WHO Urges Containment; Second Case in New York: Virus Update

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WHO Urges Containment; Second Case in New York: Virus Update
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(Bloomberg) -- A Westchester County man has tested positive for the coronavirus, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said. The U.S. Federal Reserve delivered an emergency interest-rate cut, and the Group of Seven finance chiefs pledged to use all policy tools to support the global economy.

Australia cut rates to a record low and U.S. President Donald Trump urged the Federal Reserve to “ease and cut rate big.” Malaysia reduced its benchmark interest rate while the Fed, Bank of Japan and European Central Bank all pledged to act.

Infections rose again in South Korea and Iran, where more officials were diagnosed. Businesses in the U.K., which has reported 51 cases, were warned that as many as a fifth of workers could be forced off sick if the country is hit by a widespread outbreak. Japan’s tally of cases approached the 1,000 mark, while Spain’s rose 32% to 150. The International Olympic Committee urged athletes to keep preparing for the Tokyo games amid concern the outbreak could quash that event.

U.S. stocks declined and Treasuries surged as investors worried the Fed’s emergency cut won’t be enough to combat the economic impact of the coronavirus.

Click VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus and here for maps and charts. For analysis of the impact from Bloomberg Economics, click here.

WHO: Not Time to Wave a White Flag (12:15 p.m. NY)

The head of the World Health Organization said countries shouldn’t be “waving a white flag” and should pursue aggressive containment strategies, even if they have no or few cases of the novel coronavirus.

China has managed to steadily reduce the number of new cases, which dropped to the lowest number since Jan. 20, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at the group’s daily briefing in Geneva Tuesday.

In some people the coronavirus can cause much more serious illness than influenza, even if it doesn’t spread as easily, Tedros said. Producers of medical gear need to boost supply 40% because each month the world will need 89 million medical masks, 76 million exam gloves and 1.6 million goggles, he said.

Iran, the center of the outbreak in the Middle East, is in need of medical equipment including ventilators, and the large increases in new cases are a reflection of how medical authorities are being more aggressive in trying to detect the virus, Tedros said. “Things tend to look worse before they get better.”

FDA on Watch for Drug Shortages From India (11:10 a.m. NY)

U.S. health regulators are watching for potential drug shortages after India restricted the export of some raw pharmaceutical ingredients, a move that has potential to disrupt the global supply chain of drugs manufactured around the world.

Earlier Tuesday, India said it would limit export of some common medicines as concerns grow over shortages of chemical ingredients. Many manufacturers in China are shut due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Though India is the source of about 20% of the world’s generic-drug supply, the country is dependent on China for about 66% of the chemical components needed to make them. India wants to ensure that there are enough supplies at home for its citizens.

Homeland Security Closes Field Office in Seattle (10:37 a.m. NY)

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security closed a field office in Seattle after an employee was potentially exposed to coronavirus.

An employee in the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Seattle developed flu-like symptoms after visiting a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, where a cluster of coronavirus cases have been diagnosed, said Deputy DHS Secretary Ken Cuccinelli.

“The employee had been coming to work in the intervening days between the possible exposure (Feb. 22) and becoming ill (Feb. 26). In an effort to contain the threat of potential spread & out of an abundance of caution, the @USCIS Seattle Field Office was ordered closed,” Cuccinelli tweeted.

Fed Cuts Rates Half Point in Emergency Move (10:20 a.m. NY)

The U.S. Federal Reserve delivered an emergency half-percentage point interest rate cut Tuesday in a bid to protect the longest-ever economic expansion.

“The coronavirus poses evolving risks to economic activity,” the Fed said in a statement. “In light of these risks and in support of achieving its maximum employment and price stability goals, the Federal Open Market Committee decided today to lower the target range for the federal funds rate by 1/2 percentage point.”

Read the full story here

N.Y. Man in Westchester Tests Positive, Cuomo Says (9:40 a.m. NY)

A 50-year-old man who works in Manhattan and lives in the New York suburb of Westchester County has been hospitalized and tested positive for the coronavirus.

The man doesn’t have a history of foreign travel and it wasn’t immediately clear if he’d had contact with known cases in the U.S. Health authorities around the country are closely watching for coronavirus cases with unknown origins, a sign that the virus could be spreading from person-to-person.

The man lives in Westchester with his family. A school in the Bronx attended by one of his children has been closed as a precaution, Cuomo said.

There are also two families in Buffalo that are suspected of having the virus, the governor’s office said in an email.

New York City has at least one confirmed case so far, a Manhattan woman in her 30s who contracted the virus while traveling in Iran. She was isolated in her Manhattan apartment as of last weekend.

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Pence Visited School Where Student Is in Quarantine (9:40 a.m. NY)

A Florida student whose classmates shook hands last Friday with Vice President Mike Pence has been quarantined after his mother came into contact with a coronavirus patient.

Some White House aides were aware of the case in Sarasota, Florida, but there was no blanket notification about it in the executive mansion, according to people familiar with the matter. Some advisers to the vice president were unaware of the quarantine as of Tuesday morning.

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New York City High School Closes on Suspected Case (8:41 a.m. NY)

A New York City high school is closed Tuesday after a suspected case of coronavirus in its community, Reuters reported, citing a statement.

Italy’s Business Lobby Sees GDP Contraction Worsening (8:07 a.m. NY)

Italy’s GDP was already expected to shrink in the first quarter and there’s a high probability of a more significant contraction in the second quarter, Italy’s business lobby Confindustria says in monthly economic survey. “In the absence of effective and timely economic policy measures -- not only in Italy -- the worst risk is that there is a spiral of supply and demand shocks capable of causing a strong and prolonged recession.”

G-7 Ready to Take Action, Including Fiscal Tools (7:44 a.m. NY)

G-7 finance ministers “are ready to take actions, including fiscal measures where appropriate” in response to coronavirus threat, according to a joint statement released by the U.S. Treasury.

Iran Supreme Leader Says ‘Let’s Not Exaggerate’ Virus (6:53 a.m. NY)

“The coronavirus won’t affect the country for long & will leave,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Twitter on Tuesday. Iran, which has the second-highest number of fatalities from coronavirus, reported 835 new confirmed cases on Tuesday, taking the total to 2,336. The death toll climbed to 77 from 66, while 435 patients have recovered.

Hedge Fund Winners Warn of Bull Trap (6:42 a.m. NY)

Two of the best performing macro hedge funds of recent weeks have a tip for investors: buying the dip in stocks may not work this time. “This could become a textbook bull trap: the market rallies, you think it’s over, mommy and daddy are going to intervene,” said Quadriga Asset Managers’s Diego Parrilla, referring to central banks and governments. “If this doesn’t really play out, it’s game over.”

BlackRock (NYSE: BLK ) changed its recommendation on global equities to neutral.

Satellite Data Suggest China Is Getting Back to Work (6:30 a.m. NY)

Satellite data show economic activity in China could be picking up. Nitrogen dioxide levels rose across China’s industrial heartland, according to the most recent Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service data compiled by Windy.Com.

The reddish-brown gas mainly enters the air from burning fossil fuels such as oil, coal and natural gas . Levels plummeted in February after Chinese authorities locked down communities to contain the virus.

Carney Sees ‘Powerful’ Global Response as G-7 Call Nears (6 a.m. NY)

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said international policy makers are crafting a “powerful and timely” defense of the world economy against the coronavirus as those from the Group of Seven nations prepared to hold an emergency conference call.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire also said he wants G7 message to be “as powerful as possible.” Le Maire said he’s in close contact with G7 counterparts and spoke with ECB President Lagarde on Tuesday. “I can assure that you at the level of the G7 and the eurozone we will have a coordinated, strong and fast response to this crisis,” he said.

Under pressure from investors to match recent pledges of economic support with concrete action, G-7 finance ministers and central bankers including Carney and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, will discuss their virus response at about 7 a.m. Washington time. A statement is expected to be released afterward.

Thermo to Buy Qiagen for $10 Billion (6 a.m. NY)

U.S. laboratory equipment maker Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc (NYSE: TMO ). agreed to buy Qiagen NV, a Dutch maker of tests for diseases including cancer and the new coronavirus, for about 9 billion euros ($10 billion) in the biggest health-care acquisition so far this year. When a new coronavirus emerged in China in January, Qiagen got to work on a test to detect the virus in bodily fluids. The test is now being evaluated at four hospitals in China and one in France. The test gives results in about an hour.

Energy Aspects Cuts Oil Demand Growth Forecast Again (6:50 p.m. HK)

Energy Aspects cut 2020 oil demand growth forecast to 500,000 barrels a day, a 200,000 b/d reduction from previous week’s estimate, because of the impact of the coronavirus. Before the outbreak emerged in late January, EA was forecasting global oil demand growth of 1.1 million b/d this year.

U.K. Firms Are Warned 20% of Staff Could Be Off Sick (6:36 p.m. HK)

British businesses were warned as many as 20% of workers could be forced to take time off during peak periods of infection if the U.K. is hit by a widespread outbreak. The U.K. government published its plan for dealing with the disease, including an estimate that in a worst case scenario more than 6 million people could be absent. Such a peak period of infection would be likely to last around three weeks.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled a package of emergency measures to tackle coronavirus on Tuesday after he was criticized for not doing enough to prepare for the spread of the disease. He said he was ready to close schools and cancel public events and that the army was on standby to assist in the worst-case scenario

Merkel Ally Proposes Using Surplus to Offset Impact (6:20 p.m. HK)

A top official in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative bloc proposed using Germany’s budget surplus to help fund a stimulus package to offset any economic damage caused by the virus. Alexander Dobrindt, the co-head of Merkel’s parliamentary caucus, told reporters in Berlin as much as 50 billion euros ($56 billion) could be available this year and the package will be discussed March 8 by the ruling coalition. He ruled out loosening rules that limit government borrowing.

Indonesia Warns Against Hoarding (6:13 p.m. HK)

President Joko Widodo warned against hoarding of food and other essential goods after the country’s first cases of confirmed coronavirus sparked panic buying at supermarkets. The country is working on a second stimulus package, adding to the central bank’s aggressive moves to counter the impact of the coronavirus on markets.

Singapore to Bar Travelers (NYSE: TRV ) From Iran, Italy, Korea (5:48 p.m. HK)

Singapore will bar visitors who recently traveled to Iran, northern Italy or the Republic of Korea in the last 14 days, including transits. The measures will take effect from March 4.

EDF (PA: EDF ) Tracing Staff Close to Hinkley Point Worker (5:40 p.m. HK)

EDF (PA: EDF ) is tracing people who were in contact with a man working on the U.K. Hinkley Point C nuclear plant site last month to see if they have shown symptoms, according to a company memo seen by Bloomberg. A Chinese national who was on secondment at Hinkley Point fell ill with coronavirus on his return to China after working at the construction project in England between Feb. 15 and Feb. 27.

Singapore to Include Swab Testing at Checkpoints (5:30 p.m. HK)

Singapore will implement new screening mechanisms at checkpoints to tackle the coronavirus spread globally. Travelers (NYSE: TRV ) entering the country and exhibiting fever or symptoms of respiratory illness but who do not meet coronavirus suspect case definitions will still be required to undergo a swab test.

L’Oreal Freezes Headcount After Halting Business Trips (5:20 p.m. HK)

L’Oreal plans to freeze headcount through June, the company told Bloomberg News in response to questions on Tuesday. The company had suspended business travel through March 31 last week as a precautionary measure.

Confirmed German Cases Rise to 188 (5:17 p.m. HK)

The number of confirmed cases in Germany has risen to 188 and the virus has spread to 13 of the country’s 16 federal states, the Robert Koch Institute said on Tuesday. “We are seeing that the focus is moving away somewhat from China and the rest of the world is more and more affected,” RKI Vice President Lars Schaade said. The threat level for Germany remains at “moderate,” but this could quickly change and more cases are to be expected, Schaade added.

Separately, Belgium’s federal public health service said they had found five new cases after conducting tests the previous night. All of the patients had been traveling in the north of Italy.

Gilead’s Remdesivir May Be Used in South Korea (5:03 p.m.)

Gilead’s experimental antiviral drug remdesivir is expected to be used to treat patients infected with the coronavirus in South Korea as part of a trial, Yonhap reported. The company was given permission from local drug authorities to begin phase 3 clinical trials of remdesivir in adult patiences infected with the coronavirus.

Separately, a medical report on the Japanese Association for Infectious Diseases website said Teijin Ltd.’s asthma drug Alvesco helped treat three patients who contracted the coronavirus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Teijin shares rose as much as 8.2%, their biggest intraday gain in four years.

Hon Hai Sees China Returning to Normal Soon (4:37 p.m. HK)

Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., Apple Inc (NASDAQ: AAPL ).’s most important manufacturing partner, expects its Chinese plants to begin operating normally by the end of March after resolving severe labor shortages. The Taiwanese company, which assembles the majority of the world’s iPhones from China, joins a growing number of corporations envisaging a return to normalcy in the world’s No. 2 economy.

Japan Says End of May Key Stage for Olympics Decision (4:30 p.m. HK)

Japan’s Olympics minister said the end of May would be an important point in making a decision on whether to hold the Tokyo Games starting on July 24 amid worries the coronavirus could cause the first cancellation since World War Two.

Seiko Hashimoto said she was aware of the comments by International Olympic Committee senior member Dick Pound, who has said late May would be the latest a decision could be made.

China Pledges More Cuts in Taxes, Fees (4:28 p.m. HK)

China will further reduce taxes and fees to deal with the coronavirus situation and support the economy, Wang Jianfan, head of tax administration department at finance ministry, said.

Pope Tests Negative (4:28 p.m. HK)

Pope Francis has tested negative for the coronavirus after suffering a slight cold which led him to cancel several public gatherings, newspaper Il Messaggero reported on Tuesday.

South Korea Total Exceeds 5,000 (4:15 p.m. HK)

South Korea’s health ministry reported 374 more cases of the novel coronavirus, taking the country’s tally to 5,186. Yonhap News Agency said 31 people have died. The country is “at war” with the novel coronavirus, President Moon Jae-in said earlier, according to a pool report from a cabinet meeting.

Separately, Philippines is lifting a travel ban to South Korea imposed barely a week ago, and citizens are now allowed to go to the country except for the North Gyeongsang province. The ban on foreigners coming from the same South Korean province remains in effect.

Trump Says Fed Should ‘Cut Rate Big’ (2:39 p.m. HK)

President Donald Trump, noting Australia’s central bank rate cut, said the Federal Reserve’s inaction thus far in the face of the coronavirus puts the U.S. at a “competitive disadvantage” and it “must be the other way around.”

Reserve Bank of Australia Governor Philip Lowe earlier reduced the cash rate by a quarter percentage point to 0.5%, a new record low, and said the central bank is prepared to ease monetary policy further to support the economy.

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