United Kingdom

Australian share market drops due to coronavirus and tourist fears

Australian shares plummeted on Tuesday morning due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The ASX fell by 1.7 per cent, wiping $36billion off the market amid fears the outbreak will reduce the number of tourists visiting from China. 

The companies that suffered most were those that depend on tourism, travel and the Chinese economy.

Qantas shares fell 2.5 per cent as UBS analysts calculated that if traffic declines by half as much as during the SARS outbreak of 2003, the airline's profits will be take a $200million hit this year. 

Members of the medical team of the Second Military Medical University pose for a group photo before entering the wards at Hankou Hospital in Wuhan

Each year more than one million Chinese tourists (pictured) visit Australia, spending $9.2billion - and 20,000 Chinese students study at Australian universities

Mining companies BHP and Rio Tinto, which rise and fall with the Chinese economy, both plunged by around 4 per cent. 

Shares in the big four banks also fell by between 1.1 per cent and 1.6 per cent, while Telstra dropped 1.3 per cent.  

Shares in Ansell, which makes gloves and other medical supplies, soared up 1.6 per cent in early trading. 

The Australian dollar tumbled to US$0.675, it's lowest level since November. 

Australia was not the only market hit as Japan's Nikkei was 0.9 per cent down and South Korea's Kospi index skidded three per cent.

With Chinese markets shut, investors were selling the offshore yuan. Oil was also under pressure as fears about the wider fallout from the virus mounted.

As the death toll reached 106 in China, some health experts questioned whether Beijing can contain the virus which has spread to more than 10 countries, including France, Japan and the United States. 

No deaths have been reported outside of China so far.

China has already extended the Lunar New Year holiday to February 2 nationally, and to February 9 for Shanghai. 

On Tuesday, the country's largest steelmaking city in northern Hebei province, Tangshan, suspended all public transit in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus. 

Investors were still trying to figure out the potential impact from the coronavirus, given it would be at least a couple more months before official economic data are released.

'How do we fully price risk, if we have such limited visibility on how bad this could get, not just in terms of contagion, but the impact this will have on economics?' said Chris Weston, strategist at broker Pepperstone.

'The wildcard is not the fatality rate, but how infectious the Wuhan virus is,' Citi economists wrote in a note.

'The economic impact will depend on how successfully this outbreak is contained.'

Analysts said travel and tourism would be the hardest-hit sectors together with retail and liquor sales though healthcare and online shopping were seen as likely outperformers.

On Monday, key indexes for British, French and German equity markets slid more than 2 per cent, as did European markets on worries about the potential economic impact from the deadly virus. Stocks on Wall Street fell more than 1 per cent.

It comes amid fears the coronavirus sweeping the world could wipe $2.3billion off Australia's economy.

Each year more than one million Chinese tourists visit Australia, spending $9.2billion - and 20,000 Chinese students study at Australian universities. 

But 17 Chinese cities have been put on lockdown after the virus spread from Wuhan, meaning that millions of Chinese people are unable to leave the country. 

The new coronavirus sweeping the world could hit Australia's economy by $2.3billion.. Pictured: A man takes a photograph of a woman front of the Sydney Opera House

The model found that GDP would fall by $2.3billion and 20,000 full-time equivalent jobs would disappear. 

PwC Australia chief economist Jeremy Thorpe said the virus could weaken Australia's economy which is already struggling after the horror bushfire season.

'We've had a soft economy, the drought, the bushfires and now this virus. It's bad news on top of bad news,' he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

During the SARS virus outbreak in late 2002 and early 2003, Chinese tourist arrivals in Australia dipped by nine per cent. 

'The small business sector, which makes up a large part of the tourism sector, and the universities are the most exposed from this going on,' said Mr Thorpe. 

Australian health authorities are warning the country's fifth case of the deadly coronavirus won't be the last.