Asia Minute: China Returns To Work Next Week

Feb 7, 2020

Travel restrictions are increasing around the world on visitors from China. Yesterday, Taiwan imposed a total ban on travelers coming from anywhere in the country. Tomorrow, Hong Kong will begin a mandatory two week quarantine for everyone arriving from mainland China. And next week will see another big change for the country.

China’s extended Lunar New Year holiday is coming to an end. Government officials added time to fight the coronavirus, but Monday is back to work day.

An official with the China Railway Corporation told a news conference in Beijing that about two to three million people are expected to travel each day from tomorrow through Tuesday.

The South China Morning Post quotes the chief economist at the Industrial Bank of Shanghai as saying that getting people back to work could help contain the outbreak. Lu Zhengwei says, “the supply of masks, protective suits and disinfectant will all depend on having more workers getting back to work, as will the emptying shelves in supermarkets.”

Longer-term economic costs from supply chains to consumer behavior of course depend on how long the crisis lasts, but some have been surprised by the recent behavior of financial markets.

After plunging on worries about the virus in late January, major stock indices have bounced — even in China. Individual stocks have often moved on individual stories — airlines and hotels have slumped, some pharmaceuticals have risen.

But any gains have not been based on long-term economic strength.

As others have pointed out for years, financial markets often move in the elusive space between fear and greed.