It would be hard to find two billionaires more unlike than Warren Buffett and Donald Trump. Yet, interestingly, the stock guru and American president both think the global stock market plunge is a buying opportunity. Certainly, if you have a long investment horizon like Buffett or want a buoyant economy to boost your chances of re-election, it makes sense to take such a blasé view of the latest market rout. Ordinary investors, though, may be forgiven for taking a much gloomier view. After almost two months since China revealed the coronavirus outbreak, stock markets have finally taken notice. The markets have certainly taken their time, but this doesn’t mean the panic is unjustified. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index dropped weeks earlier than the rest of the world because of its exposure to the Chinese economy, which was already suffering from a steep slowdown before the outbreak. The global market rout, however, came as Japan, South Korea and Italy reported what increasingly looked like domestic outbreaks. The number of cases in Iran, including deaths, has suddenly shot up. Senior American health officials have warned that the spread of the virus is a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’, in the United States. Whether the World Health Organisation decides the crisis qualifies as a pandemic, there is no denying the virus has spread around the globe. The one bright spot is that China’s drastic containment measures seem to have produced a downward trend in the number of new cases. Even so, it’s premature to declare success. New cases in South Korea exceed those in China as virus sweeps globe Given the high levels of alarm and the relatively low mortality rate of the virus, the economic concern is not that the worldwide outbreak won’t be contained eventually. Rather, it has to do with its immediate disruption to China’s manufacturing sector, whose key role in global supply chains has already affected other industrial hubs outside the country. A bet for or against equities is really a gamble on whether China and the global economy will revive or be pushed into recession. Sadly, Hong Kong is in a worse place. The double whammy of the US-China trade war and violent anti-government protests have already forced the city into a recession. The viral outbreak has made it much worse. The hope is that the Chinese economic engine will recover and in doing so, pull Hong Kong back from the brink. But even optimists don’t think China can quickly repair its supply chains and restore the confidence of international buyers. Back in Hong Kong, the local political impasse remains; there is no telling whether protest violence will return with a vengeance once the coronavirus crisis is over. Buffett teaches people to be greedy when others are fearful. Most investors may just want to batten down the hatches and wait for the storm to pass.