Coronavirus correction, kitchen contagion, the biggest bang

Good morning, Quartz readers!

What to watch for today and over the weekend

Can the markets bounce back from coronavirus? While Chinese stocks may be near a bottom, US markets continued their free fall with the Dow Jones Industrial Average shedding nearly 1,200 points—the most ever in one day—and the S&P 500 dropping 4.5% to initiate the fastest stock market correction (a 10% fall from its peak) in history. Meanwhile, investors are running out of safe havens and Goldman Sachs (which has its own coronavirus concerns) is now predicting zero earnings growth this year. The massive selloff also halted trading on Canadian stock exchanges one day before the country is expected to publish lackluster GDP figures.

China releases key economic data. Analysts are expecting a significant falloff when China reports its most recent Purchasing Managers’ Index survey results. Although some quarantines and travel restrictions are loosening, February saw massive disruption to Chinese industrial production.

The US and Afghanistan Taliban are expected to sign a deal after 18 years of war. If the weeklong “reduction in violence” holds, a Taliban negotiator and US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad will sign an agreement Saturday that would then start talks to finalize a permanent ceasefire.

While you were sleeping, the coronavirus was spreading

The US woke up to the threat of coronavirus. Health officials have confirmed the first US case of coronavirus contracted by a person who has not recently traveled overseas in California, where 8,400 people are currently being monitored for symptoms. The US government is also buying half a billion face masks, and there are reports that the White House is considering exercising extraordinary powers to order domestic manufacturing of protective gear.

Businesses adjusted to a new reality. Facebook canceled its F8 developers conference over contagion concerns and Amazon took down more than one million coronavirus-related products from its ecommerce platform over dubious claims. Apple CEO Tim Cook, on the other hand, said his company is reopening factories and Starbucks boasted that 85% of their Chinese stores have reopened—though Beijing is still urging serious workplace precautions. But the global garment supply chain that runs through Southeast Asia hasn’t been so lucky.

The impact of the coronavirus outside China deepened. Japan announced that it would close all schools for about a month. A fourth Iranian official, this time a well-known vice president, has contracted the disease. And Germany is considering tax breaks to counteract the coming economic slowdown.

Coronavirus came to your kitchen. Quarantines have led food delivery orders to increase fourfold in some parts of China, and the US might be next. Meanwhile, rumors in India have caused chicken prices to drop by 70% in some areas. Beverages have been impacted too with Coca-Cola saying that the global Diet Coke supply is in jeopardy but, on the bright side, almond milk prices may go down. What’s not going down? These highly questionable Corona beer ads.

Shutterstock employees told to choose between Chinese censorship or their jobs. Staffers sent a petition decrying censorship for Chinese users, and COO Stan Pavlovsky reportedly told them they can “pursue other opportunities” if it’s an issue.

Quartz membership

TikTok is China’s first truly global app. With hundreds of millions of monthly users and burgeoning TikTok stars, ByteDance’s hit video app is here to stay. But “TikTok’s roots are a double-edged sword,” writes Quartz reporter Jane Li. This week’s field guide for members tells you why.

Quartz daily obsession

Why is raising one digit so rude? The use of the middle finger as a simple, crude, and highly effective form of expression dates back thousands of years. It’s also a truly international insult. So where does it come from, and what does it really mean? Put your finger on the pulse with the Quartz Daily Obsession.

Matters of debate

Crypto will become the United Nations’ money of the future. UNICEF’s adoption of bitcoin could lead to greater UN independence.

A robot will be your next boss at work. As people worry about machines taking their jobs, evidence shows that they may actually become your next boss first.  

Fighting food waste is a waste of time. It doesn’t tackle the problems of a deeply flawed food system.

Surprising discoveries

Astronomers observed the biggest explosion in the universe. The record-breaking blow up was caused by a black hole 390 million light-years away from Earth.

The bankrupt Boy Scouts may have to sell some art. Faced with paying sexual assault victims, the organization may need to auction off some rare Norman Rockwell paintings.

Mighty ducks to the rescue. China is considering deploying hundreds of thousands of ducks to combat locust swarms in Pakistan.

Scientists discovered the first creature that doesn’t need oxygen to live. It’s changing the definition of what an animal can be.

Perfumiers created the scent of terror. It’s a protest against the opening of a perfume store in a historic Moscow building with a violent history.

Our best wishes for a productive day. Please send any news, comments, deathly perfume, and bug-eating ducks to Get the most out of Quartz by downloading our app on iOS or Android and becoming a member. Today’s Daily Brief was brought to you by Max Lockie and Patrick deHahn.