Stock markets subdued tracking virus, data


European stock markets were subdued Friday as official data showing Europe’s largest economy Germany had zero growth in the last quarter of 2019, reports BSS/AFP. Asian indices earlier closed mixed as traders struggled to work out if the coronavirus outbreak in China was worse than being reported by authorities. Meanwhile, Wall Street opened with modest gains.

A dramatic rise in the number of deaths and new cases of the virus on Thursday fuelled global suspicions that Beijing was concealing the true scale of the illness. Wall Street finished Thursday in the red — a reversal from the previous day when its main indices closed at record highs. Analysts at Charles Schwab brokerage said global markets are “showing some resiliency in the face of increased uncertainty regarding the spreading of the coronavirus amid mixed data out of China pertaining to new cases.”

Europe’s largest economy Germany meanwhile marked time in the fourth quarter of 2019 as its export-oriented industry’s woes continued to weigh on growth, official data showed Friday. Gross domestic product (GDP) was flat quarter-on-quarter in October-December, federal statistics authority Destatis said, disappointing the agency’s own expectations and those of analysts surveyed by Factset.

Looking ahead into 2020, the rebound many observers were hoping for in the first half of the year will likely be pushed back by the effects of the novel coronavirus COVID-19. British pharmaceuticals group AstraZeneca on Friday warned that the coronavirus epidemic would hit its performance this year in key market China.

It’s share price slid 2.9 percent to 7,406 pence in London afternoon deals. The death toll from China’s virus epidemic neared 1,400 on Friday with six medical workers among the victims, underscoring the country’s struggle to contain a deepening health crisis.

Nearly 64,000 people are now recorded as having fallen ill from the virus in China, with officials revealing that 1,716 health workers had been infected as of Tuesday. Market focus Friday was also on company earnings, with Nissan’s share price diving nearly ten percent after the crisis-hit carmaker revised down its full-year sales and profit forecasts, warning that the impact from the epidemic was not yet included in the figures.

Shares in Royal Bank of Scotland slumped 6.0 percent as a weak outlook offset bumper 2019 profits and news that new boss Alison Rose will change the name of the UK state-rescued lender as it seeks to move away from its financial crisis-linked image.