GLOBAL financial markets fell like crazy on Monday after a rise in coronavirus cases renewed fears and panic that the entire system is heading for its biggest ever crash.
In the US, the Dow Jones and S&P 500 posted their sharpest daily declines since 2018, with the Dow falling 3.5% – more than 1,000 points. The UK’s FTSE 100 share index closed 3.3% lower, the sharpest drop since January 2016.
In Italy, which has seen Europe’s worst outbreak of the virus, Milan’s stock market plunged nearly 6%. The price of gold hit its highest level in seven years and is expected to reach $1,700 an ounce shortly.
Shares in Japan slumped yesterday with the Nikkei 225 index dropping 4.5% when it re-opened. Shares in Toyota Motor Corp fell 3.7%, while Uniqlo’s parent company, Fast Retailing, dropped 4.2%.
Both firms are highly-dependent on a global supply chain that faces collapse following the shutdown of Chinese factories.
The stockmarket crash took place as the coronavirus outbreak continued to spread outside of China, with Iran, South Korea and Italy reporting a surge in cases.
About 77,000 people in China have been infected and nearly 2,600 have died. More than 1,200 cases have been confirmed in about 30 other countries and there have been more than 20 deaths.
‘There has been so much complacency in recent weeks from investors, despite clear signs that China’s economy is facing a large hit and that supply chains around the world are being disrupted,’ said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell.
‘Markets initially wobbled in January, but had quickly bounced back, implying that investors didn’t see the coronavirus as a serious threat to corporate earnings. They may now be reappraising the situation.’
The losses on the Dow and S&P 500 in the US wiped out their gains for the year. Firms such as Nike, Apple and Walt Disney, which do major business in China and rely on it to make commodities, were some of the hardest hit, with shares down more than 4%.
Travel companies also continued to suffer. In the UK, the biggest faller in the FTSE 100 was EasyJet, which sank 16.7%, while Tui and British Airways owner IAG were both down by more than 9% at the close.
The ballooning number of confirmed coronavirus cases in China and elsewhere has the capitalists worried that this will mean a prolonged economic slowdown (depression) around the world, leading to a crash that will rival 1929.
Apple has already warned of a shortage of iPhones, and US companies are also starting to fear that the coronavirus catastrophe will derail the longest inflationary expansion in America’s history.
The bosses fear that Trump’s attempt at a second term presidency is about to be crushed, and Bernie Sanders is now taking on ogre proportions as far as the ‘stop Sanders at all costs’ business lobby is concerned.
In China, only about three out of 10 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are back at work. SMEs make up about 60% of the Chinese economy.
The gold price – which has risen by more than 10% since the start of the year – will soon breach the $1,700 barrier. ‘Gold has finally established some serious momentum,’ said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at online trading platform Oanda.
Northern Italy is now in lock-down. Italian officials have cancelled the Venice Carnival as Italy has by far the highest number of coronavirus cases in Europe, with 152. Three people have died. Italy has imposed strict quarantine restrictions in two northern ‘hotspot’ regions close to Milan and Venice.
About 50,000 people cannot enter or leave several towns in Veneto and Lombardy for the next two weeks without special permission. These conditions are expected to appear in a number of other EU countries, where frontiers are reappearing overnight in all of the EU states.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte pledged on Saturday that ‘extraordinary measures’ would come into force to stem the rising number of coronavirus cases. He said: ‘Police, and if necessary the armed forces, will have the authority to ensure the regulations are enforced.’
Universities in Milan have been closed and the city’s mayor, Giuseppe Sala, said schools would also close their doors while the outbreak continues. ‘As a precaution, I think that the schools have to be closed in Milan. I will propose to the president of the region to enlarge the precaution to the entire metropolitan city area. It is just a precaution, we don’t want to create panic,’ he said.
Meanwhile the rest of Europe trembles!
The workers of the EU, the UK and the USA are now faced with the certainty that if they do not get rid of capitalism with socialist revolutions, it is going to get rid of them. Now is the time to build sections of the Fourth International in every country to organise the victory of the world socialist revolution.