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Coronavirus as a Financial Contagion – Chinese Markets Suffer Steep Losses Upon Opening…

The Last Refuge [1]
February 3, 2020

Even before the Coronavirus surfaced in China there was lower manufacturing factory activity within the Chinese economy [2]

The necessary response within China to control the spread of the Coronavirus has been to shut down most commerce.  Factories, schools &  businesses throughout China are empty as various containment measures are underway.

The direct result of this response is a severe drop in economic activity.  Many analysts are speculating about how this cessation of production might impact supply chains that use Chinese component goods.  Obviously, with manufacturing facilities closed any downstream multinational company relying on those products may have supply issues as soon as existing inventories deplete.

There is a natural lag before the manufacturing void hits the consumer market; however, the financial markets are forward looking and they are already reflecting severe drops in stock prices, depending on the dependency/exposure of the company and/or sector.

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) [3] – Chinese stock and commodity markets fell heavily on Monday as the death toll from a coronavirus epidemic in China rose to 361 and investors retreated into safe-haven assets in the first trading session after an extended Lunar New Year break.

Markets plunged at the open in their first session since Jan. 23, when the outbreak of the newly identified virus had claimed only 17 lives in Wuhan city, the epicenter of the outbreak, in Hubei province.

[…]  The Shanghai Composite index shed 8% to hit one-year low on Monday, wiping almost $370 billion off the market value, according to Reuters calculations.

The yuan began trade onshore at its weakest level this year. Iron, oil and copper traded in Shanghai all dropped by their daily limits, catching up with global price falls as the spread of the virus has weighed on the world’s growth outlook.

Investors were bracing for volatility when onshore trade in Chinese stocks, bonds, yuan and commodities resumed, following a steep global selldown on fears about the impact of the virus on the world’s second-biggest economy.

Looking to head off panic, China’s central bank injected 1.2 trillion yuan ($173.8 billion) of liquidity into the markets via reverse repo operations on Monday. (read more [3])

In a very ironic way, any company that readjusted their supply chain, during the two years of uncertainty over U.S. -vs- China trade discussions and tariffs, will likely be in a much better position than those companies who remained anchored to Chinese manufacturing dependency.

It is going to be interesting to see what the scale of these downstream economic effects are going to be.  Many multinationals have adopted very thin supply chains and use ‘just-in-time’ delivery for replenishment.  If those companies cannot get resupplied they will be at the greatest financial risk.

Simultaneously, there’s an ironic cover for China within the lack of economic activity.  Any pre-existing economic malaise or contraction can now be disguised by Beijing as the result of the current Coronavirus shut-downs.