Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.
The coronavirus crisis continues to weigh on global markets. As the death toll steadily rises, new cases are reported around the world and factories across China remain closed — leaving economists struggling to assess the impact on the global economy.
Today we have new evidence that the outbreak is pushing up prices in China. Chinese inflation has jumped to an eight-year high, climbing to 5.4% per annum in January from 4.5% in December.
It appears that the coronavirus is one factor, as households scramble to stock up on essential items, and medical items like face masks and disinfectants.
China’s National Bureau of Statistics said the jump in inflation was partly due to to the Lunar New Year holiday and the coronavirus outbreak. It reported that Hubei province, which has been hit hardest by the coronavirus outbreak, saw a 5.5% jump in consumer inflation, slightly over the national average.
That implies that the measures imposed to curb the crisis could be hitting supplies, and thus creating inflationary pressures.
Prices across China jumped by 1.4% in January alone — a sharp rise, which may be partly due to the Lunar New Year (the scramble to get home and buy presents often pushes up costs).
Food prices have jumped by over 20% in the last year, partly due to pork prices which surged by 116% year-on-year in January. China has been forced to slaughter hundreds of millions of pigs following the swine fever outbreak last year, leading to a chronic shortage of pork.
Non-food prices rose 1.6% in January from a year earlier, picking up from a 1.3% increase in December.
Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior analyst at Swissquote Bank, says these three factors all pushed inflation to its highest since 2011:
A mix bag of higher pork prices, stronger Chinese New Year demand and the coronavirus outbreak pushed the Chinese inflation to the highest level in more than eight years.
The surge in inflation revived worries that the People’s Bank of China (PBoC) would have less freedom to ease its monetary policy to give support to the Chinese economy hit by the coronavirus outbreak, following more than a year-and-a-half long trade frictions with the US.
The latest word is that over 900 people have died from the virus which first appeared in Wuhan in December, with 40,171 infected cases.
And in the last few minutes, the UK government has declared on Monday that the new coronavirus was a serious and imminent threat to public health.
Chinese workers had been expected to return to work today after the extended New year break. But with schools and many factories closed, many people will remain at home.
Global stock markets are expected to dip today, after the The head of the World Health Organization warned that we could only be seeing the ‘tip of the iceberg’ of coronavirus cases.
Also coming up today
Sentix’s survey of investor morale, due this morning, could show that the coronavirus crisis has hurt morale.
New factory data from Italy is expected to drop in output, as Europe’s manufacturing woes continue.
David Madden of CMC Markets explains:
Last week there were dreadful industrial production reports from German and France as they showed a fall of 3.5% and 2.8% respectively. The industrial output isn’t the most influential update, but at the same time a very disappointing update will be remembered by traders.
- 9am GMT: Italian industrial production figures for December; output expected to fall by 0.5%
- 9.30am GMT: Sentix survey of eurozone investor confidence; expected to drop to 5.9 from 7.6