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Coronavirus update: China toll skyrockets, but markets calm amid government cash infusion

Anjalee Khemlani
Senior Reporter

China’s coronavirus outbreak hit a deadly new milestone on Tuesday, with the number of confirmed cases topping 20,000 amid over 400 deaths.

Monday’s steep post-Lunar Year market drop was curbed on Tuesday, as the central bank injected an additional $71 billion into markets — on top of $171 billion that lubricated assets over the weekend.

Macau is shutting down all casinos to help control the spread of the virus, officials said Tuesday. Meanwhile, Hong Kong and the Philippines have each reported a death — currently the only two coronavirus fatalities outside of China.

As China scrambles to contain new infections, businesses are still pulling back from operating in its crisis-battered economy. On Tuesday, auto giant Hyundai announced it would suspend production lines at its South Korean factories, due largely to disruption in its China supply chain. Separately, major air carriers have suspended flights into the world’s second largest economy.

Amid tightening travel protocols being enforced worldwide, cruise lines are also ramping up efforts to curtail exposure to passengers — including requiring screenings, and banning anyone who has recently been to China. The crisis has even affected Uber (UBER), as the ride-sharing giant was forced to suspend hundreds of drivers after two came into contact with a suspected coronavirus case.

What’s happening in markets

This handout photo taken and released by Malaysia's Ministry of Health shows Malaysian nationals being directed onto a bus by health officials in protective suits as they arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, after being evacuated from China's Wuhan, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak. (Muzzafar Kasim/Malaysia's Ministry of Health via AP)

China’s liquidity injection helped calm nervous investors, with Asian and U.S. markets posting strong gains. U.S. stocks added to the previous day’s gains, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average (^DJI) soaring more than 500 points around midday trading on Tuesday.

Regeneron (REGN) saw its stock spike by over 4%, after it announced an expanded agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to work on coronavirus treatments. The company has already had an agreement to work on treatments for a number of other pathogens.

The company joins other pharmaceutical firms like Gilead (GILD), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Inovio (INO) and Moderna (MRNA), among others, that have entered the race to find a treatment or vaccine for the viral scourge that’s become a global health emergency. Some companies have been using existing treatments in the pipeline developed for HIV, Ebola or the flu.

Yet researchers believe the virus is similar to SARS, though less deadly, which could mean treatments for SARS could be effective in the fight against the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the travel and leisure industry is still suffering from China’s continued isolation as the outbreak rages.

Travel and leisure companies are taking a major hit amid the crisis, with another cruise ship— a Carnival vessel in Japan— quarantining 3,700 passengers over a new coronavirus case Monday.

Royal Caribbean (RCL) said on Tuesday it would cancel eight different cruises into China, as air carriers continue to manage the fallout from severing a major source of traffic. Last week, major airlines such as United Air (UAL), American Airlines (AAL) and Delta (DAL) came under selling pressure after announcing they would suspend their China flights.

The impact around the world

The latest tally in the coronavirus crisis.

In a news conference Tuesday, the World Health Organization provided updates on the outbreak, and said it does not yet consider the outbreak a pandemic.

However, China’s inability to get ahead of the crisis has sparked fears of a global pandemic — which were heightened late last week when the U.S. declared its own health emergency, while slapping stiff travel restrictions on visitors from mainland China.

William Shaffner, the medial director for the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, told Yahoo Finance the impact to the U.S. is likely to be low, largely because of the country’s broad-based public awareness and public health infrastructure.

“I am cautiously optimistic that we will not have large scale epidemics in this country the way we have had in China,” he told “On the Move” on Monday.

Biotech stocks have surged on speculation that some companies will be able to help treat or cure the disease. Yet some experts — including Shaffner — have said it is unlikely a vaccine will be ready in time to treat patients during the current outbreak.

“I am very confident we will not see a treatment or a vaccine in the short term. This will take months,” the doctor said.

Meanwhile, concerns about the shortage of face masks and medical supplies in China and the region are growing as the number of cases continues to grow. Hong Kong’s health professionals are protesting the government’s handling of the virus, and the pressure it has placed on the health system.

Anjalee Khemlani is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @AnjKhem

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