Surge in New Coronavirus Cases Sends Global Stock Market Reeling

Global stocks retreated in Thursday morning trading after a report from China showed a surge of 15,000 new coronavirus cases.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average opened down more than 185 points, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite pointed to respective losses of 17 points and 71 points. Internationally, the Shanghai Composite Index dipped 20 points, the Hang Seng Index fell 93 points and Japan’s Nikkei 225 benchmark dropped 33 points. In Europe, the FTSE 100 slumped 106 points, and the CAC 40 decreased 37 points.

China’s Hubei province — home to the city of Wuhan, where the outbreak originated — reported 14,840 cases, or a nearly tenfold increase, as well as 242 deaths on Thursday (local time) alone. Health authorities in the region had recently changed how cases were to be diagnosed, now using CT scans of the lungs to confirm the illness in patients. (Previously, cases were confirmed by RNA tests, which carry genetic information that identifies viruses in patients and can take days to process.)

In a press release, the Health Commission of Hubei Province wrote that the expanded criteria was made so “that patients can receive standardized treatment according to confirmed cases as early as possible to further improve the success rate of treatment.”

The updated number of cases was released a day after investors breathed a sigh of relief on signs that the deadly outbreak may be slowing down. China’s National Health Commission had suggested yesterday that the number of newly reported infections on the mainland slowed to the lowest rate in nearly two weeks.

Government officials in China have attempted to quell the spread of the illness by reducing travel within the country. In the retail sector, major international brands like Nike, Burberry and H&M have closed stores and cut down on open hours, while factories and corporate offices have stalled operations. Several hundred companies around the world have already seen or forecasted a negative impact on their businesses from the coronavirus. While some retailers have predicted lower sales that are likely to hurt their bottom lines, the extent of the impact remains unclear.

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