Shares trade nervously as virus death toll mounts

European shares notched small gains but markets continue to understand the potential fallout of the coronavirus outbreak on global growth.

Shares trade nervously as virus death toll mounts

European shares notched small gains but markets continue to understand the potential fallout of the coronavirus outbreak on global growth.

Investors continued to be wary as the death toll from the Chinese outbreak exceeded that of the Sars virus of 17 years ago, and the World Health Organisation said its emergency committee would meet later today to consider issuing a global alarm.

Shares in British Airways-owner IAG were unchanged even as BA said it will halt flights to Beijing and Shanghai, joining other carriers in announcing the cutting or suspension of flights to China following the coronavirus outbreak. United Airlines, the biggest US carrier to China said it would cut flight service after a drop in demand.

Governments tightened international travel and border crossings with China as they ramped up efforts to stop the spread of the disease and airlines across the world suspended more flights to the country, as a number of countries moved to evacuate citizens from the outbreak’s epicentre, Wuhan.

However, shares in Lufthansa as well as IAG — which also owns Aer Lingus and Vueling — have still to claw back the losses of the past week as the outbreak took hold. Europe’s short-haul carriers fared much better: Ryanair shares rose 1.5% in the latest session, while Wizz Air climbed 4.5%, as the central European airline raised its profits outlook. The price of Brent crude traded at $59.44 a barrel. Apple helped support global stock markets after it delivered financial results that beat expectations earlier this week.

“Investors continue to keep a nervous eye on China, but it looks like the beat on earnings from the tech giant has helped (Wednesday’s) optimism to persist into a new session,” online broker IG said.

“The whole world needs to be on alert now,” Michael Ryan, executive director of the UN agency’s Health Emergencies Programme, said in Geneva.

Toyota said it was halting its China production until February 9, joining a growing list of global companies that have cut back on business activities in China.

- Additional reporting Bloomberg

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