US, European and Asian equity futures fell sharply on Friday in response to news that US president Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive for coronavirus.
“Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!” Trump said in a tweet on Friday morning.
The White House also released a letter from the president’s physician, Dr Sean Conley, saying that he and the White House medical team will “maintain a vigilant watch” over Trump’s health. “Rest assured I expect the President to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering, and I will keep you updated on any future developments,” he wrote.
The news had a swift impact on global stocks. Japan’s Nikkei closed 0.6% down in a reversal of its earlier gains, and Australia’s ASX 200 closed 1.4% down.
European markets fell at the open, with the German DAX, French CAC 40 and UK FTSE 100 falling by 1.4%, 1.3% and 1.1% respectively. The pan-European Stoxx 600 also fell 0.8% in early trading.
US futures naturally took a hit, with S&P 500 and Dow Jones futures each losing 1.2% while Nasdaq futures fell by 1.6%. Overnight in mainland China, the Shenzen Component ended flat and the Shanghai Composite closed down 0.2%, while the Hong Kong Hang Seng rose 0.8%.
“This is potentially a strong market negative,” said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at Asia Pacific OANDA, noting that the possibility of COVID-19 spreading to Senate leadership could damage markets and the wider economy further by potentially halting recently resumed negotiations over fiscal stimulus.
Market analysts have been paying close attention to the looming presidential election, with deVere Group noting that investors’ greatest fear for 2020 is the possibility of a disputed result.