Moody's sharply cuts global auto sales outlook on coronavirus fall-out

March 27 (Reuters) - Credit ratings agency Moody’s Investor Service on Friday sharply cut its 2020 outlook for global auto sales, with Western Europe expected to take the biggest hit as the coronavirus outbreak worsens outside of China.

The agency said it now expects global auto sales to fall 14% in 2020, much more than its previous estimate of about 2.5% drop in February.

The credit rating agency here now expects auto sales in Western Europe to see the steepest drop-off in demand - at 21% this year, sharply weaker than its previous forecast of a 4% decline.

In China, the world’s largest market, auto unit sales are expected to fall 10%, a steeper decline than the previous projection of a 2.9% drop.

In the U.S., the agency expects light vehicle sales to fall at least 15% in 2020, weakening from its previous forecast of a 1.2% decline.

The number of U.S. coronavirus infections climbed above 82,000 on Thursday, surpassing the national tallies of China and Italy.

Auto sales in China plunged 79.1% in February, marking their biggest ever monthly decline, as the outbreak hit demand, data from the country’s largest auto industry association showed earlier this month.

The pandemic, which has killed more than 22,000 people globally, has forced the shutdown of auto plants around the world as entire cities have gone into lockdown to stem the spread of the virus. (Reporting by Rachit Vats in Bengaluru; Editing by Bernard Orr)