Feb 27, 2020

Analysis | The Cybersecurity 202: Huawei official accuses U.S. of targeting the telecom to hurt China

By Joseph Marks

Andy Purdy, chief security officer at Huawei Technologies USA. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
SAN FRANCISCO – The battle over Huawei is taking place face-to-face here as officials from the U.S. government got a chance to debate directly with the Chinese telecom.
After spending months trading jabs through the media – and in court – both sides now get to make their case to a tech-savvy audience about whether or not the future of telecommunications should be built with Chinese technology.
Huawei’s Chief Security Officer Andy Purdy, in an interview on the sidelines of the RSA conference, insisted that the company is independent of Beijing – and that U.S. concerns are just a cover to smack China over trade and other issues.
“The U.S. is really pissed off at China on a number of issues and they want to hurt Huawei to hurt China,” Purdy told me. “They're very afraid of the competition between China and the U.S., so they're focusing on hurting Huawei.”
Purdy, a former Department of Homeland Security official, squared off against one of the Pentagon’s top cybersecurity executives during a panel discussion. He called the U.S. ban on Huawei gear from many telecom networks dangerously misguided, and said the block on American companies from selling it components would end up hurting the businesses more than Huawei.
Katie Arrington, the Pentagon’s top cybersecurity contracting official, shot back that Huawei presents such a huge risk of Chinese hacking that there’s no way “in good conscience” she could let it anywhere near military systems.
“The recommendation was made to take Huawei out for very specific reason,” she told a crowd of hundreds of security pros. “It's a ‘have to do’ because the risk is so high.”
The conference comes at a tense moment for U.S. officials who’ve been sounding alarms for more than a year that Huawei can’t be trusted not to spy for the Chinese government but have failed to convince key allies including the United Kingdom, which is allowing Huawei to build parts of its next-generation 5G wireless networks.
So it's no surprise there were numerous testy exchanges onstage. At one point, Arrington even slammed the quality of Huawei’s technology, saying “their programmers are where Microsoft was 25 years agonot incredibly robust.” When Purdy scoffed, she said, “It’s your job Andy, I get it. That’s who you work for.”
Huawei's offensive continued offstage at the conference considered a must-go for the 40,000 technology pros who gather annually. Purdy told me he spent a good part of the week walking the conference floor urging government and industry leaders not to rush to judgment on Huawei.
“When you see the level of hostility in this toxic environment, you see people not thinking [things] through,” he said of Washington's moves against Huawei. “[Huawei] is going to be stronger because of this and America's going to be weaker andthat’s frustrating to me.”
Purdy is also pitching a transparency initiative in which Huawei and its competitors would publicly demonstrate their cybersecurity protections. He hopes that will quell fears that the company will be a backdoor for Chinese spying.
He’s reaching out to think tanks and industry groups that might host the initiative he said. And if he doesn’t get any takers, Huawei plans to run a public transparency program on its own where it displays its cybersecurity protections for anyone who wants to look at them, he said. That event will likely take place sometime in April – around the same time the White House is planning a 5G summit with global technology leaders as part of its efforts to combat the Chinese firm.
Officials from throughout government, meanwhile, lashed out at Huawei throughout the week, warning there’s still time to halt it from winning 5G contracts across Europe and with other U.S. allies. That’s despite the fact that France, Germany and Canada seem primed to follow the U.K.’s lead by allowing Huawei to build portions of their 5G networks.
“We haven't necessarily seen contracts cut yet, so I think there's still an opportunity to work with our partners,” Chris Krebs, DHS’s top cybersecurity official said. “We need to continue to push for a global market of trusted componentry in 5G technology.”
The Justice Department’s national security chief John Demers charged that some allies are overlooking Huawei’s cybersecurity problems because they’re seduced by the low prices of its 5G services, which are subsidized by the Chinese government.
“Foreign countries have been less convinced,” he said. “Butthe choice for a foreign country whether or not to use Huawei equipmentis not a security choice alone. It's a political choice and an economic choice. And it's one that we're trying to win on security grounds and that's what makes it challenging for us.”


Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)
PINGED: Florida’s top election official, Secretary of State Laurel Lee, is requiring all of the state’s 67 election supervisors to sign non-disclosure agreements before they can review digital vulnerabilities that cybersecurity pros find in their systems, Jeffrey Schweers at the Tallahassee Democrat reports.
Officials were also required to sign the NDAs before receiving their share of $18 million in federal money to upgrade election systems after Russia's 2016 hacking attempts exposed vulnerabilities, Jeffrey reports. The NDAs, which public information experts described as “bizarre” and “unenforceable,” bar the officials from talking about any of the vulnerabilities experts found in their election systems or defensive measure they’ve taken to keep hackers out.
State officials said the NDAs were necessary to prevent information leaking out that could aid hackers. Some local officials, however, were less convinced. “It just felt coerced,” Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards told Jeffrey.
The Mueller report revealed that Russian hackers breached computer systems in at least two Florida counties before the 2016 election, though the FBI has not disclosed which counties and didn’t tell state leaders there until after the report came out. The FBI recently changed its policy and said it will begin notifying both county and state-level officials about county-level election system breaches.

A man walks past a poster simulating facial recognition software. REUTERS/Thomas Peter/File Photo
PATCHED: The facial recognition company Clearview, which has cooperated extensively with law enforcement, suffered a data breach in which a hacker stole its entire client list, The Daily Beast’s Betsy Swan reports.
Clearview gained notoriety last month when the New York Times reported it had scraped 3 billion images from the internet, including from Facebook, YouTube, and Venmo -- sometime in violation of sites’ terms of service. The company also sold access to that massive cache of images to help hundreds of state, local and federal law enforcement agencies solve crimes, including searching for missing and exploited children.
The hackers were able to view the number of user accounts Clearview customers had set up, and the number of searches they’d conducted but did not reach into Clearview’s own servers and did not access law enforcement agencies’ search histories, the company said. The company has fixed the vulnerability the hackers exploited, it said.

A sample Maryland driver’s license. (Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration)
PWNED: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials ran facial-recognition scans on millions of Maryland driver’s license records without first seeking state or court approval, my colleagues Drew Harwell and Erin Cox reportThe agency’s unfettered access to the photos has concerned immigration and privacy activists, who worry it’s being used to target immigrants who obtained licenses after 2013.
Maryland has issued more than 275,000 such licenses to undocumented immigrants since 2013, when it became the first state on the East Coast to allow immigrants to obtain a license without providing proof of legal status. With this system, an ICE official could run a photograph of an individual through the system and see if it returns any potentially undocumented immigrants as a match.
"It’s a betrayal of immigrants’ trust for the [state] to turn around and let ICE run warrantless searches on their faces,” Harrison Rudolph, a senior associate at Georgetown University Law School’s Center on Privacy & Technology, told my colleagues. “It’s a bait-and-switch. … ICE is using biometric information in the shadows, without government notice or public approval, to hunt down the most vulnerable people.”
ICE officials recorded nearly 100 sessions in the state’s driver’s license database since 2018, according to a letter obtained by Drew and Erin. Each session may have included several searches of the Maryland Image Repository System database, which stores the photos, names, addresses and other personal information of about 7 million drivers.


— A group of 27 current and former national security leaders and top government and military officials sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai this morning, applauding his plan to release more mid-range spectrum that will help U.S. companies run 5G services and saying it will help U.S. companies combat Huawei’s dominance in the field. “If we want to protect our allies and maintain an advantage over our enemies, we must put an end to Huawei’s increasing influence and win the race to 5G,” the letter states.
It was sent by 5G Action Now, an organization led by former Republican House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers. Signers of the letter include Rogers, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former DHS chief and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge.
— Nearly three-fourths of 700 state and local government employees surveyed by IBM’s security division said they’re concerned about hackers hitting their governments with ransomware – a strain of malicious software that locks up computer systems and holds them for ransom. About one in six of those employees said their department has actually been hit with ransomware, IBM found. Check out the full report here.
— More cybersecurity news from the public sector:

The Democratic National Committee has warned its presidential candidates to be cautious after Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign reported that an “impersonator” with a domain registered overseas had posed as one of its staffers and sought conversations with members of at least two other campaigns
Will Weissert | AP

The info will help the US Federal Communications Commission reimburse smaller carriers for ripping out and replacing Huawei and ZTE equipment.

A lawyer for Julian Assange has argued that the WikiLeaks founder should not be sent to the United States because a U.K.-U.S. treaty bans extradition for political offenses
Jill Lawless | AP

The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday canceled a planned vote to reauthorize a set of controversial government surveillance programs over concerns that a slew of privacy-focused amendments from Rep.
The Hill

Seventh incident of its kind when police investigations were impacted by a ransomware infection.


Cybersecurity news from the private sector:

Security analyst John Strand had a contract to test a correctional facility’s defenses. He sent the best person for the job: his mother.


Cybersecurity news from abroad:

Iran-linked hackers have been running spearphishing email campaigns against governmental organizations in Turkey, Jordan and Iraq in recent months in a likely effort to gather intelligence.

Market Insider | Biggest Moves Premarket: Stocks making the biggest moves in the premarket: Best Buy, Microsoft, Etsy, Box, Square & more

Peter Schacknow

Take a look at some of the biggest movers in the premarket:

Best Buy (BBY) – The electronics retailer reported quarterly profit of $2.90 per share, 15 cents a share above estimates. Revenue and comparable-store sale also beat forecasts. Best Buy expects the coronavirus to be a short-term disruption, although it said it cannot determine the exact impact as yet.
Keurig Dr Pepper (KDP) – The beverage maker matched forecasts with quarterly earnings of 35 cents per share, although revenue was slightly below estimates. Separately, the company announced a long-term agreement with Nestle to manufacture and distribute Starbucks-branded K-Cup pods in the U.S. and Canada.
Microsoft (MSFT) – Microsoft said it did not expect to meet prior guidance for its personal computing segment, due to supply chain disruptions related to the coronavirus outbreak.
Booking Holdings (BKNG) – Booking Holdings reported quarterly earnings of $23.30 per share, beating the consensus estimate of $22.04 a share. The operator of Priceline and other online travel services also saw revenue beat estimates but issued lower-than-expected current-quarter guidance as the coronavirus outbreak impacts travel demand.
Box (BOX) – Box beat estimates by 3 cents a share, with quarterly profit of 7 cents per share. The online storage software company’s revenue beat estimates as well, as demand for cloud services in general continues to accelerate.
Marriott (MAR) – Marriott reported quarterly profit of $1.57 per share, 10 cents a share above consensus. The hotel chain’s revenue came in below Wall Street forecasts, however, and Marriott said it cannot fully estimate the financial impact of the coronavirus.
Square (SQ) – Square came in 2 cents a share ahead of estimates, with quarterly profit of 23 cents per share. The mobile payments technology company saw its user base numbers surge compared to a year earlier.
Etsy (ETSY) – Etsy beat estimates by 9 cents a share, with quarterly earnings of 25 cents per share. The online crafts marketplace also reported better-than-expected revenue and Etsy predicted 2020 revenue growth of 27% to 30%.
L Brands (LB) – L Brands earned $1.88 per share for its latest quarter, 2 cents a share above estimates. Revenue came in very slightly above Wall Street forecasts. L Brands took a nearly $700 million charge during the quarter to write down the value of its Victoria’s Secret chain, and last week sold a controlling stake in the lingerie retailer to a private-equity partnership.
Gilead Sciences (GILD) – Gilead said it would begin its own studies of a potential treatment for the coronavirus next month, as it tries to become the first drug company to sell a medicine specifically designed to treat the virus.
Anheuser-Busch InBev (BUD) – Anheuser-Busch InBev said its current-quarter profit would decline by about 10%, with the beer brewer expecting the coronavirus outbreak to significantly hit demand for its products in China.
Teladoc Health (TDOC) – Teladoc Health lost 26 cents per share for the fourth quarter, less than the 33 cents a share loss that analysts were expecting. The virtual medical care company’s revenue came in above analysts’ forecasts.

US Markets | Futures Indicator: Dow set to drop 400 points on report of first US coronavirus case of unknown origin

Fred Imbert

U.S. stock futures on Thursday morning pointed to declines at the day’s open amid concerns the coronavirus may be spreading in the U.S.
The CDC confirmed the first U.S. coronavirus case of unknown origin in Northern California, indicating possible “community spread” of the disease. The CDC doesn’t know exactly how the patient, a California resident, contracted the virus.
Around 7:30 a.m. ET, Dow Jones Industrial Average futures indicated a drop of 400 points at Thursday’s open. A decline of that magnitude would put the 30-stock average in correction territory, down at least 10% from its 52-week high. S&P 500 futures and Nasdaq 100 futures also pointed to sharp losses on Thursday.
Apple and Intel were among the worst-performing Dow stocks in the premarket, dropping more than 1.5% each. AMD and Nvidia fell 3.3% and 2.5%, respectively. Meanwhile, Gilead Sciences jumped 6.8% after the company announced the start of two studies for a possible coronavirus treatment.
Investors also loaded up on U.S. bonds, pushing yields on longer-term debt to record lows. Gold prices rose 0.6% to $1,652.40 per ounce.
President Donald Trump tried to assuage concerns over the outbreak.Trump said in a news conference Wednesday night the risk of coronavirus to people in the U.S. is still “very low.” He added the U.S. is going to “spend whatever’s appropriate” to deal with the virus. Trump also put Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the U.S. response to the coronavirus.
The president said stocks should recover from their recent swoon. But as Trump spoke, the news about the “community spread” coronavirus case added to concerns that the coronavirus is spreading at a rapid pace, hitting stock futures.
Worries over how the coronavirus will impact corporate profits and global economic growth have roiled the U.S. stock market this week as the number of confirmed cases increases. South Korea has confirmed a total of more than 1,200 cases. About 400 people have contracted the virus in Italy.
Microsoft warned it will not meet its revenue guidance for a key segment. In a statement, its supply chain is “returning to normal operations at a slower pace than anticipated,” which led the tech giant to cut its forecast for its personal computing division. Personal computing accounted for 36% of Microsoft’s overall revenue during the previous quarter. Microsoft shares were down 2.9% in premarket trading.
A strategist at Goldman Sachs also warned U.S. companies could experience no earnings growth in 2020 as the coronavirus spreads.
Trump’s comments, Microsoft and Goldman’s warnings came after the Dow fell more than 100 points on Wednesday, adding to its massive decline for this week. Through Wednesday’s close, the Dow has lost more than 2,000 points this week. The 30-stock average is also on pace for its worst percentage-point weekly performance since 2008, down 7% over that time.
The Dow has also fallen more than 8% from its record high set earlier this month.
“As this week’s selling has progressed, we have seen some evidence of increased caution on the part of investors,” said Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at Baird. “Investors are shifting away from excessive optimism but there is still little evidence of fear overwhelming complacency. Bottoms are typically processes punctuated by climactic events and seeing breadth indicators stabilize would be an encouraging sign that such a process is underway.”
Bond prices, in turn, have surged this week.
The benchmark 10-year Treasury yield traded at 1.285% on Thursday, hitting a record low. The 30-year bond rate is also trading at an all-time low. Yields move inversely to prices.
“We’ve hit a pocket of fear,” said Gregory Faranello, head of U.S. rates trading at AmeriVet Securities. “This is a big deal … If this flows into the U.S., we could be in trouble because, let’s face it, the U.S. consumer is what’s holding this thing together.”
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Coronavirus live updates: South Korea outnumbers China with daily spike, UK confirms more cases

Sam Meredith, Joanna Tan,Saheli Roy Choudhury,Weizhen Tan

GP: SKOREA-China-health-virus 200227 EU
A South Korean health worker sprays disinfectant as part of preventive measures against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, at a residential area near the Daegu branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu on February 27, 2020.
JUNG YEON-JE | AFP via Getty Images

6:15 pm: European stocks slide 2% as coronavirus outbreak spreads to more countries

European stocks plummeted further on Thursday as the rapid spread of the coronavirus continues to dominate market sentiment.
The pan-European Stoxx 600 fell 2% during European trading hours, with travel and leisure stocks plunging 3.6% to lead losses as almost all sectors and major bourses traded sharply in the red.
The spread of the coronavirus — which has now infected more than 81,000 people and killed over 2,700 — continues to rattle markets and policymakers around the world. — Elliot Smith & Holly Ellyatt

5:45 pm: South Korea confirms another record spike of coronavirus cases, outnumbers China for daily infections

South Korea confirmed 505 new cases of the coronavirus on Thursday, Yonhap news agency reported, bringing the total number of infections nationwide to 1,766.
It marks the sharpest daily spike yet in South Korea, outnumbering the 433 new cases in China.
Most of the country’s new infections stemmed from the city of Daegu, Yonhap reported, citing the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health authorities began testing more than 210,000 members of a religious sect at the center of South Korea’s epidemic for coronavirus on Thursday. — Sam Meredith

5:30 pm: Governor of Italy’s virus-hit Lombardy region in isolation after staff member gets coronavirus

The governor of the region of Lombardy, which is at the epicenter of Italy’s coronavirus outbreak, has placed himself in isolation after one of his staff members tested positive for COVID-19.
In a Facebook post published late Wednesday, Attilio Fontana said he would remain in quarantine for the next two weeks after an aide tested positive for the deadly flu-like virus. All members of the team were subsequently tested, with all results coming back negative for COVID-19, Fontana said.
Italy has reported more than 300 cases of the coronavirus in Lombardy, with 10 deaths in the region.
The country, which has recorded the worst contagion in Europe so far, has reported more than 400 cases of the coronavirus nationwide, with 12 deaths. — Sam Meredith.

5:15 pm: UK reports two further cases of coronavirus, brings total to 15

The U.K. has confirmed two further people have contracted the coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 15.
The deadly flu-like virus was passed on in Italy and Tenerife, according to England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty.
The patients have been transferred to specialist National Health Service infection centers in Royal Liverpool Hospital and the Royal Free Hospital, London, Whitty said Thursday. — Sam Meredith

4:22 pm: Man returning from Italy is first confirmed case in Denmark

Denmark has confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus. The Danish Health Authority said a man returned with his family from a ski holiday in the Italian region of Lombardy on Monday, and was found to have flu-like symptoms such as cough and fever.
The man later tested positive, while the tests for his wife and son came back negative.
This is Denmark’s first confirmed case of COVID-19, the health authority said, adding that it does not change the country’s current low-risk assessment of the virus. — Joanna Tan

3:50 pm: Estonia confirms first case of coronavirus

The spread of the new coronavirus continues throughout Europe with Estonia reporting its first case. Authorities in the country said the infected man had recently returned from Iran. Estonia’s Minister of Social Affairs, Tanel Kiik, told public broadcaster ETV that the person had been isolated, Reuters reported.
Iran, meanwhile, confirmed Thursday morning that 22 people had died from the virus — up from a total of 19 on Wednesday. The number of people with confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the country has hit 141, the official news agency IRNA said, according to Reuters. — Katrina Bishop

1:57 pm: Saudi Arabia suspends visas for pilgrimage

Saudi Arabia will temporarily suspend the entry of foreigners for pilgrimage and tourism purposes, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced. The decision comes as health authorities take precautionary measures to prevent COVID-19 from reaching the kingdom, according to the ministry.
Saudi Arabia has not reported any cases of the new coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization’s latest situation report. The kingdom urged its citizens to “exercise caution before traveling to countries experiencing Coronavirus outbreaks,” the ministry said in a tweet. — Joanna Tan

1:35 pm: Australian prime minister warns world is entering a ‘pandemic phase’ of the coronavirus

“There is every indication that the world will soon enter a pandemic phase of the coronavirus,” Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said during a press conference in Canberra. “In the event of a pandemic, the challenge... the goal is to slow it’s spread if it gets to Australia, but with the number of countries that are now affected, we have to be realistic about the likelihood of containment strategies into the weeks ahead.”
As a result, he said, the country will be implementing its emergency response plan. Morrison also announced that the travel ban for China will be extended for an additional week and will be monitored on a weekly basis. The deadly virus has infected at least 23 people in Australia, according to the World Health Organization’s latest report. — Joanna Tan
(This post was updated at 4:34 pm to reflect that Australia left open the possibility of extending its travel ban for China again)

1:15 pm: Standard Chartered says outbreak and slowing global growth could impact profit target

Standard Chartered bank said recent headwinds including the coronavirus outbreak, “will likely result in income growth in 2020 below our medium-term 5-7% target range.” Other challenges the British lender cited included lower interest rates, slower global economic growth and Hong Kong’s economy.
“These headwinds are expected to be transitory, but we now believe it will take longer to achieve our ROTE (return on tangible equity) target of 10% than we previously envisaged,” the bank said in its outlook when reporting earnings for the year that ended Dec. 31, 2019. The bank’s Hong Kong-listed shares rose more than 2% on Thursday, after the earnings release. — Joanna Tan

11:19 am: Woman in Japan tests positive for twice

A resident of Osaka has tested positive for the virus twice, Reuters reported citing the prefectural government. The woman, a tour-bus guide in her forties, is the first person in the country to test positive again after recovering, the news agency said citing a government statement.
She first tested positive in January, but was discharged on Feb. 1 after recovering, Reuters said. But the woman tested positive again on Wednesday, the news agency reported citing Osaka’s prefectural government. As of Thursday, Japan has reported 186 confirmed cases, as authorities urged people not to avoid gathering in large groups. — Joanna Tan

11:09 am: AmCham China survey finds almost half of the respondents expect a decline in China revenue

The American Chamber of Commerce in China revealed results from a flash survey done between Feb. 17 and Feb. 20 with 169 member companies that included large, medium and small-sized enterprises, many of them with global operations. Nearly half of those respondents said they expect 2020 China revenues to decrease if businesses cannot return to the usual before the end of April.
Almost 20% of the respondents said they predicted 2020 revenues to decline more than 50% if the epidemic extended through August. While many said it is still too soon to determine the estimated cost of delays from quarantine measures undertaken by Beijing to contain the spread of the infection, about 10% said they were losing at least half-a-million yuan (about $71,000) per day. — Roy Choudhury

10:56 am: South Korea central bank says virus outbreak raises growth uncertainty

Bank of Korea kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged at 1.25%, surprising markets. In its policy statement, the central bank said that “uncertainties regarding the future growth path are high” due to the impact of the outbreak. Infection cases have spiked in the country (see 9:05 am update), leaving authorities scrambling to ramp up measures to contain its spread.
Economists at ANZ Research said they were lowering their 2020 GDP growth forecast for South Korea from 2.3% to 1.9%. “Although the virus risks faced by South Korea were initially limited to sectors related to China and inbound tourists, the spike in local confirmed infections will now exacerbate the strain on the economy via the tourism, consumption, and production channels,” the economists wrote. — Roy Choudhury

10:06 am: JetBlue scraps change and cancellation fees because of coronavirus in a US first

JetBlue Airways in a surprise move Wednesday became the first U.S. carrier to cut its change and cancellation fees for travelers concerned about the coronavirus.
The budget carrier’s unusual measure, which could pressure other airlines to follow suit, comes during steep drop in airline stocks as investors fret over the spread of the virus. — Josephs

9:51 am: US raises travel alert level for South Korea

The U.S. State Department raised its travel advisory for South Korea, from level 2 to level 3, which means “reconsider travel.” It cited the coronavirus outbreak in South Korea.
That comes days after the U.S. CDC also raised its alert level for travel to South Korea, which means “avoid non-essential travel,” as there’s widespread community transmission.
Infections in South Korea have been surging in the past week. As of Thursday morning, it reported a jump of 334 cases. (see 9:05am update) — Weizhen Tan

9:30 am: CDC confirms first possible ‘community spread’ coronavirus case in US

9:25 am: China reports 433 more cases

China’s National Health Commission said there were 433 new confirmed cases and 29 additional deaths as of Feb. 26.
Of the new cases, 409 were in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak. 26 of the 29 deaths were in Hubei.
That brings the country’s total to 78,497 cases, and 2,744 deaths. Weizhen Tan

9:16 am: US and South Korea to postpone drills indefinitely

The U.S. and South Korea have postponed joint military drills until further notice, according to Reuters, citing defense officials in Seoul. The decision comes as the outbreak continues to spread in South Korea. (see 9:05 am update).
On Wednesday, the U.S. military said a soldier based in South Korea has been infected — the first American service member to test positive for the new coronavirus. Weizhen Tan

9:05 am: South Korea reports 334 more cases

South Korea confirmed a surge of 334 more cases on Thursday morning, bringing the country’s total to 1,595, according to its Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There were a total of 12 deaths as of Thursday morning, but no new fatalities.
More than half of coronavirus cases in the country have been traced back to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu, the country’s fourth-largest city. Weizhen Tan

8:58 am: US colleges cancel study abroad programs

In the face of a global health emergency, thousands of U.S. college students studying abroad are scrambling.
As the coronavirus spreads through northern Italy, some schools, including Syracuse University and New York University, announced they were closing their campuses in Florence immediately. All Seton Hall University spring study abroad trips are also cancelled, according to a tweet by the university.
Italy is second only to the U.K. as the most popular destination to study abroad, according to data from the Institute of International Education, which has tracked the flow of international students since 1919. However, in recent years, China has also become a popular destination for American students, it said. — Jessica Dickler

8:18 am: Japan dives more than 1% as US markets continue to slide

Japan markets slid for the third day this week, as Wall Street also continued tumbling as virus fears continue to grow. The Nikkei 225 fell 1.31% in early trade, while the Topix declined 1.27%.
Dow futures traded fell 170 points and indicated a loss of nearly 200 points at Thursday’s open. Weizhen Tan

7:46 am: IMF, World Bank considering scaling back meetings or holding them remotely

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank could hold their April Spring Meetings remotely or even scale them back amid the growing coronavirus outbreak, Reuters reported, citing sources.
The Spring Meetings are scheduled for April 17 to 19, and 10,000 government officials and other delegates globally are set to gather in Washington D.C. Weizhen Tan
All times below are in Eastern time.

7:20 pm: Trump says schools should prepare pandemic plans ‘just in case’

President Donald Trump said schools should start preparing their pandemic plans as a precaution in case the COVID-19 outbreak that’s rapidly spreading through Asia, Europe and the Middle East takes hold in the U.S. “Every aspect of our society should be prepared. I don’t think it’s going to come to that,” Trump said. “I think schools should be preparing, get ready just in case. The words are just in case. We don’t think we’re going to be there. We don’t think we’re going to be anywhere close.” Watch the press conference here.Kopecki

6:50 pm: Trump says coronavirus risk to the American people ‘remains very low’

President Donald Trump addressed the nation on the coronavirus outbreak, saying the risk to the American public “remains very low.” Trump said Vice President Mike Pence will be heading up the U.S. response to any outbreak in the country. Trump announced the news conference in a tweet Wednesday morning, shortly after returning from a state visit to India where he downplayed the threat of the virus to the U.S. “We’re really down to probably 10″ cases, Trump told reporters there.
The CDC has confirmed 60 cases in the U.S., 45 of which are patients who were repatriated from Wuhan, China or the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined off the coast of Japan and are excluded from its official count. Watch the press conference here. Breuninger

5:47 pm: Germany says it can’t trace cases and is heading for an epidemic

Germany is at the beginning of a coronavirus epidemic after new cases sprung up that can no longer be traced to the virus’s original source in China, Health Minister Jens Spahn said. A total of five new cases of coronavirus in the west and south of Germany — taking the country’s total to around 20 — meant the disease appeared to be moving to a new phase, Spahn told a news conference, urging health authorities and employers to review their pandemic planning.

4:40 pm: Booking Holdings warns coronavirus will hit Q1 revenue

Online travel giant Booking Holdings said the outbreak of coronavirus will damp travel demand and drive down sales in the first quarter. The company, which operates Booking.com, airfare-search site Kayak.com and others said its revenue could fall by as much as 9% on the year in the first quarter. It expects travel bookings to drop by 10% to 15%. “The coronavirus has had a significant and negative impact across our business during the 1st quarter. It is not possible to predict where, and to what degree, outbreaks of the coronavirus will disrupt travel patterns,” the company said in an earnings filing. The company said its forecast included wider ranges than usual because of the “high level of uncertainty in forecasting the coronavirus and its associated impact on the company and the travel industry generally.” — Josephs

12:15 pm: CDC confirms 59 US cases

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed 59 cases in the U.S., a majority of which came from passengers repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined off the coast of Japan. The CDC updated its case count on its website late Tuesday. The data shows that 42 of the cases are attributed to the cruise ship, three patients were infected in Wuhan and later evacuated to the U.S. and the rest were largely infected while traveling overseas. Just two cases were contracted through person-to-person contact in the U.S., the CDC said. Kopecki
Read CNBC’s coverage from the U.S. overnight: U.S. confirms new case, Germany says its at the beginning of an epidemic
— CNBC’s Dawn Kopecki, Kevin Breuninger and Leslie Josephs contributed to this report.

Markets: The FTSE 100 plunges again as Trump fails to reassure investors - business live

Julia Kollewe

The coronavirus will force the IMF to tear up its growth forecasts at its Spring Meeting in April, predicts Neil MacKinnon, global macro strategist at VTB Capital:
There is no respite for financial markets as the coronavirus spreads outside China. The reality is that the IMF is going to have to rewrite its projections when they are next due in April.
While the Fund is not known for ever predicting a recession, and its projections tend to be near consensus thinking, it cannot be ruled out that global GDP growth returns to 2.0% – especially given the EM and Asian economies are at the forefront of supply chain disruptions and export declines.
The IMF had predicted global growth of 3.5% this year, up from 3.2% in 2019. That now looks highly unlikely, given the disruption in China.

Shares in WPP, the world’s biggest advertising company, have plunged by 16% -- on track for its worst day since 1992!
And for once, we can’t blame Covid-19. Instead, the company has disappointed investors by reporting a 1.9% drop in revenues in the last quarter - and warned that sales will be stagnant this year.
That’s without factoring in the impact of the coronavirus.
Chief executive Mark Read said.
“I am optimistic about the future of our industry and WPP’s position within it, although there is still much more work to do,”
Investors seem less optimistic.
Alex (@DeGrooteMedia)
#WPP #Advertising #Media #Investing
-Brutal share price action on WPP today, now down at 770p
-Near 10 year low
-Unable to update accurately on #COVID2019
-Paying 60p divi - so yielding 8% right now
-Shd be interesting results meeting pic.twitter.com/NLWqmosDhs
February 27, 2020

Tag Heuer Link stainless steel man’s watch.
The coronavirus has forced a major watch fair to be cancelled.
The Watches & Wonders watch fair will not take place in Geneva this year, due to concerns that it could spread the virus.
Organisers of the show, which was popular with Chinese retailers, say:
“In view of the latest developments concerning the worldwide spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, it is [our duty]... to anticipate the potential risks that travel and important international gatherings could entail.”
Many other trade fairs have already been cancelled or postponed, which will presumably have a knock-on impact on orders this year.

Troubled luxury carmaker Aston Martin has warned that the coronavirus could hurt its sales, and bog down its supply chain.
Aston Marton hit investors with more bad news today -- a loss of £130m for last year, and a forecast of “materially lower” sales in 2020.
It cautioned:
Covid-19 has the potential to impact both the supply chain and customer demand in China and other markets. China was the company’s fastest-growing market in 2019 and represented 9% of total wholesales.
Analysts are worried that Aston Martin’s new SUV, called the DBX, could suffer from the Covid-19 outbreak. That would be a serious blow for the company, which is already being bailed out by fashion mogul Lawrence Stroll.
Shares in the company have slumped 15% to a record low of 334p this morning. Investors who paid £19 per share in its flotation, in October 2018, must be absolutely furious.

Covid-19 fears have driven European stock markets down to a fresh four-month low this morning.
Holger Zschaepitz (@Schuldensuehner)
Virus rout continues as the outbreak spreadsto more countries. MSCI Euro down 2%. pic.twitter.com/JuMxzvfWT5
February 27, 2020
Paul Donovan of UBS says investors fear a slump in consumer spending:
The importance of the consumer (globally) is why fear of the virus has the potential to do so much economic damage. If fear is contained at current levels, the consumer will support growth. If fear takes hold in the real world, the economic damage will be significant.
US President Trump gave a press conference to reassure Americans last night. US Google searches for “coronavirus” surged immediately afterwards.

Market analyst Connor Campbell of SpreadEx blames president Trump for today’s rout:
With the coronavirus death toll approaching 3000, South Korea suffering another swell of cases, financial warnings from the likes of Microsoft, and the launch of an emergency response plan in Australia, it was hard to find even a modicum of comfort on Thursday morning.
The fact Mike Pence – whose policies helped lead to Indiana’s worst outbreak of HIV, not at the height of the crisis, but in 2014/15 – has been put in charge of the US response to the coronavirus was arguably the tipping point for investors.
It’s an unserious choice by a President who, on Wednesday night, seemed too blasé about the issue for the market’s liking – especially since former Fed chair Janet Yellen speculated that a surge of cases in America could force the country into a recession.
Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also expressed deep concerns last night:
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC)
Mike Pence literally does not believe in science.
It is utterly irresponsible to put him in charge of US coronavirus response as the world sits on the cusp of a pandemic.
This decision could cost people their lives. Pence’s past decisions already have. https://t.co/NhMPOusOWm
February 27, 2020

Investing.com (@Investingcom)
🦠Another Ugly Session In Europe As This Week's #Coronavirus-Related Selloff Continues 🦠
-🇪🇺 Stoxx 50 Down 2.6%
-🇪🇺 Stoxx 600 Down 2.4%
-🇩🇪 Germany's DAX Down 2.4%
-🇫🇷 France's CAC Down 2.6%
-🇮🇹 Italy's FTSE MIB Down 2.3%
-🇪🇸 Spain's IBEX Down 2.3%
-🇬🇧 UK's FTSE 100 Down 2.3% pic.twitter.com/kpVvDOjZkx
February 27, 2020

Standard Chartered, the bank focused on Asia-Pacific markets, has cut its income growth target due to coronavirus.
It warned shareholders it probably won’t hit its previous target of 5-7% income growth, because of the impact of Covid-19 (plus the wider economic slowdown, and the protests in Hong Kong).
Shares in Standard Chartered have slid by 5% in early trading, helping to push the FTSE 100 down.

The European markets are a sickly sea of red this morning.
This fresh wave of selling has wiped another 2% off the EU-wide Stoxx 600 index.
The consumer sector is leading the rout, followed by energy stocks, tech firms, financial companies, industrial stocks and miners (so most of the index, basically!).
European stock markets, February 2019
European stock markets, February 2019 Photograph: Refinitiv

Nearly every company on the FTSE 100 is down today, with travel companies among the top fallers.
In London, budget airline easyJet has slumped by 8% this morning to its lowest level since October. Holiday firm TUI has shed 4.3%.
Cruise firm Carnival are down 3%, at their lowest level since 2014! They’ve lost a sixth of their value since the coronavirus outbreak began.

I reckon the FTSE 100 has plunged into a full-blown correction.
Today’s slump means the index is more than 10% below its recent peak, of 7674 points set on January 17th.

FTSE tumbles again

Newsflash: Britain’s FTSE 100 has fallen more than 2% at the start of trading.
The blue-chip index has shed another 153 points to 6,887. That means it has plunged by 7% this week, as coronavirus fears have swept the City.
Roughly £38bn has been wiped off the index this morning, on top of the £97bn lost on Monday and Tuesday.
The FTSE 100
The FTSE 100 Photograph: Refinitiv
Other European markets are taking a tumble too, with Germany’s DAX tumbling by another 1.8% and France’s CAC down 1.9%.

New Zealand is also bracing for an economic hit from Covid-19, having already seen exports to China cancelled:

Reckitt: strong demand for sprays and disinfectant

Julia Kollewe
Bottle of Antiseptic Dettol liquid disinfectant
Photograph: Alamy
Consumer goods group Reckitt Benckiser says this morning that demand for its Dettol antibacterial soaps, sprays and wipes and its Lysol cleaning and disinfecting products has risen due to the coronavirus outbreak.
At the same time, it has suffered some disruption to its supply chain in China.
The company told shareholders this morning:

“It is too early to fully assess the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on the operational and financial performance of the Group. We are committed to China, to the health of our consumers in China and to the health and safety of our employees in China.
“We are seeing some increased demand for Dettol and Lysol products and are working to support the relevant healthcare authorities and agencies, including through donations, information and education. We do see increased activity online for our consumers in China. Conversely we are seeing some disruption to offline retailers, distribution channels and the supply chain connected to China.”

Investors are “vigilant and broadly fearful” of the growing coronavirus outbreak, despite Donald Trump’s statement on the crisis last night, says Kyle Rodda of IG:

The day turned pear-shaped after US President Donald Trump’s press conference addressing the White House’s response. Trump didn’t say anything too controversial, and spent most of his breath reassuring his constituents that the crisis, within American borders, is under control, despite the significant rise in cases reported in the US yesterday.
Despite this, and for whatever reason, traders reacted to the press-conference poorly, clearly assuming that the situation in the US will likely deteriorate from here.
Jasper Lawler of London Capital Group agrees that the president “failed to alleviate market concerns” during yesterday’s press conference on the coronavirus.
The main takeaway was that the virus will “probably spread in the US”....
We think the next ‘breaking point’ will be when there is a big cluster of cases in the United States. Former Fed-Chair Yellen acknowledged yesterday that “it’s conceivable that coronavirus pushes US into a recession”.

This is turning into a grim week for the markets, even before Europe opens today.....
David Ingles (@DavidInglesTV)
So Asia Pac stocks are now headed for the worst weekly loss in two years and we're not even through with Thursday pic.twitter.com/WA53gEHqh4
February 27, 2020
Holger Zschaepitz (@Schuldensuehner)
Latest Virus rout has wiped out $5tn in global mkt cap, equal to the GDP of Japan. pic.twitter.com/EutkmGnaHx
February 27, 2020

European markets set to tumble again

Traders on the floor of the Buenos Aires Stock Exchange, last night
Traders on the floor of the Buenos Aires Stock Exchange, last night Photograph: Agustin Marcarian/Reuters
Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.
Another day, another sell-off! World stock markets are sliding again today, as the coronavirus continues to spread around the world.
Fears of a global pandemic, and a sharp slowdown in economic growth, are raging through the markets -- as investors fear that governments will fail to contain Covid-19.
European stock markets are expected to tumble sharply today, as the wave of selling accelerates.
Britain’s FTSE 100 is being called down another 1.5%, which would send it to a fresh 13-month low. That would also drive the Footsie into correction territory (more than 10% off its recent peak).
Peter Birks (@peterjbirks)
FTSE 100 looks set to open down about 100 pts in the region of 6900. Trump putting Pence in charge of US response to Covid-19 mysteriously fails to reassure markets.
February 27, 2020
European markets are tipped to tumble by another 2%, with the futures market a sea of red again.
Justin Waite (@SharePickers)
Prepare for another portfolio battering, these are the futures... 🤨 pic.twitter.com/jnmUaod9iQ
February 27, 2020
Asia-Pacific stocks have already slumped today, with Japan’s Nikkei shedding another 2% and South Korea down 1%. Australia’s S&P/ASX index has lost another 0.75%, as Canberra launches its coronavirus emergency plan.
Overnight, South Korea has reported a further 334 new cases of Covid-19, and China reported 433 new confirmed cases, and 29 deaths. The total death toll is nearly 3,000 people, with more than 82,000 infected.
Last night, Microsoft joined the ranks of firms warning that they’ll miss their financial targets - its personal computing supply chain has been disrupted.
Investors have not been reassured by Donald Trump’s attempts to get a grip on the situation. The US president put his deputy, Mike Pence, in charge of coronavirus response, and insisted America “very, very ready for this”.
In a rare trip to the White House briefing room, Trump declared:

The risk to the American people remains very low. We are ready to adapt and we are ready to do whatever we have to as the disease spreads, if it spreads.
There’s no reason to panic . . . this will end.”
Bloomberg Politics (@bpolitics)
President Donald Trump said Americans face little risk from the coronavirus outbreak, seeking to ease public concern after lawmakers raised concern that the government is unprepared. He speaks at a news conference at the White House. https://t.co/zMOK5mVZXK pic.twitter.com/7dNmfN3QyV
February 27, 2020
Investors, though, are in a panicky mood. They’ve realised that company profits could be badly hit if firms can’t source products from China, or sell to their usual outlets.
Wall Street failed to rally last night, with the Dow closing lower -- and it could suffer further falls today too.
David Ingles (@DavidInglesTV)
US futures signaling the S&P 500 may open right on top of the level below which US stocks enter a technical correction. Here we go. pic.twitter.com/lEJ8i7d7GR
February 27, 2020
Ipek Ozkardeskaya, senior analyst at Swissquote Bank, says traders are also concerned that there are now more cases outside China than inside:
News spurred worries that the coronavirus is becoming a global threat and that containment measures elsewhere could further slowdown the global growth. Some European companies paused their business trips for the coming weeks and earnings forecasts are being pulled lower....
The slide we are seeing right now is not the correction of the recent stock rally, but the market’s understanding that the coronavirus outbreak would translate into significantly lower earnings and an anaemic global growth. If we add the fact that the crisis has only started outside China into the mix, there is a meaningful shift in stock valuations.

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