The coronavirus is already hurting the world economy. Here's why it could get really scary
Analysis by Charles Riley and Julia Horowitz, CNN Business
February 10, 2020
London (CNN Business) Nearly two decades have passed since a coronavirus known as SARS emerged in China, killing hundreds of people and sparking panic that sent a chill through the global economy. The virus now rampaging across China could be much more damaging.
China has become an indispensable part of global business since the 2003 SARS outbreak. It's grown into the world's factory, churning out products such as the iPhone and driving demand for commodities like oil and copper. The country also boasts hundreds of millions of wealthy consumers who spend big on luxury products, tourism and cars. China's economy accounted for roughly 4% of world GDP in 2003; it now makes up 16% of global output.
SARS sickened 8,098 people and killed 774 before it was contained. The new coronavirus, which originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, has already killed more than 900 people and infected over 40,000 across at least 25 countries and territories. Chinese officials have locked down Wuhan and several other cities, but the virus continues to spread.
"The outbreak has the potential to cause severe economic and market dislocation. But the scale of the impact will ultimately be determined by how the virus spreads and evolves, which is almost impossible to predict, as well as how governments respond," said Neil Shearing, group chief economist at Capital Economics.
Compounding the risk is the fact that the world outside China has also changed since 2003.
Globalization has encouraged companies to build supply chains that cut across national borders, making economies much more interconnected. The major central banks have used up much of the ammunition they would typically deploy to fight economic downturns since the 2008 financial crisis, and global debt levels have never been higher. Rising nationalism may make it harder to coordinate a worldwide response, if that's required.
The virus is snarling supply chains and disrupting companies...
... Economists say the current level of disruption is manageable. If the number of new coronavirus cases begins to slow, and China's factories reopen soon, the result will be a fleeting hit to the Chinese economy in the first quarter and a dent in global growth. If the virus continues to spread, however, the economic damage will increase rapidly...
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