What happened:

China’s new strain of the coronavirus, which has already spread to at least three other countries and could spread further during the Chinese New Year holiday travel rush, has sent European luxury stocks tumbling, including the likes of LVMH, Kering, Richemont, and Burberry. Official reports say that coronavirus, a respiratory virus that causes pneumonia-like symptoms and that can be passed in between humans, has already killed four people and infected nearly 291 in China, according to state media China Daily on Tuesday. But the actual outbreak might prove worse.

An estimate by scientists from University of Hong Kong said today that nearly 1,700 people in Wuhan, China — where the virus  outbreak started — may have also been infected. As China’s 40-day Spring Festival travel season just kicked off, health experts are also discouraging people to travel to Wuhan, though major cities like Beijing and Shanghai already have confirmed cases. Given the increasing concern of a global outbreak, stocks of European luxury brands that rely heavily on the Chinese market have slumped as a result. Compared to last Friday, LVMH and Burberry’s stock fell 3%, while Kering lost over 4%, and Richemont’s declined almost 5.5%.

The Jing Take:

Luxury veterans might still remember how the SARS outbreak in China left the industry in despair in the early 2000s, leading to billions in losses and cost the Chinese GDP growth by nearly 1%. At the moment, however, it’s difficult to predict how much economic damage a potential coronavirus outbreak will be for China, as well as the global economy. For Western luxury brands, there is not much they can do at this point other than paying close attention to how their consumers are reacting and pray that the Chinese government has potential epidemic under control, as it claimed this Monday. Time will tell.

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