'Black Monday' as stocks, oil prices plunge

2020-03-10 06:02:27 GMT2020-03-10 14:02:27(Beijing Time) Sina English


Fear over the new coronavirus epidemic sent global stock markets and oil prices plunging on Monday, touched off prison riots in Italy and caused a cascading shutdown of sites and events ranging from Saudi schools to a Holocaust march.

It even led the World Health Organization to warn of a “very real” threat of a pandemic.

Stocks tanked as the global oil market nosedived 30 percent at one stage after top exporter Saudi Arabia slashed the prices it charges customers following a bust-up with Russia over crude production cuts.

Shortly after the open in New York, trading was halted for 15 minutes after losses hit 7 percent. The main stock indexes in London and Frankfurt dropped by more 8 percent at the opening. Tokyo closed down 5.1 percent while Sydney lost 7.3 percent. Shanghai closed down 3 percent.

OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia last week wanted Russia to join the cartel in deep output cuts after world oil prices slumped on forecasts of plunging demand because of COVID-19.

However, Russia declined, triggering Riyadh’s move to preserve market share and sideline its close competitor — but it has created fresh market chaos.

The dizzying oil drop — the steepest since the 1991 Gulf War — sent investors fleeing for safety alongside mounting fears over the worsening coronavirus, which has seen Italy lock down a swathe of its north.

“This will be remembered as Black Monday,” said Neil Wilson at trading site Markets.com.

The WHO warned on Monday there was now a “very real” threat that the outbreak will become a pandemic, but stressed the virus could still be controlled.

“The threat of a pandemic has become very real,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva, while stressing that “it would be the first pandemic in history that can be controlled ... we are not at the mercy of the virus.”

While many returned to work as new infections subsided in China, some 16 million people were under a widespread lockdown in northern Italy.

Meanwhile, inmates at more than two dozen Italian prisons rioted against restrictions on family visits and other containment measures, and six died after they broke into the infirmary and overdosed on anti-psychotic medicine.

Travelers at Milan’s train station had to sign police forms self-certifying that they are traveling for proven work needs, situations of necessity, health reasons or to return home.

The country has counted 7,375 cases and 366 deaths.

Infections were reported in more than half the world’s countries, and flashpoints were erupting around the globe.

In the United States, where more than 500 infections have been reported, the Grand Princess cruise ship, which has at least 21 confirmed virus cases, was expected to dock in Oakland, California, amid elaborate protective procedures.

Fleets of buses and planes were ready to whisk the more than 2,000 passengers to military bases or their home countries for a 14-day quarantine.

In Washington, the Capitol’s attending physician’s office said several members of Congress had contact with a person who attended a recent political conference and subsequently developed COVID-19. They “remain in good health,” the office said. Two members of Congress, Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Paul Gosar, said they are isolating themselves after determining they had contact with the person.

Countries around the world showed a willingness to take tough steps against the virus.

After earlier closing off its land borders, Saudi Arabia cut off air and sea travel to and from Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Lebanon, South Korea, Syria and the United Arab Emirates. All Saudi schools and universities were closed from Monday.

Qatar cut off travel to 15 countries and announced it would shut down schools and universities beginning Tuesday.


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