US President Donald Trump’s decision to enforce a ban on travel from Europe to the US for a month to curtail the spread of coronavirus sent shock waves once again to the equity and oil markets sparking fears of a global recession.
As the disease showed no signs of abating, claiming more lives and infecting more people around the world, the US president said in a rare address to the nation that the ban would be in place for 30 days.
The news came after the World Health Organisation officially labelled the outbreak a pandemic and hit out at “alarming levels of inaction” for its spread.
Asian equity markets, already deep in the red in reaction to the WHO announcement, cratered after Trump’s address.
Tokyo ended down 4.4%, while Sydney lost 7.4% in the ASX 200’s worst day since the 2008 financial crisis. Hong Kong fell 3.5% in the afternoon while Shanghai was off 1.6%.
Seoul, Singapore and Jakarta each lost more than 3%, while Mumbai tanked more than 7% and Bangkok more than 8%.
Manila was almost 6% down, Wellington lost 5% and Taipei retreated 4.3%.
The Japanese yen, a key haven in times of crisis and economic turmoil, jumped more than 1% against the dollar.
“Travel restrictions equal slower global economic activity, so if you need any more coaxing to sell… after a massively negative signal from trading in US markets it just fell in your lap,” said AxiCorp’s Stephen Innes.
The losses followed another brutal session on Wall Street, with wave after wave of bad news, including Hilton withdrawing its earnings forecast and Boeing saying it would suspend most hiring and overtime pay.
The Dow fell into a bear market having lost more than 20% since its recent high, and futures pointed Thursday to another rout in New York and Europe.
The coronavirus outbreak has left virtually no sector untouched, though travel and tourism have been particularly hard-hit as countries institute travel bans and quarantine requirements, with Italy in a country-wide lockdown.
The number of cases across the globe has risen to more than 124,000 with 4,500 deaths, including a jump in fatalities particularly in Iran and Italy, according to an AFP tally.
In announcing the Europe ban — which excludes Britain — Trump said the continent had seen a surge in new cases because governments failed to stop travel from China, where the COVID-19 epidemic began.
He said the prohibitions would also “apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo,” and “various other things as we get approval”.
However, the White House afterwards clarified that “the people transporting goods will not be admitted into the country, but the goods will be”.