Impact of Coronavirus Fears Hit Businesses in Boston, Across US

NBCUniversal, Inc.

For Peter Skiera, most of his problems are packaged in the small speakers he repairs inside his office in Boston. But Monday, there were much bigger issues to address at Como Audio, where production has stalled since the conoravirus emerged in China.

"We rely 100% on China for the production," said Skiera, vice president of product development for the company.

Like many American companies, Como Audio relies on factories in China to supply its inventory. Over the last few weeks, most have had to figure out a way to maintain business without new products.

"Product development stopped. Shipments of goods stopped. And it created quite a pinch for us," explained Skiera. "We have some stock and we have some stuff that's going to be hitting our warehouse this week that was in process before the Chinese New Year."

The constraints have been plaguing companies around the globe, which culminated Monday when the U.S. stock market plunged. By midday, the Dow Jones industrial average had fallen more than 1,000 points.

"This is a fear trade we are seeing today," said Jim Lowell of Adivser Investments.

Since the outbreak of the virus, Lowell said the market has remained overly optimistic. But with a spike in cases in Italy over the weekend, concern took hold and changed the response. Lowell expects that will continue until the virus is contained.

"All of this fear is pressing down like a diver on a springboard," Lowell said. "When that fear dissipates, this market is going to jump higher than most people expect."

But when that will happen remains unclear. For companies like Como Audio, a clear timeline is crucial.

"I don't think it's gotten to the point where it's crisis mode," said Skiera. "Luckily, we had a lot of stock, so I don't think we are quite there yet … But if this continues to drag on, we will get to that point."

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