UK‌ ‌Politics:‌ Markets in turmoil as govt considers next steps on coronavirus

The coronavirus outbreak and falling oil prices have sparked chaos in the city
The City is feeling the strain of coronavirus and falling oil prices

‌As the FTSE 100 drops to its lowest point for three years, Boris Johnson will chair an emergency Cobra meeting to discuss the next steps in combating coronavirus. ‌Tradefair‌ ‌brings‌ ‌you‌ ‌the‌ ‌latest‌ ‌from‌ ‌UK‌ ‌politics...

The plunge in oil has led to complete capitulation in other markets this morning."

- Deutsche Bank analyst Jim Reid

Boris Johnson will today (March 9) chair another emergency meeting of the government's Cobra committee to consider next steps in the fight against coronavirus, following the biggest one-day increase in confirmed cases of the virus in the UK.

The number of people officially known to have contracted Covid-19 jumped from 209 to 278 yesterday, while a man in his 60s became the third fatality linked to the illness.

Escalating concern over the outbreak, combined with the threat of a full-blown oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia, has panicked investors, with London's FTSE 100 plunging by 8% in early trading. This followed big falls on the main Asian markets.

Containing coronavirus

Today's Cobra meeting is expected to consider the next measures that could be brought in to delay the spread of coronavirus. Specifically, the prime minister and his team will discuss the possibility of 'social distancing', which could involve closing schools, banning large gatherings such as sports events and advising people to work from home if they can.

One outcome of the meeting could be the country officially moving from the 'containment' to the 'delay' stage of the government's four-part coronavirus action plan. The third and fourth phases are 'research' and 'mitigate', respectively.

UK chief medical officer Chris Whitty and chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance will be at the meeting and will have to agree to the plan moving onto its next step.

The government stressed that, for the time being, it doesn't see the need to take action such as calling off major events.

Culture, media and sport secretary Oliver Dowden told the BBC: "We are guided by the facts and we are guided by the evidence. At the moment the advice is clear from the chief medical officer: there isn't a need to cancel such events."

Markets 'stunned'

While Johnson and his ministers meet in Whitehall to discuss the government's next steps, the City is reeling from rising anxiety over the economic impact of coronavirus and a drop in oil prices.

An early fall of more than 8% put the FTSE on course to see its worst day since the 2008 financial crisis. While the London blue-chip index recovered some ground over the following hours, it was still down more than 6% going into afternoon trading on Monday.

This came after crude oil prices dropped by more than 20%, amid a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Analysing the latest turbulence, Justin Urquhart-Stewart, co-founder of Seven Investment Management, said: "It shows a level of nervousness in the market which I haven't seen in a long time."

Deutsche Bank analyst Jim Reid said "it takes a lot to stun you in financial markets", but the combination of the coronavirus outbreak and the oil price crash "has done that and deserves its own place in the history books".

"The plunge in oil has led to complete capitulation in other markets this morning."

London isn't the only financial centre feeling the effects of these pressures today, with Frankfurt's DAX index plummeting by 6.6% in morning trading.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 was down by 5%, while China's benchmark Shanghai Composite lost 3% of its value and Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index suffered a 4.2% fall.

Early indications suggest a negative opening on Wall Street, too, with futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average pointing to an early drop of more than 1,300 points.

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