suspension would last.

The Italian government is preparing a new package of measures that should be announced tomorrow to help families and businesses that have been harmed by the restrictive measures put in place to attempt to stop the rapid spread of the virus. The Italian banking association said earlier this week that its members would offer debt moratoriums to small businesses and families.

Coronavirus to bring down Germany in recession, says chief Ifo

Valentina Romei in London reports:

The coronavirus epidemic will trigger a recession in Germany, the head of the Ifo institute in Munich warned Tuesday.

Germany and the global economy are on the verge of a crisis that parallels the financial crisis that began in 2008, according to economist Clemens Fuest to the German broadcaster SWR, Reuters reported.

In Germany there is “almost a company that does not feel the crown crisis,” Fuest told the Frankfurter Allgemeine news organization today, adding that Germany “will face insolvency because of the crisis”.

Government measures to help companies “are going in the right direction, but the dosage is too low,” he said. On the contrary, “monetary policy itself has its hands tied,” he said, and “if interest rates were reduced further, this could increase uncertainty and weaken banks”.

Russia will touch the foreign exchange war chest in an attempt to stabilize markets

Max Seddon reports:

The Russian central bank has said it will sell part of its $ 570 billion in foreign exchange reserves in order to stabilize financial markets during the coronavirus panic and oil shock.

The central bank said Tuesday that it will keep sales until April, when Russia’s $ 150 billion national wealth fund – accumulated since years of liquidating the oil and gas revenue surplus – starts selling forex to compensate for the fall in the oil price. Sales could total $ 700 million monthly, based on the current oil price of $ 34 per barrel.

The ruble was the worst performing currency in the world on Monday, slipping to 75 against the dollar, as oil suffered its biggest drop since the 1991 Gulf War before recovering slightly on Tuesday. The Russian RTS index fell 13% in early trading on Tuesday, while the Moscow exchange rate (MOEX) fell 8%.

The central bank announced an additional 500 billion rb repurchase auction, temporarily raised the one-day currency swap limit to $ 5 billion and eased regulation on bank lending to the sectors most affected by the coronavirus, including tourism, transportation and medicine.

Italy will take measures worth € 10 billion to fight viruses

Davide Ghiglione’s reports in Rome:

The Italian government will approve measures of around € 10 billion to deal with the impact of coronavirus on the economy and health system, according to one of its ministers.

Stefano Patuanelli, Italian minister for economic development, said that the measures could raise the budget deficit to just under 3% of national production this year.

Patuanelli said that a first set of measures worth less than € 10 billion will probably be approved in a first phase, with further resources allocated later.

The minister also said that the government will ask for a revision of the EU’s stability and fiscal pact rules, as previously announced by the Treasury.

The Swedish Riksbank is “ready to act” but excludes the rate cut

The Swedish central bank is “ready to act” to support the economy against the “negative effects” of the coronavirus epidemic, but excludes an immediate cut in interest rates.

“We currently don’t see a lower intervention rate as the most important measure,” said Riksbank Governor Stefan Ingves on Tuesday. “Previous acquisitions of Riksbank assets have meant that there is now a lot of liquidity in the system” and has no plans to reduce it in the coming year.

The Riksbank has a chance to stimulate the economy if the recession is severe, said deputy governor Anna Breman.

“To avoid the closure of robust companies during this period, economic policy as a whole may need to contribute to supporting the sectors concerned and access to credit and liquidity,” he added. “Obviously the financial sector and banks will also have to be ready to make a contribution in this type of situation.”

Maintaining the supply of liquidity is paramount, the central bank said in its Tuesday statement, which could include more generous conditions for loans to banks and direct purchases of securities.

The central bank added that it is too early to determine the extent of the impact.

“I am confident that the Riksbank can act to stabilize the Swedish economy in the threat of a crisis,” said Breman. “The toolbox of the Riksbank can be fully exploited. However, the type of measures taken will depend on the situation.”

Sweden ended its five-year experiment with negative rates in December when the central bank raised its main repurchase rate by a quarter of a percentage point to zero, a level that was the last in February 2015.

European equities increase

European equities gained in the open as a measure of calm returned after a chaotic trading day that saw a wave of sales spread around the world as a collapse in the price of oil-aggravated economic concerns surrounding the spread of coronavirus.

London’s FTSE 100 gained 1.1 percent after falling 7.7 percent in the previous session in its biggest daily drop since the peak of the 2008-09 financial crisis. Germany’s Dax rose 0.9 percent and France’s Cac 40 rose 1.3 percent higher.

S&P 500 futures pushed the U.S. benchmark to rise 2.5 percent when trades start later in the day, which will partially reverse a 7.6 percent drop in the index on Monday – its biggest one-day drop from the global financial crisis.

Santander asks Madrid business staff to stay home

Daniel Dombey in Madrid reports:

Spanish lender Santander asked employees in his Madrid business centers to work from home.

Santander’s move follows Madrid’s decision to close all schools, kindergartens and universities in the region for at least two weeks starting Wednesday.

The DFS sofa group says the outbreak has hit the number of shoppers in stores

DFS Furniture said that the coronavirus epidemic has started to influence traffic to its showrooms in the past few days, marking one of the first indications from a British group that the spread of the disease is keeping some consumers away from stores.

The sofa retailer declined to provide guidance for his current financial year as the Covid-19 epidemic had clouded his outlook. The second half of the year, which started on December 30th, started “satisfactorily”, he said.

However, he warned that “any interruption in ordering hiring during the key exchange periods of Easter and the May holidays will likely impact the results of the 2020 financial year.”

“It is reasonable to believe that this could eventually be transient in nature; following periods of weak demand, we generally see a return of much of the latent demand,” he added.

In the first half of the year, revenues fell 5.7 percent to £ 488 million. Pre-tax profits fell to £ 20.5 million from £ 38 million.

Informa warns of a £ 425 million blow to the event business

Patricia Nilsson in London reports:

Informa, the world’s largest operator of corporate events and trade fairs, will postpone or cancel over one hundred events worth approximately £ 425 million this year.

L’avvertimento arriva pochi giorni dopo un calo del 15% delle azioni del gruppo FTSE 100, quando gli analisti hanno avvertito del crescente numero di spettacoli riprogrammati nel settore.

“Stiamo affrontando un impatto del 2020 da COVID-19 nelle nostre attività legate agli eventi e quindi abbiamo utilizzato le nostre solide relazioni con clienti e fornitori per [postpone shows…] a date successive nel 2020 “, ha dichiarato l’amministratore delegato Stephen Carter.

Martedì Informa ha dichiarato che era troppo presto per fornire ulteriori dettagli sull’impatto dell’epidemia nel 2020. Circa i due terzi dei ricavi e dei profitti provengono dalle attività legate agli eventi dell’azienda.

La società, tuttavia, ha registrato una forte crescita nell’anno conclusosi a dicembre 2019. Ha dichiarato che i ricavi sono cresciuti del 22% a £ 2,9 miliardi, con un utile prima delle tasse aumentato del 13% a £ 318 milioni.

I mercati russi crollano dell’8% quando riaprono in seguito alla rotta globale

Il principale indice azionario della Russia è precipitato martedì mentre i mercati nazionali hanno raggiunto la rotta globale che ha avuto luogo lunedì.

L’indice Moex del paese è crollato del 10% all’aperto a Mosca, prima di ridurne l’8%. Lunedì i mercati russi sono stati chiusi per la Giornata internazionale della donna.

La valuta russa, il rublo, è rimbalzata di quasi il 4% rispetto al dollaro martedì dopo un calo dell’8,4% nella sessione precedente. Il rublo è stato colpito particolarmente duramente lunedì perché il paese è un grande esportatore di petrolio.

Il greggio è crollato fino al 30% lunedì mentre l’Arabia Saudita ha lanciato una guerra dei prezzi dopo che la Russia ha rifiutato di concordare un taglio alla produzione. Il Brent ha chiuso la giornata in calo di quasi il 25% rispetto al livello di regolamento di venerdì.

Air France annulla 3.600 voli a marzo

Air France annuncerà 3.600 voli questo mese mentre il coronavirus continua a diffondersi, ha detto stamattina il suo genitore Air France-KLM.

Il gruppo franco-olandese ha registrato un profitto di 200 milioni di euro da Covid-19 il mese scorso, ma gli analisti lo avevano già considerato “ridondante”, dato il rapido ritmo con cui si stava evolvendo l’impatto del virus.

Ha visto il numero di passeggeri calare dell’1,9 per cento a febbraio, che afferma “essenzialmente la sospensione di tutti i voli da e per la Cina e l’impatto iniziale di Covid-19 in Asia”.

Il gruppo prevede che questo abbandono peggiorerà nei prossimi mesi man mano che il virus si diffonderà in altre parti del mondo e le riduzioni di capacità verranno estese.

A marzo, sia Air France che KLM prevedono di ridurre la capacità del 13% sui voli a lungo raggio. Air France prevede un calo del 25% nella sua rete europea e del 17% nella sua rete nazionale francese.

I mercati europei si apprestano a recuperare alcune delle perdite di lunedì

I mercati azionari di tutta Europa sembrano destinati a recuperare almeno una parte delle pesanti perdite di lunedì quando le negoziazioni si apriranno in meno di un’ora.

I futures hanno indicato guadagni di circa il 2% per il FTSE 100, che è sceso del 7,7% nella sessione precedente nel suo più grande calo giornaliero dal culmine della crisi finanziaria del 2008-09.

Anche i mercati di Francoforte e Parigi avrebbero dovuto riprendersi, mentre i mercati asiatici e il prezzo del greggio sono aumentati durante la notte in quanto una certa calma è tornata sui mercati globali. I paradisi tipici, tra cui lo yen giapponese, hanno anche svolto alcune delle mosse pesanti del giorno precedente.

Jim Reid, stratega di Deutsche Bank, ha dichiarato che “non è del tutto chiaro ciò che sta guidando il rimbalzo”, ma ha sottolineato i commenti durante la notte del presidente Trump, che ha promesso misure fiscali sostanziali per aiutare a sostenere l’economia degli Stati Uniti attraverso il peggiore impatto del virus.

Dipendente Boeing test positivo per virus nello stato di Washington

di Claire Bushey

Un dipendente della struttura Boeing di Everett è risultato positivo al coronavirus ed è ora in quarantena.

La società ha notificato i dipendenti e ha chiesto ai collaboratori del dipendente di auto-mettere in quarantena e auto-monitorare.

Boeing, che ha già chiesto ai dipendenti della vicina Puget Sound di lavorare in remoto, ha pulito le aree di lavoro e gli spazi comuni.

Europa: cosa potresti aver perso

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Wuhan to inspect efforts to control the spread of the virus, state media reported on Tuesday. His visit came as China’s daily reported new cases fell to their lowest level since the outbreak began.

South Korea is set to introduce new measures to limit short-selling of equities after the country’s stock exchange on Monday saw one of its worst days of investor outflows on record.

Food prices in China jumped in February, new economic data showed. The price of pork surged 135.2 per cent compared to a year earlier as the price of food rose 21.9 per cent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has told staff at its headquarters in Washington DC to work from home after an employee was treated on Monday for “respiratory symptoms” possibly linked to the coronavirus.

European Central Bank employee diagnosed with virus

Martin Arnold reports from Frankfurt

A European Central Bank employee has been diagnosed with coronavirus, putting the Frankfurt-based institution on edge two days before its leaders meet to decide how to respond to the economic and financial market turmoil caused by the disease.

“Around 100 colleagues who worked in proximity with the staff member have been informed and, as a precaution, will work from home temporarily,” the central bank said in a statement. “The ECB is undertaking a deep clean of potentially affected office spaces.”

Declining to disclose the identity of the staff member who has been diagnosed with coronavirus, the ECB said the person was “receiving the appropriate medical care” and that it would “take all necessary steps to ensure the welfare of our staff”.

The heads of the 19 national central banks in the eurozone are due to arrive at the ECB’s headquarters this week to decide their monetary policy response to the widespread economic and financial market disruption caused by the spread of the disease.

Investors are betting that they will announce a further cut in the ECB’s deposit rate to a record low of minus 0.6 per cent as well as a potential expansion of its bond-buying programme and an increase in the supply of cheap loans to banks.

Last week, the ECB had already blocked non-essential staff travel, cancelled most events and suspended public visits to its premises in response to the outbreak, while saying that none of its staff had been diagnosed with the virus.

Sweden’s central bank, which is not a member of the eurozone, said on Monday that Martin Floden, one of its deputy governors, had tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Asia stocks rally on stimulus hopes

Hudson Lockett reports from Hong Kong

Asia equity markets also swung higher in afternoon trading as oil prices and US stock futures rebounded from a momentous sell-off a day earlier as investors bet that policymakers would come to the rescue with new stimulus measures to soften the economic blow from coronavirus.

Brent crude, the international oil benchmark, rebounded 7 per cent to $36.77 a barrel on Tuesday, while US marker West Texas Intermediate rose 6.4 per cent to $33.13. S&P 500 futures tipped the US benchmark to rise 2.8 per cent when trading begins later in the day.

The fading sense of panic on Tuesday prompted investors to sell havens, which have rallied furiously in recent weeks. The 10-year US Treasury yield jumped 11 basis points to 0.652 per cent, after having dived below the important 0.5 per cent threshold for the first time on Monday. The 30-year Treasury yield climbed 9 basis points and back above 1 per cent. Bond prices fall as yields rise.

Those moves followed a promise by President Donald Trump of a “major” economic relief package to reduce the negative impact from the Covid-19 outbreak, including a possible payroll tax cut.

Japan’s Topix gained 1.1 per cent and Australia’s S&P/ASX stock index 200 added 2.4 per cent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 1.8 per cent and China’s CSI 300 climbed 1.8 per cent.

South Korea seeks virus travel clearances for businesspeople

By Edward White

South Korea will start asking countries for special visa clearances for business travellers, as the country battles worldwide travel restrictions stemming from coronavirus.

More than 100 countries have slapped new rules on visitors from South Korea in recent weeks – including travel bans and compulsory quarantines – after the country’s rapid outbreak saw the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases outside China.

This has prompted widespread flight cancellations and raised concerns of additional pressure on the countries’ export-dependent businesses already grappling with lacklustre demand and production disruptions as workers fall ill and supplies from China are cut.

Moon Jae-in, South Korea’s president, on Tuesday ordered diplomats to start talking to foreign counterparts over ways to allow Korean businesspeople who can prove they have tested negative for the virus to be cleared to visit other countries.

In the latest example of worsening fallout for the Korean manufacturers, Samsung Display, one of the world’s biggest producers of electronic screens, has asked officials in Hanoi to clear as many as 700 engineers to enter Vietnam to work on a factory refurbishment.

South Korea has for several years been Vietnam’s largest foreign investor with companies including Samsung, LG and Posco increasingly favouring the south-east Asian country as a manufacturing base over China and South Korea.

Xi Jinping makes first visit to virus-hit Wuhan

Chinese President Xi Jinping has arrived in Wuhan to inspect efforts to control the spread of coronavirus, state media reported on Tuesday.

This is the first trip by Mr Xi to Wuhan, the centre of the outbreak. Premier Li Keqiang was previously the highest-ranking official to travel to the city when he visited in January.

State television CCTV said Mr Xi arrived on Tuesday morning to visit frontline medical workers, the People’s Liberation Army commanders, volunteers and residents.

China reported 19 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, with 17 in Wuhan and two in people returning from abroad, as the number of new cases continues to decline in the country.

South Korea to clamp down on short-selling

By Edward White and Kang Buseong

South Korea is set to introduce new measures to limit short-selling of equities after the country’s stock exchange on Monday saw one of its worst days of investor outflows on record.

The country’s finance watchdog will later on Tuesday detail the new regulations as part of broader market stabilisation measures, the finance ministry said.

The move comes after the Kospi index lost more than 4 per cent on Monday to hit its lowest level in six months and as foreign investors sold a net Won1.3tn ($1.1bn) – the biggest one-day outflow since tracking began in 1999, according to securities market operator Korea Exchange.

Kim Yong-beom, vice finance minister, said the government “will … swiftly and boldly take additional market stabilisation measures if necessary”.

China pork prices surge in February as lockdowns hit supply chains

Pork and other food prices in China jumped in February as restrictions on movement to limit the spread of coronavirus pushed up prices.

The price of pork surged 135.2 per cent compared to a year earlier as the price of food rose 21.9 per cent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Overall consumer prices rose 5.2 per cent, in line with a Reuters poll, and down from the 5.4 per cent increase in January.

Chinese authorities locked down cities and restricted movement across the country in a bid to limit the spread of the coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan. Ensuing supply disruptions had already pushed the price of piglets to record highs, as farmers bet on pork shortages.

Chinese pork prices climbed in 2019 as African swine fever spread across the country’s farms forcing culls.

Consumer prices for January and February, which smooths out the effects of the lunar new year holiday, rose 5.3 per cent compared to the same period last year.

Producer prices fell 0.4 per cent year on year on the effects of the lunar new year break and as some factories suspended production amid the virus. Economists had forecast a 0.3 per cent fall for the month.

New coronavirus cases in South Korea show more signs of tapering

By Edward White

South Korea has seen its fourth-straight day of declining new coronavirus cases as health officials hope their mass public testing and tracking programme is showing signs of success in containing one of the world’s worst virus outbreaks outside China.

The Korea Centres for Disease Control on Tuesday reported 131 new cases, the lowest since February 25. The majority of cases remained centred around Daegu, South Korea’s fourth-biggest city which has been at the heart of the country’s outbreak.

The total number of infections is now 7,513, with 54 deaths.

More than 200,000 tests have been run with around 10,000 tests carried out each day.

SEC tells staff to work from home

Kadhim Shubber reports from Washington DC

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has told staff at its headquarters in Washington DC to work from home after an employee was treated on Monday for “respiratory symptoms” possibly linked to the coronavirus.

A spokesperson for the US securities regulator said the employee had been referred for testing after a physician said they might have the coronavirus.

“Amongst other precautions, the SEC is encouraging headquarters employees to telework until further guidance,” the spokesperson said, adding that 9th floor staff have been “required” to work from home. The 9th floor includes the SEC’s office of general counsel.

The decision comes at a crucial time for the SEC, which has responsibility for regulating US markets. In recent days, trading volatility has spiked and US stocks have moved closer to bear market territory.

The SEC has long had systems in place for remote working, or telework, that date back to the early 2000s. m

“Even with increased telework, the SEC remains able and committed to fully executing its mission on behalf of investors, including monitoring market function and working closely with other regulators and market participants,” said the spokesperson.

New coronavirus cases in China fall to 19

Health authorities in China reported 19 new cases of coronavirus to the end of Monday, less than half the previous day’s tally. Two of the new cases were found in people returning from overseas and the remaining cases were from Wuhan, the origin of the outbreak. Monday’s figure takes the total number of cases cases to 80,754.

There were 17 new deaths linked to Covid-19 in the mainland, to take the total number of deaths to 3,136.

Qantas cuts international capacity by a quarter

Jamie Smyth reports from Sydney

Qantas is slashing capacity on its international network by almost a quarter over the next six months and implementing drastic cost cutting measures in response to the spread of the coronavirus into Europe and North America, the Australian airline said on Tuesday.

In total, a 23 per cent cut in international capacity and 5 per cent reduction in domestic flights is the equivalent of grounding 38 Qantas and Jetstar aircraft across the group’s international and domestic network.

The biggest capacity reductions remain focused on Asia, which is now down 31 per cent compared to the same time last year. Capacity to the US is down 19 per cent and the UK down 17 per cent, said Qantas in an update on its coronavirus response.

Qantas said it was in a strong position to weather the “current uncertainty” with A$1.9bn in cash and net debt of A$5.3bn. But it has moved to strengthen its balance sheet by cancelling a planned A$150m share buyback, asking staff to take paid or unpaid leave and implementing a 30 per cent pay cut for group executive management and board members.

Alan Joyce, Qantas chief executive and chairman, Richard Goyder, will take no salary or board fees for the remainder of 2020.

“In the past fortnight we’ve seen a sharp drop in bookings on our international network as the global coronavirus spread continues,” said Mr Joyce. “We expect lower demand to continue for the next several months, so rather than taking a piecemeal approach we’re cutting capacity out to mid-September.”

The recent collapse in fuel prices will have a limited impact on costs, with Qantas estimating its total fuel bill at A$3.74bn ($2.5bn), down from the A$3.85bn estimated on February 20th. This excludes the impact of the capacity reductions on the Qantas network.

Oil prices rise in Asia after historic rout

Hudson Lockett reports from Hong Kong

Asian equities continued to sell off on Tuesday even as President Donald Trump promised “very dramatic” action to support the US economy in the face of a growing coronavirus epidemic.

The weakness in Asian equities was in spite of the oil price recovering some ground from its lows and US stock futures showing signs of a small rebound after a dramatic fall following the oil price crash on Monday.

Brent crude, the international oil benchmark, gained 4.6 per cent to $35.94 a barrel, in early Asian trading, having closed the previous session down by almost a quarter. US marker West Texas Intermediate rose by the same extent to $32.57 in the wake of a similar sell-off.

Futures markets also pointed to some stabilisation on Wall Street, where equities started the week with the worst one-day fall since December 2008. On Tuesday, S&P 500 futures tipped the US stock benchmark to rise 1.7 per cent.

But in Tokyo stocks opened lower, with the benchmark Topix index dropping 3.8 per cent at the open as analysts warned oil appeared destined to drop below $30 a barrel. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200, the region’s worst performer on Monday, shed another 0.8 per cent.

Analysts were also sceptical that Brent could hold onto the gains so long as Saudi Arabia continued with its plan to increase oil output. Analysts at Citigroup said the global benchmark “looks like it will fall below $30 a barrel, with no clear end in sight for a new price range”.

Haven assets were nonetheless pulling back from recent highs in Asian trading. The 10-year US Treasury yield also rose 8 basis points to 0.624 per cent, pushing further above the 0.5 per cent threshold after diving below it for the first time on Monday. Bond prices fall as yields rise.

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