World Stocks Tank After Swine Flu Weekend

Even if swine flu doesn’t prove to be particularly deadly — it’s hard to say at this point — just the panic and loss of confidence could be devastating.

After watching how fast the swine flu spread around the world (with cases across the US, in Hong Kong, New Zealand, Canada and elsewhere, not to mention Mexico) traders everywhere sold off shares.

AP: As trading in Europe got under way, benchmarks in Britain, France and Germany fell about 1 per cent or more. U.S. stock futures pointed to losses on Wall Street. Dow futures fell 152 points, or 1.9 per cent, to 7,904 and S&P 500 futures slipped 14.6, or 1.7 per cent, to 851.90.

Earlier in Asia, most markets fell.

Hong Kong, which was ground zero for Asia’s last major disease scare six years ago, suffered some of the region’s biggest losses with the Hang Seng falling 418.43, or 2.7 per cent, to 14,840.42. Korea’s Kospi lost 1.1 per cent to 1,339.83.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 stock average managed a gain of 18.35, or 0.2 per cent, to close at 8,726.34 in back-and-forth trade. Australia’s stock measure gained 0.5 per cent while Shanghai’s fell 1.8 per cent. Markets in Singapore, Taiwan and India retreated.

Some big winners, however, were drug makers. Chugai Pharmaceutical, a maker of Tamiflu, rose 14% in Japan. Australia’s Biota jumped 82%. Conversely airlines were hit hard, as governments are expected to maintain tight controls over travel and trade as long as the crisis persists.

Meanwhile, for a good discussion of swine flu morbidity and some of the issues involved, see Megan McArdle.

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