Another Rocky Day in the Markets as the Coronavirus Spreads


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Another day, another bracing warning from health officials about the coronavirus. Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that Americans should prepare for a wider outbreak in the U.S., leading to another severe sell-off in markets.

It’s a matter of when, not if, the coronavirus will spread, said Nancy Messonnier, the director of the C.D.C.’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad,” she said. “Disruption to everyday life might be severe.”

Officials are preparing to shield the economy, with the Federal Reserve vice chair Richard Clarida warning that the disruptions now centered in China “could spill over to the rest of the global economy.” He said it was too soon to speculate about the potential effects of the outbreak, suggesting that the Fed is not yet prepared to act.

• Traders, however, are betting that the Fed will cut rates sooner rather than later, with futures markets implying a 30 percent chance of a cut at the central bank’s meeting in March, 60 percent in April and near certainty that benchmark rates will be lower by the summer.

Last night’s debate was an “unsightly spectacle of flailing hands and raised voices,” reports the NYT’s team in Charleston, S.C. It was the last onstage clash between candidates before this weekend’s primary in the state and the “Super Tuesday” delegate bonanza next week.

Bernie Sanders took the most heat, with rivals to the front-runner in national polls wasting no time taking shots at the Vermont senator. The NYT’s Matt Flegenheimer and Sydney Ember captured the scene in their post-debate analysis:

He was never surprised, never entirely smooth and, when it was done, not necessarily looking any less the favorite than he did going in.

Yet as Mr. Sanders moves to expand and consolidate his hold on the Democratic primary, he at once reinforced the reservations that many in the party still have about him and laid bare the power and peril of his politics: his own unyielding worldview — and just how unlikely he is to adapt it to anyone else’s definition of electability.

Mike Bloomberg tried to recover from his patchy debate debut last week, fielding more awkward questions about his treatment of women and his use of nondisclosure agreements. On the afternoon before the debate, Bloomberg L.P. sent a memo to employees announcing new measures to bolster the company’s policies against harassment and discrimination.

  • Updated Feb. 25, 2020

    • What is a Coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crown-like spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people, and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is probably transmitted through sneezes, coughs and contaminated surfaces. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • Where has the virus spread?
      The virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has sickened more than 80,000 people in at least 33 countries, including Italy, Iran and South Korea.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      The World Health Organization officials have been working with officials in China, where growth has slowed. But this week, as confirmed cases spiked on two continents, experts warned that the world is not ready for a major outbreak.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The C.D.C. has warned older and at-risk travelers to avoid Japan, Italy and Iran. The agency also has advised against all non-essential travel to South Korea and China.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.

The bottom line: Prediction markets think Joe Biden is a heavy favorite to win the South Carolina primary, but Mr. Sanders remains well ahead of the pack for the nomination.

His chosen successor as C.E.O., Bob Chapek, was a surprise. Mr. Chapek is a Disney veteran who currently oversees the company’s theme park empire. He’s not as charismatic as Mr. Iger, but he is steeped in Disney’s culture and operations. Analysts appeared to support the choice: “Chapek is a really good, no-brainer pick,” the analyst Michael Nathanson told Brooks Barnes of the NYT.

Mr. Iger leaves big shoes to fill. As C.E.O., he struck four transformative acquisitions that turned Disney into a media colossus: Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and most of 21st Century Fox. During his tenure, Disney’s market cap gained about $175 billion.

Mr. Iger is still the boss, since Mr. Chapek will report to him until the end of next year. Mr. Iger isn’t taking a pay cut, so, as Felix Salmon of Axios points out, “Now Disney has two men named Bob making C.E.O. salary.” The suddenness of the move has many media watchers speculating about whether any big shoes will drop. And Mr. Iger’s previous flirtations with a presidential run add intrigue to the move.

The inside dish: Many thought Kevin Mayer, Mr. Iger’s M.&A. lieutenant who oversees the Disney Plus streaming service, was the heir apparent. The question now is whether Mr. Mayer will bolt given that he appears to have lost the succession contest.

After a long-running investigation into a 2018 crash in California in which the driver died, the National Transportation Safety Board adopted several findings and recommendations at a hearing yesterday in Washington.

It’s grim for Tesla, the NYT’s Niraj Chokshi reports, with the federal safety agency concluding that Autopilot failed to keep the driver’s vehicle in the lane, that its collision-avoidance software failed to detect a highway barrier, and that the driver was most likely distracted by a game on his phone.

“It’s time to stop enabling drivers in any partially automated vehicle to pretend that they have driverless cars,” said the N.T.S.B. chairman, Robert Sumwalt. His agency and others are investigating more than a dozen crashes in which Autopilot might have played a role.


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