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The World Health Organization said yesterday that coronavirus cases outside China were accelerating. Around 80,000 people in nearly 40 countries have been infected, and at least 2,600 have died.

Draconian measures in China have slowed the spread there, the W.H.O. noted, but the outbreak could prove hard to contain elsewhere. Most health experts are worried about Iran, Italy and South Korea. Japanese officials said today that the country, which has more than 800 confirmed cases, was at a “crossroads” in fighting the outbreak.

If other countries followed China’s “bold approach,” as the W.H.O. put it, widespread quarantines and other restrictions would hit the global economy hard. This fear was partially responsible for yesterday’s tumultuous markets, as investors hedged their portfolios, businesses revised their forecasts, and officials prepared for the worst.

Profit warnings from companies are piling up, as the outbreak’s impact on supply chains and consumer spending takes its toll.

United Airlines abandoned its earnings guidance for 2020, saying “the range of possible scenarios is too wide” to provide a sensible forecast. With some understatement, it said demand for flights to China was down “approximately 100 percent.”

  • Updated Feb. 10, 2020

    • What is a Coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crown-like spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people, and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is possibly transmitted through the air. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • How worried should I be?
      While the virus is a serious public health concern, the risk to most people outside China remains very low, and seasonal flu is a more immediate threat.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      World Health Organization officials have praised China’s aggressive response to the virus by closing transportation, schools and markets. This week, a team of experts from the W.H.O. arrived in Beijing to offer assistance.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The United States and Australia are temporarily denying entry to noncitizens who recently traveled to China and several airlines have canceled flights.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.

Expectations for a Fed rate cut (or two) are rising, although central bank officials are reluctant to factor epidemiology into their forecasts for the U.S. economy. For their part, Goldman Sachs economists cut their estimate of first-quarter G.D.P. growth to just above 1 percent, saying the risks are “clearly skewed to the downside.”

Falling markets and weaker growth could be a threat to President Trump’s re-election chances, a source of consternation inside the White House. The president tweeted yesterday that the virus was under control in the U.S., and the drop in stocks meant the market was “starting to look very good to me!” The White House’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, added that investors should “seriously consider buying these dips.”

A Manhattan jury convicted Harvey Weinstein yesterday of two counts of two felony sex crimes but acquitted him of charges of being a sexual predator. No matter: It was a big moment in holding powerful men accountable in a court of law.

On CNBC yesterday, Warren Buffett told Andrew he would “have no trouble voting for Mike Bloomberg,” though he cautioned that support from a fellow billionaire might not help Mr. Bloomberg win the Democratic presidential nomination.

On buying Bloomberg’s company if the eponymous founder became president, Mr. Buffett — whose Berkshire Hathaway is sitting on $128 billion in cash and loves cash-rich companies with fat profit margins — didn’t mince words:

CNBC’s Becky Quick: If Michael Bloomberg becomes the Democratic candidate, would you consider buying his company?

Mr. Buffett: No. (Laughs.) I can give you a categorical answer to that.

Ms. Quick: Because of the price, because of …?

Mr. Buffett: There’d be somebody who’d pay more.

We threw out some names of potential Bloomberg buyers, including Mr. Buffett, in the newsletter last week … but that was before Mr. Bloomberg’s debate debut.

Fun fact: Mr. Buffett has finally traded in his flip phone for an iPhone, a sign of brand allegiance (in addition, of course, to his company’s $74 billion stake in Apple).

Deals

• HP plans to counter Xerox’s hostile takeover bid with a plan to buy back $15 billion worth of stock. (WSJ)

• Revolut, the popular British fintech start-up, has raised $500 million at a $5.5 billion valuation. (Quartz)

• SoftBank’s second Vision Fund has reportedly invested $100 million in Behavox, a compliance software start-up. (Bloomberg)

Politics and policy

• President Trump received a huge welcome in India. But that won’t get him any closer to a trade deal with New Delhi. (NYT)



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