U.S. Fatalities Rise to 11; Price Gouging Targeted: Virus Update

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(Bloomberg) — Three family members of a Westchester County attorney who tested positive for the coronavirus have all become infected, along with a neighbor who drove the man to the hospital, Governor Andrew Cuomo said. The U.S. reported two more deaths, including the first in California.

United Airlines Holdings Inc. cut domestic and international flights for April, and froze hiring. Italy announced a nationwide closing of its schools until March 15 as it redoubles efforts to curb the worst outbreak in Europe.

Total coronavirus cases globally topped 93,000, and infections rose in Europe, where an official in Brussels tested positive. In the U.S., fatalities rose to 11 from nine on Tuesday. Cases also surged in South Korea, Iran, Malaysia and India.

The U.K. said cases jumped by 34 to a total of 85, and Parliament is discussing contingency plans. The coronavirus threatens to plunge France and Italy into recession, European finance ministers were warned by officials.

U.S. stocks advanced after Congress agreed to an emergency spending bill to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Bonds continued to rally after the Federal Reserve’s rate cut.

Key Developments:

  • Global cases reach 93,017; death toll rises past 3,200
  • GE bucks virus drag of up to $500 million to stand by forecast
  • Virus threatens to unleash lawsuits against global business
  • NYC case forces health officials to confront tough choices
  • A coronavirus expert is racing for answers in a locked-down lab

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.

Washington State Targets Price Gouging (3:21 p.m. NY)

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson is investigating price gouging in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in the Seattle region, where 10 people have died from the illness. Many stores are out of hand sanitizer and face masks, and panicked shoppers are stocking up on essentials.“My office is investigating price gouging in the wake of the Covid-19 public health emergency,” Ferguson said in a statement, referring to the name of the disease caused by the virus. “We do not identify the targets of our investigations, but we are taking formal investigative actions. If you see price gouging, file a complaint with my office.”Washington, unlike most U.S. states, doesn’t have a specific price-gouging law.

United to Reduce Flights, Freeze Hiring (3:10 p.m. NY)

United Airlines Holdings Inc. plans to cut back on flights, freeze hiring and halt merit pay raises as it grapples with a rapid decline in travel demand because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The domestic schedule will be pared 10% in April and international flying will be chopped 20%, United said in a message to employees. Similar reductions will probably be necessary for May, Chief Executive Oscar Munoz and President Scott Kirby said Wednesday in the memo.

United has also imposed a hiring freeze through June 30 and deferred merit-based salary increases for managements until July 1, in an effort to prepare the company financially for a steep downturn in business. The Chicago-based carrier will also offer employees voluntary unpaid leaves of absence.

“We certainly hope that these latest measures are enough, but the dynamic nature of this outbreak requires us to be nimble and flexible moving forward,” Munoz and Kirby said.

United fell less than 1% to $58.10 at 3:01 p.m. in New York.

California Reports First Death (2:50 p.m. NY)

California’s Placer County reported that a resident died of the coronavirus, marking the first such death in the state. The person was an elderly adult with underlying health conditions, who tested positive Tuesday.

The patient was likely exposed during a trip on a Princess cruise ship that traveled Feb. 11-21 from San Francisco to Mexico, the Northern California county said. The person had “minimal community exposure” after returning from the cruise and entering a hospital Feb. 27.

Earlier this week, Sonoma County also reported a case from a patient who had returned from a San Francisco-to-Mexico cruise. Placer County said it is working with local officials to identify and contact other cruise passengers.

Italy Closes Schools Until March 15 (12:55 p.m. NY)

Italy said it would close its schools until March 15 as it redoubles efforts to curb the worst outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic in Europe.

The decision came after Italian emergency chief Angelo Borrelli reported an additional 28 deaths, bringing the total to 107. The number of coronavirus cases increased to 3,086 from 2,502 on Tuesday in an outbreak that has crippled activity in the rich northern regions.

“It is a prudent decision to contain the virus because we have a health-care system at risk of being overloaded,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in a statement. “We have a problem with intensive and sub-intensive care.”

Read the full story here

L.A. County Reports Six Additional Cases (12:55 p.m. NY)

Los Angeles County, home to more than 10 million people, recorded six new coronavirus cases in the past 48 hours and declared a state of emergency.

The county, which previously had just one confirmed case, is prepared to deal with the situation and is increasing testing capacity, Barbara Ferrer, the director of the county Department of Public Health, said Wednesday.

While there are no confirmed cases of community transmission, the public should be prepared for more infections to emerge, she added.

One of the new patients is hospitalized, while the others are at home, officials said. Three of the new infections involved people who had recently traveled to Italy, the center of the outbreak in Europe.

U.K. Lawmakers Discuss Contingency Plans (11:52 a.m. NY)

The U.K. Parliament is working on contingency plans to keep functioning if there are restrictions placed on public gatherings to delay the spread of coronavirus. The U.K. said Wednesday that cases jumped by 34 to a total of 85.

Ministers “will be saying a little bit more in the next couple of days,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the House of Commons after he was asked about using conference calls and electronic voting to pass legislation.

“Conversations have been had with Parliament, as you’d expect, and if and when there are further steps to set out, they will be made public,” Johnson’s spokesman, James Slack, said later. “You have to make a judgment on the most opportune and effective time to implement these measures, and that will be a calculation for the experts.”

N.Y. Students to Be Flown Home (10:41 a.m. NY)

About 300 City University of New York and State University of New York students and related faculty studying in China, Italy, Japan, Iran and South Korea will be flown back in a charter plane to New York Stewart International Airport in Orange County, Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a media briefing. They will then be quarantined and monitored for 14 days in dormitories, he said.

Cuomo and state health officials plan to meet with Westchester County government and health leaders Wednesday to track the spread of the virus after six people tested positive in the county. Cuomo said they’re looking into whether any of the patients took public transportation.

Four More Test Positive in New York, Cuomo Says (10:10 a.m. NY)

Relatives and a neighbor of a lawyer who contracted the coronavirus in Westchester County all have tested positive for the infection, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

The lawyer’s wife, 14-year-old daughter, 20-year-old son and a person who drove him to the hospital all came down with the sickness, the governor said during a briefing. Yeshiva University in Manhattan’s Washington Heights and Salanter Akiba Riverdale Academy in the Bronx, where the children attended, both have been closed.

The attorney is in intensive care, Cuomo said.

U.S. Business Leaders Caution Against Overreacting (9:42 a.m. NY)

U.S. Chamber of Commerce officials and travel industry leaders urged businesses and consumers not to overreact to the spread of coronavirus and to take precautions while going about business as usual.

“Fear and panic undermine our ability to contain the virus, to minimize disruptions to daily life and to keep our economy humming along,” the chamber’s chief executive officer, Tom Donohue, said at a press conference in Washington.

BOE’s Bailey Says Coronavirus Means Bank Must Be Nimble (9:40 a.m. NY)

The Bank of England needs to be nimble in its efforts to tackle the coronavirus threat, according to incoming Governor Andrew Bailey.

Speaking before U.K. lawmakers at his appointment hearing in Parliament on Wednesday, Bailey said collective action may be needed to offset the impact on supply chains. There is mounting speculation that the BOE will follow the Federal Reserve with an emergency interest-rate cut.

Hong Kong Pet Dog Tests Positive, Report Says (9:39 a.m. NY)

Hong Kong authorities confirmed that a pet dog belonging to a coronavirus patient had tested positive for the virus, likely marking the first case of human-to-animal transmission, the South China Morning Post reported. The dog will now remain in quarantine.

France Reports 45 New Cases; Total Is 257: (9:34 a.m.)

France has 45 new cases, public health authority Sante Publique France said on its website. The number of fatalities is unchanged at four.

U.K. Coronavirus Cases Jump by 34 to 85 (9:22 a.m. NY)

The U.K.’s Department of Health and Social Care said in a tweet that the number of confirmed positive coronavirus cases stands at 85 people as of 9 a.m. local time on March 4.

EU Fears Cascading Effects on Economy From Virus (9:12 a.m. NY)

The coronavirus is threatening to plunge both France and Italy into recession, and a prolonged epidemic could ripple through the region’s economy and financial markets and cause a “vicious sovereign-bank loop,” European finance ministers were warned by officials on Wednesday.

“A longer and more widespread epidemic could have a disproportionate negative impact through uncertainty and financial-market channels,” according to a European Commission briefing note on the economic impact, seen by Bloomberg. “Cascading effects could stem from liquidity shortages in firms that have to stop production, amplified and spread out by financial markets.”’

Italy to Close Schools, Universities Nationwide, Report Says (8:27 a.m. NY)

Italy will close schools and universities nationwide until mid-March to curb the spread of the virus, Ansa newswire said. In response to the report, Italy’s education ministry said no decision has been made.

Home to Europe’s biggest cluster of the disease, the country has reported more than 2,500 infections and 79 deaths. Authorities have already quarantined entire towns.

Givaudan Closes Research Site (8:00 a.m. NY)

Givaudan SA, a Swiss maker of fragrances and flavors, closed its innovation center near Zurich after an employee visiting from abroad tested positive to the coronavirus. The company advised its 400 employees at the site to work from home until further notice, Swiss newswire AWP reported, citing a spokesman.

Saudi Arabia to Suspend Umrah Pilgrimage (7:27 a.m. NY)

Saudi Arabia is suspending the umrah pilgrimage to Mecca for its citizens and residents in response to the coronavirus, state-run news agency SPA said on Wednesday. The kingdom has one reported case.

Egypt Bars Qataris From Entry (7:25 a.m. NY)

Egypt barred Qatari citizens from entry, in a move the cabinet said was in response to the Gulf state’s decision to restrict arrivals from the North African country. The move, the cabinet said in a statement, was a precautionary one aimed at containing the spread of coronavirus. The ban takes effect from March 6 and also applies to Qataris holding valid residency in Egypt.

Canada Creates Virus Committee (7 a.m. NY)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the creation of a new Cabinet committee on COVID-19 chaired by his deputy Chrystia Freeland to complement the Incident Response Group.

GE Flags Virus Impact (6:39 a.m. NY)

The company anticipates a negative impact to GE Industrial free cash flow of about $300 million to $500 million, as well as a negative impact to operating profit of about $200 million to $300 million from the virus.

Tokyo Olympics Won’t Be Canceled (6:38 a.m. NY)

Tokyo Olympics Committee member Yoshiro Mori said at an evening briefing in the city that the body has no intention of canceling the Games, amid concerns they could be postponed due to the virus outbreak.

Cases Surge in Iran (6:10 a.m. NY)

The country reported 586 new cases, taking the total in the country to 2,922. The death toll there stands at 92, after 15 more died. President Hassan Rouhani said the coronavirus has stretched to almost all provinces.

Iran has canceled this week’s Friday prayers at all provincial capitals, including Tehran and Qom, two epicenters of the coronavirus outbreak, the semi-official Fars news agency reported. Friday prayers also been canceled the week prior in 23 of the 31 provincial capitals over concerns about the virus outbreak.

Israel Quarantines Students, Soccer Fans (6:09 a.m. NY)

About 1,150 high school students in central Israel will enter a two-week quarantine after one of their classmates tested positive for the coronavirus, Ynet said, citing the health ministry. The boy also attended a soccer match at Tel Aviv’s Bloomfield Stadium before being diagnosed, Ynet said. The ministry told thousands of fans who were at the match to enter a 14-day home quarantine.

The student contracted the illness at his job, where his manager returned from a trip to Italy and worked for three days before testing positive, the local website reported.

China to Offer Financial Support to Some Airlines (6:02 a.m. NY)

China will give financial support to domestic and foreign airlines still operating or having resumed regular passenger flights between Chinese and overseas destinations during coronavirus outbreak, according to a statement from the Civil Aviation Administration of China.

UBS Curbs Travel (6 a.m. NY)

UBS Group AG is banning all employees from international travel that’s not critical to its business due to the global spread of the coronavirus. The Swiss lender said that all travel requests would need special approval and existing international travel plans would need re-approval.

The move by UBS follows similar bans on global travel by peers JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:) & Co. and Citigroup (NYSE:).

Cases Rise in Europe, German Industry Fair Postponed (6:21 p.m. HK)

In less than two weeks, the coronavirus has spread in Europe from a handful of cases in northern Italy to thousands across the continent. Confirmed cases in Germany rose to 240 on Wednesday from 196. The organizers of the country’s biggest industrial fair, the Hannover Messe, postponed it to July from April. The event is usually attended by Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel and attracts more than 200,000 visitors.

Italy’s government is ready to expand its stimulus measures, pushing its deficit-to-GDP ratio above 2.4%, according to an official. Sweden said cases doubled to 30 and warned the outbreak would shave 0.3 percentage off growth this year. Infections in neighboring Norway rose to 33 and those detected in Belgium jumped to 20 after 10 more people tested positive. An official of the European Defense Agency in Brussels tested positive.

Cyprus Energy Minister Georgios Lakkotrypis has gone into self quarantine after a trip to Italy.

Pandemic Could Cost Global Economy $2.7 Trillion (6:07 p.m. HK)

Under the worst case scenario where all the world’s major economies face a disruptive outbreak of the coronavirus this could cause GDP to drop by as much as in China in 1Q. That would mean global growth grinds to a halt in 2020 at a cost of $2.7 trillion in lost output.

Separately, S&P Global Ratings said it expects the outbreak to affect China’s growth for two to three quarters.

Traders Speculate BOE May Follow Fed With Emergency Cut (6:04 p.m. HK)

Traders are pricing in a 60% chance that the Bank of England will lower borrowing costs by 50 basis points this month, with some market watchers saying the move may include an emergency cut before its scheduled meeting.

That prospect sent the yield on 10-year U.K. government bonds on Wednesday to 0.335%, an all-time low. Before the Fed’s action on Tuesday, money markets were pricing in a 25-basis-point cut for the BOE in March.

Wall Street Traders Tethered to Desks (6 p.m. HK)

After spending years enhancing trading desks with cutting-edge analytics, fast access to outside venues and layers of surveillance, banks are finding it’s hard to relocate their human operators, even in the face of the deadly coronavirus. With the illness now reaching New York, firms are trying to figure out what to do with armies of employees who can’t simply log in from a laptop at home.

Diamond Sales Collapse (5:31 p.m. HK)

Diamond sales in China slumped since the outbreak as shoppers stay home. De Beers, the biggest diamond miner, said sales fell by more than a third in its second sale of the year, compared with the first one in January.

Coronavirus Disrupts U.K. Recovery (5:30 p.m. HK)

IHS Markit downgraded its assessment of the whole U.K. economy’s performance in February, a move partly driven by slower growth in services — the nation’s dominant sector. The firm said the virus was the “main headwind to growth” in the month.

Euro-area companies are also likely to see disruptions increase.

Unipec Says London Worker Suspected to Have Virus (5:23 p.m. HK)

The Chinese oil trading giant has asked staff to work from home until further notice.

Thailand Mulls Stimulus Measures (5:19 p.m. HK)

The government is considering stimulus measures worth more than 100b baht ($3.19b) amid the coronavirus outbreak, Finance Minister Uttama Savanayana said. The measure will be aimed at supporting the economy over 3-4 months during the outbreak.

Philippines is also readying fiscal and other forms of stimulus measures.

Virus Threatens $1.7 Trillion Tourism Industry (5:16 p.m. HK)

Many of the Chinese travelers who have driven the industry’s expansion were already staying home, but the global spread now means that Germans and Belgians are rethinking ski trips to Italy and Japanese are canceling visits to Bali. At stake is the $1.7 trillion in revenue that international tourism generated in 2018.

China to Share Antiviral Trials Results Soon (5:15 p.m. HK)

Two clinical trials of Gilead Sciences Inc (NASDAQ:).’s remdesivir are going “successfully,” Cao Bin, the doctor running the trials, told reporters in Beijing. Cao said the Lopinavir trial had finished and results will be shared soon.

Japan’s largest drugmaker Takeda earlier said it is developing an experimental therapy for the novel coronavirus with the goal of making it available in 9 to 18 months. Separately, CanSino Bio said its vaccine candidate is in the pre-clinical stage

ECB Restricts All Non-Essential Travel Until April 20 (5:05 p.m. HK)

The European Central Bank has restricted all non-essential travel by members of its Executive Board and staff and canceled conferences and visits amid the coronavirus outbreak in Europe.

Trump Balks at Stimulus (5 p.m. HK)

President Donald Trump has so far balked at pursuing a major fiscal plan to counter the market turmoil stemming from the virus’s spread. He said on Tuesday it’d be a good time for Congress to cut income taxes again but hasn’t made his own proposal, and he is not considering a payroll tax cut or a rollback of tariffs on Chinese imports, his Treasury secretary said.

Malaysia Confirms New Cases (4:51 p.m. HK)

Malaysia reported its biggest jump in infections with 14 new cases on Wednesday, taking its tally to 50. The new cases were confirmed to be within a single cluster. A 52-year-old Malaysian man traveled to Shanghai in the middle of January and developed symptoms only on Feb. 27, when he was tested and confirmed two days later. The illness spread to 16 people, mostly through meetings, including 5 that were second-generation infections. Malaysia is awaiting the results of 180 of their close contacts.

South Korea Cases Top 5,600 (4:19 p.m.)

South Korea’s Health Ministry confirmed 293 more coronavirus cases as of 4pm local time on March 4, according to a text message from the ministry. President Moon Jae-in canceled visits to the United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Egypt and the government is seeking a 11.7 trillion won ($9.8 billion) extra budget in response to the epidemic.

Airlines Cut Capacity (4:18 p.m. HK)

Wizz Air has made adjustments to its flight schedule between March 11 and April 2, primarily to Italian destinations, after the coronavirus is hurting demand. ANA and Japan Airlines said they will reduce domestic flights from March 6 to 12 , while VietJet said it will suspend all flights between Vietnam and South Korea from March 7.

Air New Zealand also cut domestic and international capacity, while Finnair plans to start talks about temporary layoffs in Finland.

China Car Sales Drop a Record 80% (4:18 p.m. HK)

China’s car sales had the biggest monthly plunge on record as the coronavirus kept shoppers away, intensifying the pressure on automakers already battling an unprecedented slump before the outbreak. Sales fell 80% in February, according to preliminary numbers. Average daily sales improved toward the end of the month compared with the first three weeks.

15 Italian Tourists in India Test Positive (3.55 p.m. HK)

India reported a jump in infections as 15 Italian tourists and their driver tested positive, while at least six other locals contracted the virus from a person returning from Italy, according to Health Minister Harsh Vardhan. The tourists are in quarantine in Delhi. There are now 28 confirmed cases in India, up from six reported Tuesday.

Reserve Bank of India Governor Shaktikanta Das said he is ready to act to shield the economy from the virus and reiterated that there is room to cut interest rates if necessary. “There is a strong reason for coordinated policy action,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg News in Mumbai.

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