Via Financial Times

Asia stocks slip as China returns to work

Hudson Lockett reports from Hong Kong

China’s efforts to get its economy back online brought little cheer to markets on Monday, as equities benchmarks across the region sank.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was the worst of the lot, down 0.8 per cent, while Tokyo’s Topix dropped 0.6 per cent. Sydney’s S&P/ASX 200 fell just 0.1 per cent but that was enough to bring it 5 per cent lower for the year to date.

Among major indices only China’s CSI 300 has fared worse in 2020, with a drop of 0.4 per cent on Monday taking it down 5.2 per cent this year.

In currency markets the Australian dollar, which is viewed by investors as a proxy for China’s economy, enjoyed a bounce of 0.4 per cent to almost $0.67, but was still down 4.6 per cent year to date.

UK evacuates second batch of citizens from Wuhan

Yuan Yang reports from Beijing

The UK has evacuated British families from the coronavirus-stricken Chinese city of Wuhan, the second charter flight since the outbreak started last month.

The UK conducted its first evacuation late last month. Diplomats said there were roughly 300 British citizens in the city. Of these, 150 registered for the flight but only 83 boarded.

The reason for the discrepancy and need for a second evacuation was uncertainty over whether children who are “dual nationals”, those who are born in China to a Chinese and foreign parent, would be allowed to leave with their families.

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Beijing does not allow its citizens to hold more than one nationality. China’s policy had been that only foreign nationals could be evacuated, posing a particular challenge for foreign governments.

“[We were given] no guarantees we would be allowed on the plane or what would happen if we were denied boarding,” wrote Natalie Francis, a British mother, on Facebook, ahead of the first evacuation flight. She said she was given no guarantee that she could bring her three-year-old son.

Ms Francis and her child were eventually allowed on the flight and are now in quarantine in the UK.

Coronavirus pushes up China consumer prices

Consumer prices in China recorded their biggest year-on-year jump since 2011 on the effects of coronavirus and the lunar new year holiday.

Prices rose 5.4 per cent in January compared to a year earlier with food prices up 20.6 per cent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Producer prices rose 0.1 per cent year on year.

Global recovery delayed but not derailed by coronavirus – Morgan Stanley

Morgan Stanley views the coronavirus outbreak as a potential obstacle to global economic recovery because of disruption to supply chains from the delayed return to work for factories.

If work resumes on February 10, the hit to global growth is forecast at around 15 to 30 basis points during the first quarter. A gradual return to work as migrant workers and logistics face challenges could limit growth by 35 to 50bp and an extended disruption where the outbreak does not peak until April, could see a 50 to 75bp hit for the first quarter and a 35 to 50 basis point hit for the first half of 2020.

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“In the near term, there are still uncertainties as to how quickly the coronavirus situation will be brought under control and when production and goods transportation services will be ramped up to normal levels,” the bank said.

WHO chief warns of ‘tip of the iceberg’ for cases outside China

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organisation, said in a series of tweets that the spread of coronavirus outside China appeared to be slow but countries must be prepared as the virus’s spread could accelerate.

“There’ve been some concerning instances of onward #2019nCoV spread from people with no travel history to [China],” he said. “The detection of a small number of cases may indicate more widespread transmission in other countries; in short, we may only be seeing the tip of the iceberg.”

Cases of coronavirus identified in the UK, Malaysia and South Korea have been linked to a business meeting in Singapore in January attended by more than 100 guests

Dr Tedros last month heaped praise on China’s handling of the outbreak but his comments have split opinion. He said the WHO has sent an advance team for an international expert mission to China.

Read our full coverage of the response to Dr Tedros here

China coronavirus cases pass 40,000

China reported 908 deaths from coronavirus to the end of Sunday, with 40,171 confirmed cases in the country of which 6,484 were described as seriously ill.

The number of deaths exceeded that of the 2002-2003 Sars outbreak over the weekend. Sars killed 774 people.

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Many businesses will remain closed on Monday after an extended Lunar New Year break designed to limit the spread of the virus. Critical industries such as aviation have been permitted to restart while workers in Shanghai and Beijing have been asked to work from home.

Read our full coverage of the restarting the Chinese economy here