Global markets flat as investors highly worried about coronavirus - GulfToday

Global markets flat as investors highly worried about coronavirus

Global markets flat as investors  highly worried about coronavirus

A currency trader covers his mouth at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea, on Wednesday. Associated Press

Global markets showed more signs of stabilisation on Wednesday as investors looked past China’s coronavirus outbreak and moved back into shares from safe-haven assets such as the yen and German bonds.

World stocks were flat, pulled down by a 3% fall in Hong Kong, where trading resumed after the Lunar New Year holiday. But they stand just 2% off recent record highs following Tuesday’s recovery on Wall Street and gains across Europe.

A pan-European equity index rose 0.5%, extending Tuesday’s 0.8% rise. Bank shares gained almost 1%, thanks to upbeat results from Spain’s Santander, and Swedbank a day earlier.

Equity futures suggest a stronger open for US shares, with the tech-heavy Nasdaq up 0.5%.

Tuesday’s rise was aided by robust earnings from Apple. Of the 104 US companies to report results so far, 68.3% have exceeded expectations, and earnings expectations for the quarter have been upgraded.

“The numbers look pretty solid at the start of the earnings season,” said Neil Campling, an equity analyst at Mirabaud. “But there is obviously caution as further news comes out of China regarding the coronavirus.” The S&P 500 remains 3% below record highs. Investors are looking for earnings from 47 S&P 500 firms on Wednesday, including Facebook, Boeing, General Electric, Microsoft, McDonald’s and AT&T.

Earlier, Chinese equity futures traded in Singapore rebounded from two days of losses to rise 1.79%, the biggest gain in almost seven weeks. Mainland markets remained shut.

“There appears to be more transparency, communication in terms of the virus, and that makes it easier to start assessing the economic fallout. So the markets have taken some comfort from that,” said Rainer Guntermann, a rates strategist at Commerzbank in Frankfurt.

He was comparing the coronavirus response with Beijing’s secretive stance during the 2003 outbreak of the SARS virus, which enabled it to spread faster and claim more victims.

Risk aversion has not completely lifted. With the number of coronavirus fatalities now at 132 and 6,000 cases reported worldwide, there are fears the outbreak could inflict serious damage on Chinese growth, already at three-decade lows.

A Reuters poll predicts Chinese manufacturing stalled in January, after some recovery towards the end of 2019. Several Hong Kong-listed firms warned of damage to profits, and Apple CEO Tim Cook warned of supply chain disruptions.

In currencies, the offshore-traded yuan was little changed at 6.9620 per dollar but held off a one-month low reached earlier this week. Australia’s dollar, which fell to three-month lows this week because of its trade and investment links with China, rose 0.2%.

The safe-haven yen was flat but stayed below two-week highs touched on Monday. The US dollar index edged off two-month highs.

The US Federal Reserve meets later on Wednesday. No change in rates is expected, but speculation has risen that the coronavirus could lead the Fed to abandon its dovish stance. Money markets predict a quarter-point rate cut this year and a small chance of a second.

Fears of economic damage are reflected also in the US Treasury yield curve. Three-month yields briefly rose on Tuesday above 10-year borrowing costs − the curve inversion that sends a fairly reliable recession signal.

As calm returns to markets, the curve has returned to normal, however. Commerzbank’s Guntermann said pricing rate cuts at this stage was “ambitious”.

Treasury 10-year yields were around 1.63%, off Tuesday’s three-month lows around 1.57% hit. German Bund yields also inched higher.

On commodity markets, crude oil futures rose for the second day, after falling amid fears over economic growth and declines in travel demand, with Brent crude up 1% on the day. Gold, which had surged towards $1,600 an ounce on Monday, subsided to around $1,560. Oil prices rose for a second day on Wednesday, recouping some losses after a five-day rout, on talk that OPEC could extend oil output cuts if a new coronavirus hurts demand and data showing a decline in US stockpiles.

Brent crude rose 45 cents, or 0.8%, to $59.96 a barrel by 1150 GMT. US crude was up 33 cents, or 0.6%, at $53.81.

Financial markets that have been hit by the spread of the virus out of China are trying to assess the economic fallout, with the death toll rising to 132 and airlines reducing flights to China.

“While the coronavirus continues to spread both in and outside China the market is trying to adjust positions across all asset classes,” said Saxo Bank analyst Ole Hansen.

“Commodities, most of which depend on global growth and demand, have been caught in the crosshairs of these developments... China (is) the world’s biggest buyer of most commodities, from crude oil and fuel to copper and iron ore.” British Airways suspended all direct flights to and from mainland China after Britain warned against all but essential travel to the country, and jet fuel demand has slumped in Asia as airlines have cancelled connections.


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