Good morning. More coronavirus cases sent stocks lower, the European Union’s budget meeting is under way and the race to be the U.K. Labour Party’s next leader is gearing up to start. Here’s what’s moving markets.
Another upward revision to the number of coronavirus cases in Hubei, the Chinese province at the center of the outbreak, plus a jump in infections in South Korea, have renewed fears, sent stocks in Asia lower and pushed down European and U.S. equity futures. Oil also took a hit from the extra concerns, curtailing a strong recent run, but gold remains on a tear as investors flee to haven assets. The impact the virus is having was also laid bare once again by Chinese car sales, which plunged 92% in the first two weeks of February, and by airlines warning of the potential for the first drop in traffic since 2009.
European Union leaders kicked off their budget meeting Thursday, with the summit possibly carrying through the weekend amid acrimony. No ending date has been set and there are fierce battles over how the bloc will cover a gaping hole in the budget caused by the U.K.’s departure from the EU. There is a sharp split between the “frugal” northern states, who want to cut spending to cover the shortfall, and poorer nations, which want to see higher contributions. Watch for any hints of progress, or the opposite, as the talks continue.
The summit also takes place in the shadow of consistent pessimism about the European economic outlook. The European Central Bank’s minutes from its January meeting showed policymakers were already warning about signaling too much economic optimism, a prescient view given how the outbreak of the coronavirus has hampered activity since. Societe Generale SA cut its year-end forecast for the euro on concerns that the already-sputtering economy will suffer from the epidemic. The dollar, meanwhile, has been the unexpected currency winner this year.
Voting will start Monday to select the next leader of the U.K's Labour Party and whoever wins will be charged with reviving the standing of the country's main opposition party following the heavy defeat inflicted upon it in the December general election. The party's Brexit spokesman, Keir Starmer, remains the favorite to become Jeremy Corbyn’s successor when the winner is eventually announced on April 4. He has the support of Labour's members of parliament, though Rebecca Long-Bailey has the backing of the party’s grassroots movement, leaving her perceived as the “continuity Corbyn” candidate.
G-20 finance ministers gather for a meeting in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Friday, adding to the summits investors will have to keep an eye on. There will be a slew of economic data to digest, including purchasing managers’ indexes for the euro area and the U.K., plus European inflation. Earnings will be slightly calmer than in the past few days, with German insurer Allianz SE and U.K. education company Pearson Plc both on the schedule. And Iran goes to the polls today.
What We’ve Been Reading
This is what’s caught our eye over the past 24 hours.
Big economies are getting a jolt of government spending. Russian bonds are still in demand. Ethical engagement rings have arrived. The decline and fall of Victoria’s Secret’s chief. Digital currency turns into cold hard cash in a VR world. Baby Yoda toys have arrived. The family shaping Singapore’s skyline.
(Corrects to reflect voting for next Labour leader will start on Feb. 24)
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