Chinese returning to work grapple with coronavirus By Reuters



By Sophie Yu, Yilei Sun and Brenda Goh

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Chinese government employee Jin Yang returned to work in Beijing this week to find his usual workplace rules upended as China battles a coronavirus epidemic.

His office has banned the practice of eating lunch in its canteen with colleagues, in favor of boxed meals, packaged in house and eaten at desks, he said.

“It’s anything but normal,” the 28-year-old told Reuters.

Meetings are held online, instead of in person. Employees must wear masks all day and report their temperatures twice a day.

Jin is one of millions of workers who began streaming back this week from Lunar New Year holidays extended by 10 days in China’s struggle to rein in the virus, which has killed 1,380 people and infected nearly 64,000.

But streets and subways are largely deserted in major cities such as Beijing, the capital, and the business hub of Shanghai, with many shops and restaurants empty or shut, while lots of office employees work from home.As many places still enforce containment measures, companies are adopting rules to prevent infection and banish employees’ fears of catching it, such as keeping them as widely separated as possible.

Not all companies have resumed work. Many that have are asking employees returning from trips overseas or other provinces to quarantine themselves at home for up to 14 days.

A manager at one foreign multinational said staff were concerned, particularly after China’s tough step in locking down Wuhan, the central city of 11 million people where the outbreak began.

“They want no contact,” said the manager, who sought anonymity as she was not authorized to speak to media.

“Some want people to sit with empty chairs between them at meetings, toilet visits to be assigned at staggered times, and no sharing of the water dispenser,” she added, listing the precautions staff want followed.

Chinese media have posted photographs of office canteens where plastic sheets and wooden boards divide up tables to form segregated dining cubicles.

An industrial zone in the central city of Changsha has started using unmanned robots to deliver meals, the state-run People’s Daily newspaper said.

Automaker GAC (SS:), which has joint ventures with Toyota (T:) and Honda (T:), said no more than half its employees are allowed to work each day at its headquarters in the southern city of Guangzhou, with lunchtimes divided into four slots of 15 minutes each.

It also rearranged its canteen, and shifted tables to an outdoor terrace, with each spaced 2 meters (7 ft) apart. It has also swapped its previous buffet service for a menu of pre-arranged options.

E-commerce firm Pinduoduo (O:) said its employees must complete a daily health-check form. It disinfects offices at least twice a day, and provides meals for everyone to minimize exposure.

On the Weibo messaging app, the term “hardcore armor for returning to work” has drawn 140 million views, with users sharing safety tips, using videos and pictures.

Some images showed people wearing motorcycle helmets at their desks with others in costumes similar to space suits traveling on public transport and some in homemade protective gear fashioned from plastic bottles.





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Asian markets slip ahead of Chinese trade data


Asian markets retreated in early trading Friday, as traders awaited data on China’s trade for January.

Import and export data are expected later Friday, and investors will be looking for signs of improvement since the signing of the “phase one” trade deal signed in January by the U.S. and China.

Meanwhile, traders kept an eye on the growing coronavirus outbreak, which has now infected more than 31,000 people and killed at least 636.

Japan’s Nikkei

NIK, -0.18%

  slipped 0.2%, and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index

HSI, -0.79%

  dipped 0.8%. The Shanghai Composite

SHCOMP, -0.45%

  fell 0.6%, about the same as the smaller-cap Shenzhen Composite

399106, -0.12%

 . South Korea’s Kospi

180721, -1.13%

  dropped 1%, while benchmark indexes in Taiwan

Y9999, -1.16%

 , Singapore

STI, -1.39%

 , Malaysia

FBMKLCI, -0.24%

  and Indonesia

JAKIDX, +0.15%

  were mixed. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200

XJO, -0.38%

  declined 0.6%.

Among individual stocks, SoftBank

9984, +6.69%

  surged in Tokyo trading. Subaru

7270, +1.63%

  and Olympus

7733, +10.60%

  also gained, while Honda

7267, -2.77%

  fell. In Hong Kong, Wharf Real Estate

1997, +0.85%

  gained, while Sunny Optical

2382, -3.89%

 , CNOOC

883, -2.54%

  and AIA Group

1299, -1.60%

  fell. Samsung

005930, -1.96%

  and SK Hynix

000660, -1.79%

  declined in South Korea. Hon Hai Precision

2317, -0.84%

  dipped in Taiwan, while Beach Energy

BPT, -4.03%

  and BHP

BHP, -1.95%

  slid in Australia.

“Asian markets are forging their own path this morning with equities heading lower across the region, in contrast with yet another healthy day on Wall Street,” wrote Jeffrey Halley, senior Asia-Pacific market strategist for Oanda, in a note. “Ahead of the critical U.S. non-farm payroll data, China trade numbers and with Wuhan corona virus infections and deaths still climbing, booking profits and risk reduction ahead of the weekend appear to be the order of the day.”

U.S. stocks rose Thursday, touching new records, after the market got another shot of confidence from promised tariff reductions from China.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average

DJIA, +0.30%

  closed up 88.92 points, or 0.3%, to settle at 29,379.77, after carving out a intraday record at 29,408.05. The S&P 500 index

SPX, +0.33%

  rose 11.09 points, or 0.3% to settle at 3,345.78. The Nasdaq Composite Index

COMP, +0.67%

  advanced 63.47 points, or 0.7% to settle at 9,572.15. All three indexes closed at new records.

Oil prices continued to gain, with the price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude for March delivery

CLH20, +0.22%

  rose 31 cents, or 0.6%, to $51.26. April Brent crude

BRNJ20, +0.38%

  , the global benchmark, gained 37 cents, or 0.7%, to $55.30.

The dollar

USDJPY, -0.09%

  dipped to 109.90 Japanese yen.



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Asian markets gain as Chinese stocks stabilize after Monday’s selloff


Asian markets gained in early trading Tuesday, as stocks in mainland China turned positive after plunging Monday.

Chinese indexes sank more than 7% on Monday, as traders played catch-up to fears related to the coronavirus outbreak after markets were closed all last week.

But the Shanghai Composite

SHCOMP, +0.21%

  and the smaller-cap Shenzhen Composite

399106, +0.47%

  were both in the green Tuesday. China’s central bank on Sunday announced measures to cushion the blow expected from the stock selloff, and further stimulus is expected to offset the predicted economic impact of the outbreak.

“Given the extent of the shutdowns in China as well as the rapid rise in the virus that is likely to continue through March or April, a significant hit to China and regional growth is very likely,” JPMorgan economist Joseph Lupton said, according to Reuters. “We would assume that in addition to bridging any funding stresses, fiscal policies will need to be ramped up to support growth once the contagion gets under control.”

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index

HSI, +1.16%

  rose more than 1%, despite the first reported coronavirus death in the city. Hong Kong shut most of its border crossings with mainland China on Tuesday in an effort to stop the spread of the disease. China said Tuesday that more than 20,000 people have been infected, with 425 dead.

Elsewhere in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei

NIK, +0.32%

  inched up, while South Korea’s Kospi

180721, +1.82%

  made strong gains. Stocks fell in Malaysia

FBMKLCI, +1.27%

 , but gained in Taiwan

Y9999, +1.92%

 , Singapore

STI, +1.21%

  and Indonesia

JAKIDX, +0.76%

 . Australia’s S&P/ASX 200

XJO, +0.22%

  rose 0.3% as the Reserve Bank of Australia left its benchmark interest rate steady Tuesday.

Among individual stocks, Panasonic

6752, +9.76%

  surged in Tokyo trading after the company reported its first quarterly profit in its battery business with Tesla

TSLA, +19.89%

 — which saw its own stock skyrocket 20% on Monday. Screen Holdings

7735, +4.19%

  also gained, while financial holding company Nomura

8604, -2.54%

  fell. Sunny Optical

2382, +4.60%

 , AAC

2018, +2.28%

  and Tencent

700, +2.37%

  rose in Hong Kong. Samsung

005930, +2.45%

  and chip maker SK Hynix

000660, +2.32%

  gained in South Korea, and Apple

AAPL, -0.27%

  manufacturer Foxconn

2354, +2.02%

  rose in Taiwan. ANZ Banking

ANZ, +1.54%

  and Virgin Australia

VAH, +3.57%

  advanced in Australia.

Stocks on Wall Street rose Monday, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average

DJIA, +0.51%

  gained 143.78 points, or 0.5%, to end at 28,399.80, while the S&P 500 index

SPX, +0.73%

  climbed 23.40 points, or 0.7%, to close at 3,248.92. The Nasdaq Composite Index

COMP, +1.34%

  advanced 122.47 points to 9,273.40, a gain of 1.3%.

After oil prices settled at a more than one-year low, the price of a barrel of West Texas Intermediate crude for March delivery

CLH20, +0.60%

 gained 0.8% Tuesday to $50.47. April Brent crude

BRNJ20, +0.39%

 , the international benchmark, rose 0.6% to $54.75 a barrel after closing Monday at a 13-month low.

The U.S. dollar

USDJPY, +0.06%

  was about flat against the Japanese yen, at 108.70.



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Chinese markets, yuan claw back some lost ground after virus-led wipeout By Reuters



HONG KONG (Reuters) – China’s currency and stock markets steadied in choppy trade on Tuesday, after anxiety over the spreading coronavirus the previous session hit the yuan and erased some $400 billion in market value from Shanghai’s benchmark index.

The Shanghai Composite () opened 2% lower, before wobbling its way back from losses to stand 0.6% firmer after half an hour of trade. The blue chip index () was almost 2% firmer by 0230 GMT.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index (), which has shed 9% in a little over two weeks as the coronavirus spread across China and the world from Hubei province, climbed 1% in the morning.

The yuan recovered some lost ground, firming 0.2% to 7.0049 per dollar .

“What the Chinese financial markets did yesterday was a catch-up (fall),” said Christy Tan, head of markets strategy for Asia at National Australia Bank in Singapore.

“Chinese authorities have been providing a lot of support for the financial markets. There’s a level of assurance that the rout would not be allowed to go on much further than necessary.”

The virus’ toll in China rose to 425 as of the end of Monday, up by a daily record of 64 from the previous day, the National Health Commission said on Tuesday. All of the new deaths were in central Hubei province, the epicenter of the virus outbreak.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the flu-like virus a global emergency, although experts say much is still unknown about the pathogen including its lethality.

The Shanghai Composite suffered its worst daily drop in more than four years on Monday, when the yuan also slid and commodities were sold off during the first trading session since an extended Lunar New Year break in China.

The reason for the partial rebound on Tuesday was not immediately clear. However, four sources told Reuters on Monday that China’s securities regulator was urging mutual fund managers not to sell shares unless they face investor redemptions.

Shanghai-traded commodities remained under pressure on Tuesday. Shanghai’s benchmark rubber contract fell a further 6% in early trade, while China iron ore prices dropped 5%.

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Chinese markets plunge as rising virus death toll fuels fears for global growth By Reuters


© Reuters. Passengers wearing masks walk outside the Shanghai railway station in Shanghai

By Kevin Yao and Yilei Sun

BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – Chinese stock and commodity markets fell heavily on Monday as the death toll from a coronavirus epidemic in China rose to 361 and investors retreated into safe-haven assets in the first trading session after an extended Lunar New Year break.

Markets plunged at the open in their first session since Jan. 23, when the outbreak of the newly identified virus had claimed only 17 lives in Wuhan city, the epicenter of the outbreak, in Hubei province.

Since then, the flu-like virus has been declared a global emergency and spread to more than two dozen other countries and regions, with the first death outside of China reported on Sunday, that of a 44-year-old Chinese man who died in the Philippines after traveling from Wuhan.

The number of deaths in China rose to 361 as of Sunday, up 57 from the previous day, the National Health Commission said. The number of new confirmed infections in China rose by 2,829, bringing the total to 17,205.

(For a graphic tracking the novel coronavirus, see https://graphics.reuters.com/CHINA-HEALTH-MAP/0100B59S39E/index.html)

The index shed 8% to hit one-year low on Monday, wiping almost $370 billion off the market value, according to Reuters calculations.

The yuan began trade onshore at its weakest level this year. Iron, oil and traded in Shanghai all dropped by their daily limits, catching up with global price falls as the spread of the virus has weighed on the world’s growth outlook.

Investors were bracing for volatility when onshore trade in Chinese stocks, bonds, yuan and commodities resumed, following a steep global selldown on fears about the impact of the virus on the world’s second-biggest economy.

Looking to head off panic, China’s central bank injected 1.2 trillion yuan ($173.8 billion) of liquidity into the markets via reverse repo operations on Monday.

Beijing also said it would help firms that produce vital goods resume work as soon as possible, state broadcaster CCTV reported.

China’s Sinopec Corp, Asia’s largest refiner, said it would cut refinery output this month by about 600,000 barrels a day, roughly 12% of the average daily output last year, as health worries hit fuel demand, four people with knowledge of the matter said.

But while stock markets reopened, most provinces have extended the Lunar New Year holiday to try to contain the virus, with workers in Hubei not scheduled to return to work until after Feb. 13.

Cities like Wuhan remain in virtual lockdown with travel severely restricted, and China is facing mounting international isolation as well due to restrictions on flights to and from the country.

At least another 171 cases have been reported in more than two dozen other countries and regions, including the United States, Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong and Britain.

The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern but said global trade and travel restrictions are not needed.

CHINA OPENS FAST-BUILT HOSPITAL

A hospital built in just eight days to treat people with the virus in Wuhan will begin to take patients on Monday, state media said.

The hospital called Huoshenshan, or “fire-god mountain”, will have 1,000 beds. More than 7,500 workers took part in the project, launched on Jan. 25 and finished this weekend.

China is building a second hospital in Wuhan with 1,600 beds. Leishenshan, or “thunder-god mountain”, is scheduled to be completed on Feb 5.

More than 250 people from 30 countries arrived in France on Sunday after being flown out of Wuhan in the latest evacuation of foreign nationals from the locked-down city.

Australia evacuated 243 people, many of them children, from Wuhan on Monday and will quarantine them on a remote island in the Indian Ocean off its northwest coast.

Australia on Saturday followed the United States in barring entry to all foreign nationals traveling from mainland China.

The Group of Seven industrialized democracies are trying to find a common approach for dealing with the fast-spreading new coronavirus, German Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Sunday.

The virus is thought to have emerged late last year in a Wuhan market illegally trading wildlife. It can cause pneumonia and spreads between people in droplets from coughs and sneezes.

It has created alarm because it is spreading quickly and there are still important unknowns surrounding it, such as its death rate and whether it is able to spread before any symptoms show.

The number of deaths in China has now passed the total Chinese toll from the 2002-03 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), another coronavirus that emerged from China and killed almost 800 people around the world.

Even so, Chinese data on the numbers of infections and deaths suggests the new coronavirus is less deadly than SARS, although such numbers can evolve rapidly.





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