Virus outbreak stalks markets as 2020 gains get wiped out

Global shares fell sharply once again Wednesday as fears over the speed of the new coronavirus around the world accentuated

With the spread around Europe gathering pace — Greece became the latest country to reveal its first case — investors are getting increasingly concerned about how long it will take for the world to bring the outbreak under some sort of control. United Airlines and Mastercard are just two of the many companies that have warned about the impact of the outbreak on their finances.

“What we appear to be seeing is the realisation that global economic growth could well come to a halt as the combined effects of a flu virus and belated attempts to stem the spread of it across the globe, raise the prospect of an economic sneeze, as consumers stop spending, and supply chains seize up, due to workers and consumers staying at home," said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.

Given the wide array of concerns, it's hardly surprising that traders have hit the sell button. Many stock indexes around the world have seen their gains this year wiped out.

In Europe on Wednesday, the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares was down 0.7% at 6,968, while Germany's DAX 1.1% to 12,656. The CAC 40 in France was 0.8% lower at 5,636.

Wall Street was poised for a lower opening, with Dow futures and the S&P 500 futures were both 0.2% lower.

The S&P 500 has lost 7.6% in the last four days since hitting a record high last Wednesday. That's the benchmark index's worst such stretch since the end of 2018, resulting in $2.14 trillion in losses, according to S&P Global. Tuesday also marked the first back-to-back 3% losses for the index since the summer of 2015.

The viral outbreak that originated in China has now infected more than 80,000 people globally. South Korean virus cases jumped again Wednesday and the U.S. military confirmed its first case among soldiers based in the Asian country.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 134 of the 169 new cases were in Daegu, where the government has been mobilizing public health tools to contain the spread of the outbreak.

South Korea's Kospi lost 1% Wednesday to 2,076.7. Elsewhere in Asia, Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 declined 0.8% to finish at 22,426.19, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 slid 2.3% to 6,708.10. 7. Hong Kong's Hang Seng declined 0.8% to 26,674.67. The Shanghai Composite fell 0.8% to 2,987.93.

ENERGY: Benchmark crude oil shed 81 cents to $49.09 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange while Brent crude oil, the international standard, shed $1.19 to $53.76 a barrel.

CURRENCIES: The euro was flat at $1.0868 while the dollar rose 0.3% to 110.48 yen.