Coronavirus impact ‘will be bigger than trade war’

Coronavirus will have a greater impact on global trade than the US-China trade war, knocking off $26bn a week in lost exports, a report has found.

Euler Hermes, which insures payments to exporters, estimates that the weekly loss will be equivalent to a rise in the world import tariff on goods by 1 percentage point – more than the effect of the trade spat last year, which was 0.7 percentage points.

The shock will occur via shocks on both the supply and demand sides as manufacturing production stalls, exports to China fall and travel is reduced. Germany, Hong Kong, South Korea, the US and Japan are the most exposed.

“While the negative spillovers from the coronavirus epidemic will not last for more than three months, we doubt the global economy is strong enough to catch up entirely after the loss, given that the growth acceleration in the second half will be capped by US-driven uncertainty,” Euler said.

The disruption to global supply chains could reach the shelves of the British high street by the end of the month if the outbreak is not contained. Companies have told analysts at UBS that Chinese factories being shuttered until the end of February would start to impact the availability of stock at retail giants.

Dunelm, H&M and Card Factory were considered by UBS among the most vulnerable to further disruption in Chinese factories.

The three retailers were estimated to have exposure to the materials and labour needed for products – known as the cost of goods sold or manufacturing exposure – of at least 50pc.

“From our discussions with companies it seems product availability would be more significantly impacted if factories remained closed in March,” warned Olivia Townsend, analyst at UBS.

However, the retailers played down supply worries following the outbreak.

Dunelm said it was “monitoring the Coronavirus outbreak carefully” but has not “assumed any material disruption to our supply chain or any financial impact”.

H&M said its “strong presence in several production countries gives us flexibility” while Card Factory said it has “looked at our supply chain and identified alternative sources where necessary”, insisting it is “well insulated”.

Meanwhile, Apple has been blocking staff and visitors from its offices, including in London, who have returned from China in the last fortnight.

The iPhone maker warns arrivals that due to the coronavirus risk they should rearrange meetings to video calls when as they check in to its offices worldwide, The Telegraph has learned.

The global tech giant faces potential delays to its device supply chain as its biggest suppliers on mainland China, such as Foxconn, are forced to keep workers at home.

This week, analyst firm Wedbush Securities predicted that for every week its factories remained closed, Apple could lose out on up to a million iPhone sales in the quarter.

Apple boss Tim Cook said in January the company was working on “mitigation plans” for its supply chain.

Separately Innocent, the smoothie maker which is now controlled by Coca-Cola, has had to push back its ambitious plans to launch in China.

“We’ve been planning it for a long time. We have just launched in Japan, and we were about to launch in China in two weeks’ time, but we’ve told the teams to stay at home and look after themselves until things improve,” chief executive Douglas Lamont said.

Additional reporting by Tom Rees, Hannah Uttley, Matthew Field and Laura Onita

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