March 17, 2020 / 9:18 AM / 18 days ago

MORNING BID-Borders and pubs are shutting. What about markets?

A look at the day ahead from EMEA deputy markets editor Sujata Rao. The views expressed are her own.

So far, suggestions for temporary market shutdowns have mostly been dismissed by regulators but Philippines took that step today, imposing blanket shutdowns of stocks, bonds and FX trading. It cited considerations for traders’ health, but traders elsewhere may welcome such moves for the sake of their frayed nerves as markets leap from one extreme to another, generating scary headlines.

Yesterday was scary enough. President Donald Trump saying the US may be heading into recession (did anyone still doubt that?) a manufacturing index slumping in March for its biggest monthly fall on record and heightened anti-virus measures sent Wall Street into a 12% tailspin, its biggest drop since the 1987 Black Monday, with $3 trillion wiped off its value.

This morning, as if in reaction, many markets are rebounding – S&P500 futures are up 4%, European shares are opening some 3% higher and earlier Australia enjoyed its best day ever with a 6% bounce. But then that’s been the pattern for weeks, markets bounce, then resume falling. Crude futures found a floor of sorts after plunging below $30, as countries step in to buy up cheap crude for strategic reserves.

Some markets continued to tank – South Korea lost 2.4%. Gold prices are down 2%, showing investors’ preference for cash. Airlines are going cap in hand to governments for multi-billion dollar bailouts and loans – all data on that front is dire, with Qantas chairman calling this shock the single biggest in aviation history, worse than 9/11.

But while policymakers throw everything at the problems, market moves appear to be essentially momentum-driven. Rate cuts and billions of dollars in liquidity injections won’t save the day as long as the virus continues its relentless march. The hedge fund Bridgewater has already laid some $15 billion in bets against European companies.

Tonight, G7 finance ministers will hold a call, a day after leaders committed to doing “whatever is necessary” to battle the pandemic. At the moment, it looks like nothing short of helicopter money will satisfy markets. But German finance minister Olaf Scholz thinks it’s too early to think of using the European Stability Mechanism (ESM) to aid euro zone countries. That might be true, but it doesn’t calm markets any.

Southern European bond markets remain under pressure, with Italian 10-year bond yields up a fourth straight session while the yield spread over Germany is creeping up towards 300 bps. But virus-linked spending has sent German yields to three-week highs as well. Inflation expectations everywhere are slumping – versus a 2% inflation target, euro zone inflation forwards are at 0.8% or so. Bond platfom Tradeweb highlights a scary 26- basis-point fall in five-year U.S. breakeven rates from last week (Breakevens are the yield premium on U.S. Treasury bonds versus comparable inflation-protected securities)

The dollar continues to rally, jumping 1% to the yen, 0.6% to the Aussie and up against almost every other currency. Germany’s ZEW survey for March should echo the downbeat tone from all other such surveys and datapoints across the world — expectations are for a contraction to minus 30 (Feb +8.7).

European stocks are up across the board. But jeweller Pandora has withdrawn its financial outlook while VW said it was impossible to give an outlook for 2020 because of the virus. Mobile phone retailer Dixons Carphone will axe 2,900 jobs, closing all UK standalone Carphone Warehouse stores.

UK government advice to avoid pubs, clubs, restaurants, cinemas and theatres is hitting Whitbread, Marston’s , Cineworld, JD Weatherspoon and Mitchells & Butlers. But in some good coronavirus news, Pfizer signed a deal with Germany’s BioNTech to co-develop a potential vaccine for the coronavirus.

Emerging-market stocks are down 0.8% to 44-month lows. Taiwan and South Korea lead the losses with 2.5% to 3% falls — stocks in Seoul at one point tumbled nearly 5% to decade lows. The overall EM equity index – which is Asia-heavy – has fallen nearly 30% since Jan 20. On currencies, the Korean won hit its e lowest in nearly a decade and Indonesia’s rupiah lost 1.3% to 16-month lows.

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