The novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is spreading quickly. There are now over 10,000 confirmed infections and the death toll exceeded 200 people on Friday 31 January. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has now declared the outbreak as an international emergency as the total number of infections have surpassed that of the 2002–2003 SARS outbreak. The development is also having a significant impact on global commodity markets with price falls escalating in recent weeks.
Economic slowdown is inevitable
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus is already having an impact on the Chinese economy. Millions of Chinese citizens are in ‘lockdown’ and the Chinese New Year (CNY) holiday has been extended from 30 January to 2 February in the entire country. However, multiple cities and provinces have ordered “non-essential” businesses to be suspended until 9 February, including Beijing, Shanghai and provinces nearby Hubei where the city of Wuhan is located.
There are widespread transportation bans all over the country, meaning that moving people, goods and commodities is challenging. However, cargo vessels are still allowed to discharge material at ports, but CRU understands that transportation from the ports is restricted.
Commodity markets feeling the impact
China is the world’s largest consumer of many commodities, meaning any slowdown will have a significant impact on global commodity demand and prices. Financial markets are known for their quick response to ‘event’ risks and it is no surprise that most commodity prices have fallen over the past two weeks. Copper, oil and iron ore are leading the charge by falling more than others. However, China’s market share varies across products and the country is also an important producer of some commodities, such as coal, copper, aluminium, steel and fertilizers.