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Coronavirus scare on Italian cruise sends Carnival crashing

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
A Guardia di Finanza boat passes the Costa Smeralda cruise ship of Costa Crociere, carrying around 6,000 passengers, as it sits docked at the Italian port of Civitavecchia on Thursday. Photo: Guglielmo Mangiapane/Reuters

Cruise ship operator Carnival (CCL.L) on Thursday became the latest company to feel the heat from the global outbreak of coronavirus.

The company’s stock plummeted as much as 8% in London after one of its ships was quarantined in Italy amid concerns that passengers may have been infected with the coronavirus.

Costa Cruises, a division of Carnival, confirmed a 54-year-old Chinese woman was placed in isolation on one of its ships on Wednesday night with her travelling companion. Almost 7,000 crew and passengers on board are also being held on board to prevent potential spread.

“As soon as the suspected case was detected, the medical team on board immediately activated all the relevant health procedures to promptly isolate and manage clinical conditions,” Costa Cruises said.

“The local health authority was immediately notified and is now on board to conduct all the pertinent measures.”

The spokesperson said the safety of passengers and crew was “our utmost priority”.

The Carnival scare came amid a wider sell-off for equities around the world, driven by coronavirus concerns.

Asian markets sold off sharply overnight, extending a protracted slide that began last week. The Hong Kong Hang Seng (^HSI) shed 2.6% and Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) dropped 1.7%. The Shanghai Composite remains closed.

China’s currency, known as the yuan or renminbi (CNY=X), also slipped. The currency dropped below the psychologically significant level of seven yuan to the dollar.

European stock markets also opened sharply lower, taking their cues from Asia. The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) fell 1.2%, the German DAX (^GDAXI) dropped 1.2%, and the CAC 40 (^FCHI) in France fell 1.6%.

People wearing masks on the street in Hong Kong on Thursday.Photo: Yat Kai Yeung/NurPhoto via Getty Images

US opened lower. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) was down 0.1%, the S&P 500 (^GSPC) was down 0.3%, and Nasdaq (^IXIC) was flat.

Global markets sold off amid continued fears about the spread of coronavirus, a new deadly virus that has been spreading rapidly in recent weeks.

READ MORE: How coronavirus outbreak is hitting companies around the world

The death toll from the outbreak in China has risen to 170, authorities in Beijing said on Thursday, with 7,711 cases reported within the country.

The World Health Organization (WHO) emergency committee is expected to meet in Geneva on Thursday to decide whether to declare an international public health emergency. The meeting is due to take place at 1.30pm local time.

“Fears of a pandemic may be overegging the pudding, but there is again a clear risk off mood in the market,” said Neil Wilson, chief markets analyst at Markets.com.

“Cases and deaths rise, airlines are gutting their flight schedules and factories are extending holidays well into February. The mood in the market is one of severe concern.”

British Airways and Lufthansa both announced they were cancelling flights to mainland China on Wednesday in a bid to contain the outbreak and Hong Kong has also put in place travel restrictions.

The travel freeze and slowdown in factory activity put oil under pressure. Crude (CL=F) was down 1.6% to $52.41 and Brent (BZ=F) was down 2% to $58.56.