Viewpoint – March 2020
After a period of remission verging on complacency, markets were dramatically infected by coronavirus in the final week of February, with the sharpest weekly fall in equities since the financial crisis. The trigger was the realisation that the spread of the virus beyond China, and in particular into Europe, was not only inevitable but immediate, with Italy’s economic heartland suffering an extremely serious outbreak which is still in its early stages. Taking a line from the damage caused to China’s economy, investors began to discount a very sharp contraction in economic activity in Europe, and globally, as the virus continues its inevitable spread, now in 86 countries and rising. The impact on economies is immediate, with factories closed, supply chains interrupted, travel and leisure activities curtailed, services withdrawn and large parts of the worst affected countries, China, Italy, South Korea and Iran (and the expectation of many more to follow), in effective lockdown.