By Jesse Cohen
Investing.com - The Chinese province at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak reported a sharp spike in confirmed cases and deaths on Thursday, suggesting a much bigger crisis facing China and the world.
Global stock markets plunged as investors rushed to the safety of the Japanese yen, gold and bonds after China's Hubei province reported 14,840 new cases as of Wednesday, up nearly ninefold from 1,638 new cases on Tuesday.
The rise in the number of Hubei cases came as officials adopted a new methodology for counting infections.
Hubei also reported 242 new deaths, double the previous day's toll and the fastest rise in the daily count since the pathogen was first identified in December.
More than 1,300 people have died from the epidemic in China, with around 60,000 infected, according to the Chinese government.
Central banks to the rescue?
As coronavirus spreads, market participants are trying to assess whether central banks in China and the U.S. will make a concerted effort to stem the damage in their respective economies by leveraging monetary policy tools.
The People’s Bank of China has implemented a raft of stimulus measures to support the economy in recent weeks, including flushing the market with liquidity and cutting some key short-term market interest rates.
The outbreak could even force the Federal Reserve to step in and cut interest rates to ease the pain in U.S. markets.
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell noted in congressional testimony this week that the fallout from the spreading outbreak of the coronavirus in China poses a risk to the U.S. economy.
He added that the central bank would fight the next economic downturn by buying large amounts of government debt to drive down long-term interest rates, a strategy that has been dubbed quantitative easing, or QE.
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-- Reuters contributed to this report