Geneva car show axed as virus wipes $5 trillion off markets - GulfToday

Geneva car show axed as virus wipes $5 trillion off markets


Workers dismantle a booth in Geneva, Switzerland, on Friday. Reuters

The rapid spread of coronavirus raised fears of a pandemic on Friday, with countries on three continents reporting their first cases and Swiss authorities cancelling the giant Geneva car show.

World share markets crashed again, compounding their worst week since the 2008 global financial crisis and bringing the global wipeout to $5 trillion.

Hopes that the epidemic that started in China late last year would be over in months, and that economic activity would quickly return to normal, have been shattered as the number of international cases have spiralled.

“Investors are trying to price in the worst-case scenario and the biggest risk is what happens now in the United States and other major countries outside of Asia,” said SEI Investments Head of Asian Equities John Lau.

“These are highly uncertain times, no one really knows the answer and the markets are really panicking.” Switzerland joined countries banning big events in an attempt to curb the epidemic, forcing cancellation of next week’s Geneva international car show, one of the automotive industry’s most important gatherings.

The Geneva auto show was canceled after the Swiss government put an immediate ban  on Friday on all public and private events involving more than 1,000 people in order to halt the spread of the new coronavirus.

The Swiss move highlights the growing impact of the virus on daily lives and livelihoods. Organizers of the annual Geneva International Motor Show, which was due to run March 5-15 and draws tens of thousands of visitors every year, confirmed the event would be nixed.

“We are aware that this measure will have a significant impact on public life,” said Switzerland’s interior minister, Alain Berset.

Maurice Turrettini, chairman of the Geneva auto show’s organizing company, GIMS, said that over 160 brands had been due to exhibit at the show, but it was a case of “force majeure,” a disruption that is out of people’s control that can free businesses from liability in a contract.

Exhibitors will not be reimbursed, but ticket-holders will be. Turrentini said it’s up to the exhibitors to decide whether to pay their staff, including models who help present the vehicles to gawking visitors.

“We had also a lot of pressure (over) the last few days because there were some brands saying, ‘we are not coming, we are leaving,’ and so forth - it was quite difficult,” he said.

The event was expected to generate 200-250 million Swiss francs (dollars) worth of spending in the Geneva area.

Swiss authorities said that for events with fewer than 1,000 people, organizers “must carry out a risk assessment in conjunction with the competent cantonal (state) authorities to decide whether or not the event can be held.”

Berset said that large offices or public buildings wouldn’t be shut down by the measure.

Aside from the auto show, affected events include the Baselworld watch and jewelry fair, the traditional Carnival procession in Basel, a ski marathon and several soccer matches. The national Swiss hockey league said all games this weekend will be played behind closed doors, with no fans present.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the ban would also affect meetings at the United Nations headquarters in Geneva. The global body has a special extraterritorial status that may exempt it from national health measures.

Canada’s main stock index plunged into correction territory on Friday as an increase in global coronavirus cases unsettled investors worried about its economic impact.

Investors typically consider a technical correction in a security or index to be a drop of 10% or more from its recent peak.

 At 9:57 a.m. ET (1457 GMT), the Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index was down 732.69 points, or 4.38%, at 15,984.75. The index was about 11% down from a record high touched on Feb. 20.

 The index was set to lose more than 10% for the week, its worst week since the 2008 financial crisis.

 World stocks shed almost $6 trillion this week as fears of a coronavirus pandemic surged after five countries reported their first cases.

 Canada’s energy sector dropped 2.9% as oil prices plummeted amid fears of slowing economic growth.

 The financials sector slipped 2.8%. The industrials sector fell 2.3%.

On the TSX, seven issues were higher, while 223 issues declined for a 31.86-to-1 ratio to the downside, with 41.32 million shares traded.

First Majestic Silver Corp fell 14.4%, the most on the TSX, while the second biggest decliner was Seabridge gold , down 12.4%.

 The largest percentage gainers on the TSX were Snc Lavalin , which jumped 4.1% after posting better-than-expected fourth-quarter revenue, and Cascades Inc, which rose 2.7%.

The most heavily traded shares by volume were Suncor Energy and Bombardier B.

 The TSX posted no new 52-week highs and 29 new lows.

 Across all Canadian issues there were 17 new 52-week highs and 195 new lows, with total volume of 78.11 million shares.


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