Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.
Returning to the office after a holiday is rarely fun. But Hong Kong investors have suffered a hefty dose of back-to-work blues today as trading resumed after the Lunar New Year break.
Stocks tumbled across the Hang Seng index, as traders responded to the coronavirus outbreak. Every stock lost ground in a wave of selling, driving the index down to a seven-week low.
Consumer goods companies, energy firms and financial stocks led the sell-off, on concerns that the virus crisis will hurt Hong Kong’s economy — which is already in recession after months of pro-democracy protests.
In late trading, the Hang Seng is down 807 points, or 2.9%, at 27,141 — wiping out all the gains posted since mid-December.
It’s the worst start to a New Year since 2016 (the Year of the Pig); Jeffrey Chan Lap-tak of Oriental Patron Financial Group explains why the Year of the Rat has begun badly:
“The Wuhan coronavirus has been spreading around the world. It will affect market sentiment in the near term, as the disease will hit the tourism and retail industries of Hong Kong,”
“These sectors have already been hit hard by the eight-month-long anti-government protests.”
But while Hong Kong played catch-up, other markets are looking a little calmer today amid hopes that the coronavirus outbreak could peak soon.
Traders are also encouraged by strong results from Apple after Wall Street closed last night. The tech giant posted record revenues and profits for the last quarter, justifying the doubling of its share price over the last year.
My colleague Julia Carrie Wong reports:
Sales of the iPhone 11 propelled Apple to all-time record revenues and profits for the final three months of 2019, a strong performance that comes amid concerns over the impact of the coronavirus on the Chinese economy.
Apple’s $91.8bn in quarterly revenue topped analyst expectations thanks to $56bn in iPhone sales. The strong performance marks a rebound for the company, which suffered a rare setback in holiday sales one year ago.
CEO Tim Cook reported strong demand for iPhones, and for the company’s newer wearable technology. He also said Apple was “closely following the development of the coronavirus”, amid worries that its supply chain could be disrupted.
Also coming up today
The US central bank meets to set interest rates today. The Fed probably won’t cut borrowing costs, despite ongoing pressure from Donald Trump, but it could pave the way to ease later this year.
Fed chair Jay Powell may also talk about the impact of the coronavirus on the global economy, which comes just as trade war tensions are easing.
It’s also a big day for US corporate news, with McDonalds, Boeing, Facebook, Microsoft and Tesla all reporting results.
- 1.30pm GMT: US trade balance for December
- 7pm GMT: US Federal Reserve interest rate decision
- 7.30pm GMT: Fed chair Jerome Powell holds press conference