Global stocks market fell Monday as investors worried over the impact of the Wuhan virus — which spread to Washington State and has European luxury experts wondering if sales over the Chinese New Year will take a hit.
An outbreak of pneumonia caused by the new virus started in Wuhan, China, last month and has reportedly sickened nearly 300, with some fatalities. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed a person who recently returned to Washington from Wuhan tested positive for the virus, which is believed to have initially jumped from animals to people and appears to now be spreading person to person.
The CDC said the risk to the American public was low, but acknowledged that it was “a rapidly evolving situation.”
Such outbreaks, even if they don’t bloom into global events, can still cause massive disruptions if they keep consumers inside and business travelers at home.
Investors are clearly on watch, particularly in Asia. On Monday, the Hang Seng in Hong Kong dropped 2.8 percent to 27,985.33 as the SSE Composite Index in Shanghai fell 1.4 percent 3,052.14 and the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo dropped 0.9 percent 23,864.56.
Elsewhere, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.5 percent to 29,196.04 in New York while the FTSE 100 dropped 0.5 percent to 7,610.70 in London and the CAC 40 fell 0.5 percent to 6,045.99 in Paris.
While it was a tough day on Wall Street for retail — Macy’s Inc. fell 3.4 percent to $16.99 and Abercrombie & Fitch Co. dropped 3.3 percent to $17.21 — some of the decliners have notable businesses in China. Among them were Alibaba Group, down 2.3 percent to $222.26; PVH Corp., 2.2 percent to $98.77, and Tapestry Inc., 1.9 percent to $28.36.
Pierre Tegnér of Oddo BHF said in an analysis that the virus will likely impact spend during Chinese New Year, which starts on Saturday and lasts 15 days.
He pointed out that the New Year celebrations involve travel and relatives visiting each other, which could accelerate the spread of the virus and put a damper on shopping and gifting. The New Year period is normally a spending extravaganza — at retail, in restaurants and cinemas, on travel and in airport duty free.
“The spectre of a SARS-type epidemic could strongly limit travel and outings during this event. The impact on the consumption of cosmetic products [gifts, duty free] but also drinks and snacks [when traveling] or alcoholic beverages [meals] could therefore be impacted,” Tegnér wrote.
Some of the hardest-hit stocks were tied to European luxury brands.
Shares of Burberry dipped 2.5 percent to 22.20 pounds, followed by Moncler, which was down 2.2 percent to 40.43 euros. Prada fell 2 percent to 29.70 Hong Kong dollars, and Kering was down 2.1 percent at 586.60 euros.
Compagnie Financière Richemont shares fell 1.9 percent to 76.76 Swiss francs, followed by L’Oréal, which dipped 1.3 percent to 270.70 euros. LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, whose portfolio ranges from fashion to spirits, sank 1.1 percent to 424.95 euros.
Another analyst who asked not to be named said there were other factors putting pressure on luxury stocks Tuesday.
The analyst said that while one of the reasons for the share price declines could be the China virus, “markets have been really strong over the past few months and people are using any excuse they can to take some profits. I can’t point to anything specific that would be a good reason for the sector to sell off.”
A deadly virus in the region is the latest blow to luxury brands, which have been counting the cost of the ongoing Hong Kong protests that have resulted in store closures and diverted spending by Chinese tourists in other Asian markets.
As reported last week Burberry has big plans for China, and will be traveling to Shanghai this spring to present its fall 2020 collection as part of a dedicated program of activities geared toward engaging the Chinese market.
The collection will first be presented as part of London Fashion Week in February. It will then travel to Shanghai, where chief creative officer Riccardo Tisci and his team will host another show on April 23 that will include new looks exclusive to China.