Walmart ‘monitoring’ coronavirus, equity markets fall on potential global economy impact

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 960 views 

Impacts on the global economy from the growing threat of the coronavirus outbreak are beginning to spread with business closures, travel restrictions and losses in equity markets. The Dow Jones Industrial Average on Monday (Jan. 27) fell 1.6%, the Standard & Poor’s 500 was down 1.6% and NASDAQ was down 1.9%.

Bentonville-based Walmart Inc. and Springdale-based Tyson Foods are two Arkansas companies with operations in China.

Wuhan, China, a city in the central part of the country with 11 million residents, is on what Chinese officials call a lockdown. Residents aren’t allowed to leave, and visitors aren’t allowed in. The lockdown, according to some reports, extends in some form to more than 57 million people in 15 Chinese cities.

As of Monday afternoon, Chinese officials were reporting that the virus death toll was above 80, with about 2,800 confirmed cases in the county and “several dozen” cases confirmed in Australia, Japan and the United States.

KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, Starbucks and Disney are just some of the U.S. based operators to close numerous stories in and around Wuhan.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that as of Monday there were 110 cases being monitored in 26 states. Of those, just five were positive and 73 were pending. Confirmed cases are in Arizona, California, Illinois and Washington.

“This is a serious public health threat. The fact that this virus has caused severe illness and sustained person-to-person spread in China is concerning, but it’s unclear how the situation in the United States will unfold at this time,” CDC said of the ongoing outbreak.

Some market watchers said if the outbreak is not soon contained it will “significantly” harm the global economy.

“If the current outbreak turns into a pandemic that significantly disrupts global commerce, the impact would be bad news for the global economy and corporate earnings,” Ed Yardeni, president of Yardeni Research, noted in a Washington Post report.

Molly Maj, with Walmart International Corporate Affairs-Global Communications, said the retailer is monitoring the issue.

“We are monitoring the development of the coronavirus situation and closely following official recommendations. At the same time, we are actively reinforcing good hygiene practices in all of our Walmart and Sam’s Club locations in China and reminding our teams that the health and safety of our associates and customers is our top priority,” Maj said in a note to Talk Business & Politics.

Maj said the retailer has more than 400 stores and 19 distribution centers reaching a market are of more than 170 cities and employing approximately 100,000 in China.

Tyson Foods did not respond to a request for comment.