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News that the world’s most powerful man was infected with the world’s most notorious disease dominated screens large and small, drawing shock, sympathy and some barbs for US President Donald Trump.

The outpouring from world leaders and flagging markets Friday left little doubt that Trump’s illness will have global implications—even if they’re still unknown. Trump’s announcement on Twitter that he and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for the coronavirus prompted a multitude of responses on the same platform, as well as others.

The positive test reading adds to investors’ worries, especially about its effect on the 3 November election between the Republican president and Democrat Joe Biden. US stock futures and most world markets fell on the news as did the price of oil.

The S&P 500 was down 0.5% in afternoon trading, paring its earlier losses. It fell as much as 1.7% shortly after trading began. But the moves weren’t close to as chaotic as earlier this year, when markets were first selling off on coronavirus fears.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 112 points, or 0.4%, at 27,707, as of 12.48pm Eastern time, after earlier being down 433 points. The Nasdaq composite was 1.1% lower.

Covid shock
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Covid shock

Oil prices followed a similar pattern, but underlying concerns about too much supply and too little demand remain firmly in place, while US jobs data were weaker-than-expected, adding to doubts about the economic recovery.

The extraordinary setback for Trump, 74, has immediate political consequences just 31 days before election day, forcing him to cancel campaign trips and adding new volatility to an already turbulent contest.

The White House doctor said that Trump, who was later reported to be suffering “mild symptoms," would continue his presidential “duties without disruption".

The president took a test after close aide Hope Hicks tested positive earlier in the day, with both he and his wife then going into quarantine at the White House.

Trump has spent much of the year downplaying the threat of the virus, rarely wearing a protective mask and urging states and cities to “reopen" and reduce or eliminate shutdown rules.

Both Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris have tested negative, their campaign said. Vice president Mike Pence tested negative for the virus Friday morning and “remains in good health," his spokesman said.

“We are seeing some risk aversion on the back of the Trump news, although as yet the moves we’re seeing are quite modest," Oanda analyst Craig Erlam said.

“Should Trump’s health deteriorate, I expect we would see more significant moves, but there’s no sign of that at this moment."’

Analysts said some of the market’s movements could be explained by investors building up expectations for a Biden victory of the White House.

That could mean higher tax rates and tighter regulations on companies, which would limit profits and hurt stock prices.

But analysts said a Democratic election sweep could also improve the odds for a big rescue package for the economy, one that investors call crucial and one that has been stymied so far by partisanship in Washington. That would provide a boost to markets.

The slowdown is yet another sign that the recovery is trailing off, said Mike Zigmont, director of trading and research at Harvest Volatility Management. The numbers don’t inspire bullishness, but they could be a brighter signal for more help from Congress.

“If the conclusion is that the economic data disappoints, Wall Street may say that’s added incentive for the next stimulus deal to eventually go through and more quickly," he said.

Other reports on the economy were more mixed. Consumer sentiment was stronger for September than economists expected, which is key because their spending drives the bulk of the economy.

AFP contributed to the story.

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