A worker cleans up an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2020. Asian stock markets have tumbled as concern about the impact of a Chinese disease outbreak on tourism and regional economies grows. (AP Photo/Koji Sasahara)

Global stocks tumble on growing concern about China virus

January 21, 2020 - 3:26 am

BEIJING (AP) — Global stock and oil prices tumbled Tuesday as concern about the impact of a Chinese disease outbreak increased and a rating agency cut Hong Kong's credit rating for official borrowing due to political tension.

Japan's central bank left its key interest rate unchanged and upgraded its economic growth outlook.

London and Frankfurt declined and Shanghai, Tokyo and Hong Kong closed sharply lower after China announced a fourth death from coronavirus. The outbreak, centered on the central Chinese city of Wuhan, has sickened more than 200 people.

Authorities said some infections were transmitted person-to-person, increasing the risk the disease might spread faster during the Lunar New Year holiday, the Chinese-speaking world's busiest travel season.

Other Asian governments stepped up screening of travelers from China, highlighting the potential impact on tourism. That prompted a selloff in of airlines, hotel operators and other travel businesses.

The outbreak “is developing into a major potential economic risk to the Asia-Pacific region,” said Rajiv Biswas of IHS Markit in a report.

Biswas pointed to the example of the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, whose economic impact was felt as far away as Canada and Australia.

In early trading, London's FTSE 100 lost 1.1% to 7,562.97 and Frankfurt's DAX sank 0.7% to 13,459.81. France's CAC 40 was 1.2% lower at 6,005.76.

On Wall Street, futures for the benchmark Standard & Poor's 500 index and Dow Jones Industrial Average were off 0.4% as markets prepared to reopen after a three-day holiday weekend.

In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index fell 1% to 3,063.56 and Tokyo's Nikkei 225 retreated 0.9% to 23,866.15.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index sank 2.8% to 27,985.33 after Moody's Investors Service cut its government credit rating by one notch to Aa3 from Aa2.

Moody's cited the lack of “tangible plans” to respond to issues highlighted by six-month-old anti-government protests and said that may reflect “weaker inherent institutional capacity” than previously thought. The protests began in June over a proposed extradition law and have expanded to include demands for greater democracy in the Chinese territory.

Seoul's Kospi sank 1% to 2,2239.69 and Sydney's S&P ASX 200 lost 0.2% to 7,066.30. India's Sensex was 0.3% lower at 41,381.52. Southeast Asian markets also declined.

Air China Ltd. lost 3.2% and Hong Kong's Cathay Pacific Airways dropped 4.1%. Japan's ANA Holdings Inc. fell 2.2%.

Also Tuesday, the Bank of Japan left its policy rate at -0.1% and affirmed its commitment to increase holdings of government bonds. Board members raised their economic growth projection for the year that starts in April to 0.9% from 0.7%.

The European central bank also is due to make an interest rate decision this week.

ENERGY: Benchmark U.S. oil fell 48 cents to $58.11 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract gained 5 cents on Monday to close at $58.58. Brent crude, used to price international oils, lost 65 cents to $64.57 per barrel in London. It advanced 35 cents the previous session to $65.20.

CURRENCIES: The dollar declined to 109.93 yen from Monday's 110.18 yen. The euro edged down to $1.1091 from $1.1094.

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