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Coronavirus sparks biggest Chinese stock crash since 2015

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK

Chinese stocks suffered their biggest one-day sell-off since 2015 on Monday, as anxiety continued about the economic fallout from the coronavirus epidemic.

The Shenzen Component index (399001.SZ) fell 11.6% and the Shanghai Composite index (000001.SS) dropped 7.7%.

The sell-off represented the biggest drop in Chinese stocks prices since 2015, when a bubble driven by retail investors popped. Stock markets on mainland China had been closed for over a week for an extended Lunar New Year holiday and Monday was the first time investors could react to the coronavirus epidemic spreading across the country.

Authorities said Monday that 361 people have now died from coronavirus in China and the infection total has risen to 17,205. The death toll in China overtook that of the SARS outbreak from the early 2000s over the weekend.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) last week declared the virus an epidemic and the New York Times said the outbreak was likely to be upgraded to a pandemic. The Philippines on Monday reported the first death from coronavirus outside of China.

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The rapid spread and rising death toll comes despite a continued lockdown across much of China.

“The spread of the virus within China has been so severe — termed a global health emergency by WHO — that tens of millions of Chinese residents, cities vital to global supply chains and trade flow, are in complete lockdown,” said Bethel Loh, a macro strategist at ThinkMarkets.

An investor looks at a screen showing stock market movements at a securities company in Hangzhou in China's eastern Zhejiang province on 3 February 2020. Green signifies losses in China. Photo: STR/AFP via Getty Images

China’s central bank over the weekend pledged to inject 1.2tn renminbi ($173.8bn, £133.3bn) into the Chinese banking system to support the economy “during the period of epidemic prevention and control”.

“It’s likely more intervention will come if required in the days ahead,” said Deutsche Bank strategist Jim Reid.

Concern about the Chinese economy and the spread of coronavirus touched other markets in Asia, with the Nikkei (^N225) closing down 1% in Japan.

However, European and US markets shrugged off the Chinese sell-off. The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) opened up 0.1%, boosted by a falling pound, the German DAX (^GDAXI) was up 0.3%, and France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) was up 0.2%. S&P 500 futures (ES=F) were up 0.3%, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures (YM=F) were up 0.2%, and Nasdaq futures (NQ=F) were up 0.5%.

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