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Market crash continues as US stocks dive on coronavirus fears

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
A train that was stopped at the Italian border over coronavirus fears. (Lino Mirgeler/picture alliance via Getty Images)

US stocks plunged on Monday as investors contended with escalating fears about the spread of coronavirus to Europe.

The S&P 500 (^GSPC) declined by 2.65%, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) fell by 2.8%. Shares on the Nasdaq (^IXIC) fell by 2.9%.

The broad declines follow one of the worst days for European stocks in years, with the continent facing its first major coronavirus outbreak.

Italian officials on Sunday moved to lock down 12 towns, while there have been some 230 confirmed cases in the country.

Some five people have died from illnesses related to the virus.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index (^STOXX) was down by more than 3.8%, with stocks on Italy’s FTSE MIB Index (FTSEMIB.MI) sinking by more than 5.7%.

The FTSE 100 (^FTSE) was down by more than 3.8% in London. Germany’s DAX (^GDAXI) was down by 4%, while France’s CAC 40 (^FCHI) was down by more than 4%.

Around a dozen towns in Italy, the eurozone’s third-largest economy, have been put on lockdown as authorities in the northern Lombardy and Veneto regions race to contain the outbreak.

Some 50,000 inhabitants are thought to be affected by a series of “urgent measures” announced on Sunday, including restrictions on moving in and out of the affected areas.

Schools and universities have been ordered shut for at least a week, while museums and cinemas have also been closed in the regions.

Read more: Primark 'well stocked' despite coronavirus disruption

The final two days of the Venice Carnival, the annual festival known for its elaborate masks, have been called off.

“Italy’s lockdown, as the country tries to control the worst outbreak of the virus in Europe, has caused investors to panic about how business and society will be affected,” said Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, on Monday.

Crude oil (CL=F), which has been dented in recent weeks, declined by almost 3.5% on Monday.

“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 were being disrupted,” said Mould.

Austrian authorities said on Monday that they were assembling a coronavirus task force to determine whether the country should introduce border controls with Italy.

Read more: UK factories recover but warn coronavirus hitting supplies of parts

On Sunday, officials in the country refused entry to a train travelling from Italy after it emerged that there were two people with fever symptoms on board. The train was allowed continue following checks.

The losses in Europe followed a weak trading session in Asia.

Japan’s Nikkei (^N225) closed nearly 0.4% in the red. China’s SSE Composite Index (^SSEC) fell by 0.28%, while the Hang Seng (^HSI) fell by more than 1.7% in Hong Kong on Monday.

The KOSPI Composite Index (^KOSPI) in South Korea, which is also contending with a surge in coronavirus cases, fell by almost 3.9%.

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