European stocks are being sold off heavily after Wall Street had a historically bad day triggered by the warning from the US Centre for Disease Control that the US is at risk of the coronavirus spread. Investors were frantically trying to access how high the toll of a US spread would be, including company closures, supply disruptions and a hit to consumer confidence, but for the moment there is no reliable model to base it on, particularly as China approached containing the virus in a different fashion than other countries.
In Europe the virus is beginning to get a grip with 34 new cases in Italy registered in the last 24 hours and the first cases reported in Spain and Croatia. And yet, as the virus mushrooms across Europe, for China the worst may be close to over. France-listed luxury goods maker Hermes has been one of the international blue chips to say that its operations in the country are returning to normal and that it has reopened all but four of its 43 shops in China, Hong Kong and Macau.
On the FTSE the worst hit were travel operators, airlines and the London Stock Exchange group itself.
Brent slumps ahead of OPEC
The spread of the coronavirus also pummeled Brent crude prices which are now trading around the $53.3 mark. Even before the latest decline an OPEC technical committee suggested that the cartel should lower its output further by another 600,000 bbl. Events will likely force OPEC members' hands when they meet in Vienna next week, making a cut as good as an inevitability.