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China Keeps Experts Waiting; Conference Canceled: Virus Update

Bloomberg News

(Bloomberg) -- Warm weather may not slow down the spread of the coronavirus, said a top U.S. health official, counter to a theory put forward by President Donald Trump. U.S. disease experts are still waiting to hear whether they’ll be allowed by China to go to the outbreak’s front lines.

Mobile World Congress, the premier mobile-industry conference, was canceled by its organizers over concerns about the spread of the deadly pathogen. In China, President Xi Jinping said the country would meet its economic goals while battling the coronavirus that has now claimed 1,115 lives. U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said it would take time to measure the impact of the outbreak.

Bloomberg is tracking the outbreak on the terminal and online.

Key Developments

China death toll at 1,113; confirmed China cases at 44,653See a breakdown of virus cases hereVirus-hit firm tells staff: Welcome back, wash your handsJapan reports 39 more cases aboard cruise ship

Europe to Step Up Crisis Preparations (3:47 p.m. NY)

The European Union is preparing for potential medical shortages and the risk of travel restrictions that could disrupt the bloc’s border-free zone.

During an emergency meeting scheduled in Brussels on Thursday, EU health ministers plan to ask the bloc’s executive arm to assess the consequences of global health threats like the coronavirus on the availability of medicine and the security of supply chains, according to a draft of a joint communique seen by Bloomberg. The draft is still subject to changes.

The document acknowledges that “measures regarding travel” could be necessary if the situation deteriorates, while ministers will vow to protect the “free movement” of people -- a key pillar of EU integration -- in such case.

Similar temporary measures have been applied in the past to limit the flow of asylum seekers from poorer to richer EU members.

Mnuchin: More Data Needed to Assess Impact (3:17 p.m. NY)

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday that two to four more weeks of economic data are needed to forecast the impact of coronavirus.

Mnuchin also told a Senate Finance Committee hearing that implementation of the first phase of a U.S. trade deal with China is being slowed by the virus. On Tuesday, White House National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said agricultural purchases under the deal may not be as large as the Trump administration had hoped due to coronavirus.

China Keeps U.S. Experts Waiting (2:39 p.m. NY)

Top U.S. health experts seeking to join an international group heading to the center of the coronavirus outbreak in China said they still have no answer on whether they’ll be allowed into the country.

U.S. officials have said they’ve offered for weeks to send front-line disease experts to China to study the outbreak, which originated in the city of Wuhan, and consult with colleagues there on how to stop it.

“We haven’t been invited yet,” Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters Wednesday.

Read the full story here.

Mobile World Congress Is Canceled (1:45 p.m. NY)

Mobile World Congress, the premier mobile-industry conference scheduled this month in Spain, was canceled over concerns about the spread of the coronavirus.

“With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, the GSMA has canceled MWC Barcelona 2020 because the global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible for the GSMA to hold the event” John Hoffman, the chief executive officer of conference organizer GSMA Ltd., said in a statement to Bloomberg News.

Intel Corp., MediaTek Inc., AT&T Inc., Cisco Systems Inc. and Sprint Corp. joined Ericsson AB, Sony Corp. and others earlier this week in canceling plans to attend MWC Barcelona later this month.

CDC Says Warm Weather May Not Slow Outbreak (1:06 p.m. NY)

It’s too early to know if warm spring weather that typically heralds the end of cold and flu season will also slow the coronavirus, said a top official from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said Wednesday that she hopes “it will go down as the weather warms up, but it’s premature to assume that.”

Messonnier’s remarks Wednesday run counter to a theory put forward by President Donald Trump that heat would stop the new coronavirus.

“The heat, generally speaking, kills this kind of virus,” Trump said Monday at the White House. “A lot of people think that goes away in April as the heat comes in.” At a campaign rally this week, he went further, according to a CNN report on his remarks, saying, “in theory when it gets a little warmer it miraculously goes away.”

During a call with reporters Wednesday Messonnier said, “I would caution against over-interpreting that hypothesis.”

The theory that the coronavirus will slow down when warm weather sets in is mostly based on the fact that other respiratory viruses such as influenza exhibit seasonal patterns, not specific data about this new virus, she said.

More from the CDC press briefing:

CDC officials haven’t yet been allowed into China or been given direct access to raw data on the epidemic.Some states conducting tests using CDC coronavirus test kits are getting inconclusive results. The CDC said it was working to resolve the problem.CDC is optimistic that lower case counts coming from China in the last few days mean that the country’s quarantine is working, but that it’s “too soon to say that for sure,” Messonnier said.

Fed Chair Says Too Early to Know Virus Impact (11:15 a.m. NY)

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said it will take time to see the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the U.S. economy.

“It’s too uncertain to even speculate” Powell told the Senate Banking Committee on Wednesday. “We’ll be looking at the economic data.”

Carnival Sees Material Impact on Results (9:28 a.m. NY)

Carnival Corp. said it foresees a slowdown in global bookings and an increase in canceled voyages that will will have a material impact on financial results that wasn’t anticipated because of the coronavirus oubreak.

“As a result of coronavirus, the company believes the impact on its global bookings and canceled voyages will have a material impact on its financial results which was not anticipated in the company’s previous 2020 earnings guidance,” the Miami-based cruise ship operator said in a statement Wednesday.

The company said it was unable to determine the full financial impact on the current fiscal year.

Read the full story here

Mobile Conference Organizer Seeks Advice (8:10 a.m. NY)

The organizer of MWC Barcelona, the wireless industry’s top annual event, said it has implemented additional health measures and will continue to seek medical advice as it monitors the situation. “This includes regularly meeting with global and Spanish health experts as well as our partners to ensure the wellbeing of attendees,” the GSMA said in a statement.

The event is threatened by the withdrawal of some of the biggest telecom companies. The organizer could announce its cancellation as early as Wednesday, people familiar with the matter said earlier. MWC is due to run from Feb. 24 to Feb. 27, drawing around 100,000 people.

Germany Faces Recession Risk, Deutsche Bank Says (7:45 a.m. NY)

Germany could be on the verge of recession as the coronavirus outbreak exacerbates the nation’s industrial slump, according to Deutsche Bank.

The lender now expects a slight contraction in the fourth quarter, and it cast doubt on the prospect of any rebound at the start of 2020. German GDP figures are due to be published on Friday.

Chinese Grand Prix Postponed (7:17 a.m. NY)

The 2020 Chinese Grand Prix, scheduled for April 17-19, has been postponed as a result of the novel coronavirus outbreak, organizers confirmed.

Formula 1 and the FIA will study potential alternative dates later in the year.

OPEC Slashes Oil Demand Forecast (7:05 a.m. NY)

OPEC cut forecasts for global oil demand as the coronavirus hits fuel use in China, leaving the group facing a renewed glut despite its recent production cuts.

The cartel reduced projections for demand growth in the first quarter by 440,000 barrels a day, or about a third, in its monthly report.

Cruise Ship Heads to Cambodia (6:50 a.m. NY)

The Westerdam luxury cruise liner is now sailing to Sihanoukville, Cambodia. It is due to arrive Feb. 13 and will remain in port for several days. Guests will be able to go ashore.

Earlier, Thailand said it would consider helping any sick person aboard but stood by its decision to bar entry, as the ordeal continued for the 2,257 passengers and crew looking to disembark.

The Westerdam, which is facing the risk of running low on food, has also been refused entry by Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines and Guam. Carnival Corp.’s Holland America Line, the operator of the ship, has said there’s no reason to believe there are any coronavirus cases on board.

Hong Kong Sevens to Be Postponed, TVB Says (6:21 a.m. NY)

The Hong Kong Sevens, an annual international rugby tournament that has been running since 1976, is set to be postponed, local broadcaster TVB reported. It was set to start in April.

A formal announcement will be made this week.

JLR to Extend Shutdown of China Manufacturing: ET (6:20a.m. NY)

Tata Motors Ltd.‘s Jaguar Land Rover unit has told its vendor network that the shutdown of its manufacturing operations in China would be extended till Feb. 17, the Economic Times reported.

UOB Allocates S$3 Billion in Liquidity Relief (6:58 p.m. HK)

United Overseas Bank has allocated S$3 billion ($2.2 billion) of “relief assistance” to Singapore companies aimed at addressing near-term liquidity as the coronavirus impacts economic activity.

The bank is offering financing liquidity against mortgages, and will extend working capital financing of as much as S$5 million for as long as one year.

ECB’s Lane Sees ‘Pretty Serious’ Short-Term Hit (6:42 p.m. HK)

European Central Bank Chief Economist Philip Lane warned that the outbreak could have a “pretty serious short-term hit” to the economy as spending plans are postponed or canceled. He also foresees a bounceback though, with the full-year impact “relatively minor.”

It’s a tricky time for the euro zone. Figures on Wednesday showed industrial output slumped the most in almost four years in December, and a January recovery now looks in doubt.

Hong Kong Landlords Start to Slash Retail Rents (5:53 p.m. HK)

Sun Hung Kai Properties Ltd., the city’s largest developer by market value, will reduce rents for February by 30% to as much as 50% for some of its mall tenants to help them ride out the impact from the virus. Wharf Real Estate Investment Co. announced a similar move for its Harbour City shopping center, Apple Daily reported.

Hong Kong’s usually booming property market has virtually ground to a halt. Just 13 homes were sold in the first three weekends after Chinese New Year at the city’s 10 largest housing estates, according to Centaline Property Agency Ltd. data.

China’s Battery Storage Capacity Could Drop (5:13 p.m.)

China’s battery storage production capacity may fall by as much as 10% to 237 gigawatt-hour this year compared with a pre-coronavirus forecast, Wood Mackenzie said in a note. Tight battery cell supply could slow down the cost decline of EV manufacturing and energy storage systems.

China Should Target Bigger Fiscal Deficit: Ex-Official (4:48 p.m. HK)

The country’s fiscal deficit should exceed usual 3% of GDP this year to help curb impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the economy, according to an article by Huang Qifan, a former legislator and official.

BMW to Reopen Chinese Factories Next Week (4:33 p.m. HK)

BMW plans to reopen its Chinese factories on Feb. 17. The carmaker said it was too early to know full effect of the virus.

Taiwan Cuts 2020 GDP Forecast (4:28 p.m. HK)

Taiwan lowered its estimate for full-year growth and officials said the coronavirus outbreak was set to diminish global trade this year. Gross domestic product will likely expand 2.37% this year, the statistics bureau said, compared to a previous government forecast of 2.72%.

Separately, Sweden’s Riksbank said the coronavirus would likely reduce global growth in the short term, but it was difficult to fully assess the economic consequences.

DBS Evacuates 300 Employees in Singapore (2:25 p.m. HK)

DBS Group Holdings Ltd. evacuated 300 employees from an office floor in the heart of Singapore’s financial district after one of its workers tested positive for the coronavirus.

Southeast Asia’s biggest bank has told the staff members on Level 43 at Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 3 to work from home for the time being, the company said in a statement. The number of evacuees was given in a memo seen by Bloomberg earlier and confirmed by the bank.

The coronavirus had already been detected in Singapore’s financial district earlier this week, prompting some companies to send workers home and temperature screening checkpoints to be set up at the entrances of several towers. A worker at an unnamed firm in Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 1 was confirmed as being infected with the virus over the weekend.

Singapore last week raised its disease response level to the same grade used during the SARS epidemic, as it braced for what Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said was a “major test for our nation.” Singapore has at least 47 confirmed cases of coronavirus.

Early Virus Data Existed Weeks Before Public Release (11:32 a.m. HK)

Preliminary genetic sequence data indicating the presence of a SARS-like virus in central China were known about two weeks before key information was publicly released, scientists said.

In a commentary piece published Tuesday in the Lancet medical journal, scientists, including members of the World Health Organization’s emergency committee, said insufficient attention was paid to information doctors had gathered about the genetic sequence of the novel coronavirus.

Chinese Company Says It Can Make Gilead’s Virus Drug (11:18 a.m. HK)

A Chinese drugmaker said it has started mass-producing an experimental drug from Gilead Sciences Inc. that has the potential to fight the novel coronavirus, as China accelerates its effort to find a treatment for the widening outbreak.

Suzhou-based BrightGene Bio-Medical Technology Co. said it has developed the technology to synthesize the active pharmaceutical ingredients of remdesivir, Gilead’s drug that is a leading candidate to treat the highly-infectious virus that’s killed more than 1,000 people. The drug isn’t licensed or approved anywhere in the world yet.

While BrightGene said that it intends to license the drug from Gilead, its move to start manufacturing at this early stage is highly unusual and a potential infringement of the American company’s intellectual property. It comes a week after Chinese researchers filed an application to patent the drug to treat the new coronavirus.

Singapore Not Ruling Out More Stringent Measures (10:50 a.m. HK)

Singapore is not ruling out more stringent measures to tackle the coronavirus outbreak if the situation worsens, according to Minister for National Development Lawrence Wong.

Singapore is preparing a strong package in the upcoming budget to help companies and individuals manage the economic impacts of the virus, Wong said in a Bloomberg TV interview. Singapore can implement additional measures to contain the spread of the virus without raising the national response level to red, he said.

China Death Toll Rises to 1,113 (10:08 a.m. HK)

China said the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak rose to 1,113 as of Feb. 11, with 97 additional fatalities reported. Some 1,068 of those deaths have occurred in Hubei, the province at the center of the coronavirus outbreak.

Confirmed cases of the disease in mainland China rose to 44,653, according to a statement from the National Health Commission.

Hubei reported 1,638 additional cases, the lowest daily level this month. That’s an encouraging sign for health experts looking for when the outbreak peaks. Also, the number of suspected cases as of Feb. 11 was 16,067, down from 21,675 the previous day.

Two deaths have been reported outside mainland China, one in Hong Kong and the other in the Philippines.

China Supports Merger of Airlines Amid Outbreak (10:01 a.m. HK)

China’s Civil Aviation Administration said it will support the restructuring of airlines to ease the impact from the coronavirus outbreak. The administration will also work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in urging some countries to continue international flights with China.

The coronavirus outbreak has disrupted flights to and from China, one of the world’s busiest travel markets, as airlines around the globe halt service.

Xi Vows China Will Meet Economic Goals, Defeat Virus (9:10 a.m. HK)

President Xi Jinping vowed that China would meet its economic and social development goals while winning the battle against the deadly coronavirus.

“We have the ability and confidence not only to defeat the epidemic, but also to accomplish the set goals and tasks for economic and social development,” he told Indonesian leader Joko Widodo in a phone call Tuesday, according to the official Xinhua news agency. “I believe China will be more prosperous after overcoming this epidemic.”

China Ag Purchases May Be Less Than Hoped: Official (8:42 a.m. HK)

China’s agricultural purchases from the U.S. under the first phase of a trade deal may not be as large as the Trump administration had hoped due to the coronavirus, said White House National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien.

“It could have an impact on how big, at least in this current year, the purchases are,” O’Brien said at an Atlantic Council event Tuesday in Washington. He also said American doctors are still not being let into China to deal with the outbreak.

Japan Reports 39 More Cases Aboard Cruise Ship (7:54 a.m. HK)

Japan’s Health Ministry confirmed an additional 39 cases of the novel coronavirus on a cruise ship in Yokohama, bringing the total number of infections from the quarantined vessel to 174.

Defense Minister Taro Kono tweeted that a quarantine officer from the health ministry also tested positive for the virus. Carnival Corp.’s Diamond Princess cruise ship has become the biggest center of infection of any place outside of China.

U.S. Raises Travel Advisory for Hong Kong (3:20 p.m. NY)

The U.S. State Department raised its travel advisory for Hong Kong to level 2, which means travelers should exercise increased caution.

“The Hong Kong government has reported cases of the novel coronavirus in its special administrative region, has upgraded its response level to emergency, its highest response level, and is taking other steps to manage the novel coronavirus outbreak,” the department said.

Last month, the U.S. raised the advisory for mainland China to level 4, the highest designation, which means do not travel.

--With assistance from K. Oanh Ha, Li Liu, Josh Wingrove, Emi Nobuhiro, Michael Heath, Karen Leigh, Dong Lyu, James Mayger, Sam Kim, Jon Herskovitz, Chanyaporn Chanjaroen, Paul Gordon, Morwenna Coniam, Kati Pohjanpalo, John Martens, Timothy Annett, Nate Lanxon, Saleha Mohsin and Nikos Chrysoloras.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Michelle Fay Cortez in Minneapolis at mcortez@bloomberg.net;Isabel Reynolds in Tokyo at ireynolds1@bloomberg.net;Jason Gale in Melbourne at j.gale@bloomberg.net;Robert Langreth in New York at rlangreth@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Drew Armstrong at darmstrong17@bloomberg.net, ;Rachel Chang at wchang98@bloomberg.net, ;Adveith Nair at anair29@bloomberg.net, Mark Schoifet

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