Yields on key UK government bonds became negative for the first time ever on 9 March 2020, according to Reuters. Investors have been rushing to the security of government bonds, as UK stocks have also seen their worst intraday drop in share price since 2008, amid fears of the economic effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Negative yields mean that investors who choose gilts will actually lose money on their initial investment, at least until the yields become positive again.
The FTSE 100, which lists the 100 largest UK companies by market value, fell to a three year low on 9 March. Japan’s Nikkei index and the Tokyo Stock Price Index also dropped 5% on Monday morning. The UK and Japan share value drops followed a 30% collapse in oil prices as the Saudi government decided to boost its oil output, following OPEC and non-OPEC countries’ failure to agree to limit their oil production on 6 March. Meanwhile the US-based Dow Jones Industrial Average Index along with the S&P 500 also saw major falls in share value on 6 March as COVID-19 fears fuel major sell-offs of corporate stocks.
UK Prime minister Boris Johnson is due to hold an emergency meeting today to discuss tackling COVID-19. The British government is also expected to hold a conference call with supermarkets regarding their planned response to the current epidemic and its effects. Reuters reports that the supermarket chain Tesco has already restricted the bulk purchase of certain goods such as hand sanitiser gel, long-life milk and dry pasta.
The UK has thus far recorded three deaths (including two elderly patients with underlying health problems) and 18 recoveries, out of 280 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infections. According to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 live interactive database there are currently 111,228 total confirmed cases worldwide, with 62,369 recoveries (56.07%) and 3,892 deaths as of 11:03:12 a.m on 9 March 2020.
This means that the current fatality rate for the illness is 3.50%. By comparison, influenza kills an estimated 0.1% of those infected annually, while SARS and MERS had fatality rates of 9 - 10% and 36% respectively.