Virus threatens US companies supply of Chinese-made parts and materials

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The battle to contain the Chinese coronavirus threatens to cut off U.S. companies from parts and materials they need to produce iPhones, automobiles, appliances and for treating medical conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, high blood pressure and malaria.

Some of the United States’ best-known manufacturers such as General Electric, Caterpillar and the Big Three automakers, along with many smaller American businesses, depend on what is made in Chinese factories.

Now, they confront life without those items. Major airlines in the United States and Europe are halting their cargo and passenger flights to China for up to two months. Recent visitors to the country are barred from entering the United States.

After four decades of growing integration with the rest of the world, China almost overnight has become an economic island. Its temporary isolation – no one knows for how long – will hurt companies that depend on Chinese inputs as well as those that sell to Chinese customers.

Consumer electronics makers are among the most vulnerable since many game consoles, smartphones and tablets are made in China. On Saturday, Apple announced that it had closed all of its corporate offices and retail stores in China – where it booked $44 billion in sales last year – until Feb. 9 because of the virus.

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