March 23, 2020 / 12:40 AM / 14 days ago

Market panic lingers despite unprecedented Fed support

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Global equities slid further and safe-haven assets rose on Monday after a massive array of new programs from the U.S. Federal Reserve underscored the “severe” disruptions the coronavirus pandemic poses to a fast-weakening world economy.

Traditional safe-havens such as gold, U.S. Treasury and German debt rose while industrial metals fell as the outlook for global growth grew dimmer.

London aluminum prices slumped to their lowest since June 2016 while Shanghai copper fell to the weakest in nearly 11 years on fears that shackled businesses in a growing number of countries will usher in a severe recession.

Oil prices slid further as the epidemic crushes demand worldwide.

The Fed for the first time will back purchases of corporate bonds, backstop direct loans to companies and “soon” will roll out a program to get credit to small and medium-sized business as it intervenes beyond the financial markets.

“While great uncertainty remains, it has become clear that our economy will face severe disruptions,” the Fed said in a statement. “The coronavirus pandemic is causing tremendous hardship across the United States and around the world.”

While S&P 500 futures rose sharply after the announcement, U.S. stocks mostly traded in the red from the opening bell, dropping almost 5% at one point.

“It’s their bazooka moment. It’s their ‘We’ll do whatever it takes’ moment,” Russell Price, chief economist at Ameriprise Financial Services in Troy, Michigan, said about the U.S. central bank’s latest move.

“But quite frankly the market is just in a waiting period right now until the virus runs its course and some of the therapies and other treatments are able to improve outcomes.”

Morgan Stanley analysts said they expect global growth to dip close to global financial crisis lows and U.S. growth to drop to a 74-year low in 2020. Goldman Sachs sent a similar warning.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 582.05 points, or 3.04%, to 18,591.93. The S&P 500 lost 67.52 points, or 2.93%, to 2,237.4 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 18.84 points, or 0.27%, to 6,860.67.

The Dow at one point traded below its closing level on Nov. 8, 2016, effectively erasing all the gains since the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index lost 4.30% and MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe shed 3.29%.

FILE PHOTO: The final numbers of the day are displayed above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) stands empty as the building prepares to close indefinitely due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in New York, U.S., March 20, 2020. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Emerging market stocks lost 5.6%. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan closed 5.75% lower, while Japan’s Nikkei rose 2.02%.

Globally, analysts are dreading data on weekly U.S. jobless claims due on Thursday amid forecasts they could balloon by 750,000 and possibly by more than a million.

The Fed’s moves pressured the U.S. dollar, which has risen sharply as the panic-selling drove investors toward the liquidity of the greenback and dollar-denominated assets.

The buying continued in U.S. Treasuries, for example, and yields fell sharply.

“At the end of the day, the Fed’s injections announced Monday are designed to backstop liquidity in market functioning but cannot avert the economic calamity that’s already underway,” said Jon Hill, U.S. rates strategist at BMO Capital Markets.

“It really is just trying to make sure markets work and companies and municipalities can access markets when needed, but that doesn’t mean layoffs aren’t coming, it doesn’t mean that a recession is not coming. And if you’re the equity market, it’s really hard to rally even on that news.”

Yields fell dramatically on U.S. government debt, sharply lifting their price.

Benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury notes rose 48/32 in price to yield 0.7863%, from 0.938% late on Friday. The 30-year bond jumped 182/32 in price to yield 1.3433%, down from 1.562% on Friday.

The dollar index rose 0.039%, with the euro up 0.27% to $1.0723.

The Japanese yen weakened 0.45% versus the greenback at 111.26 per dollar.

U.S. gold futures settled 5.5% higher at $1,567.60 an ounce.

Investors are waiting on the U.S. government to pass stimulus to support the economy.

“I think the one thing we really need to see is more fiscal ammunition coming to the fore,” said Mazen Issa, senior currency strategist at TD Securities in New York. “You’ve got to think about those that are asked to be socially distant and stay home from work and not earn a paycheck, and they’re taking their time to make them whole. They need to speed it up.”

Slideshow (4 Images)

U.S. crude recently rose $1.14 to $23.77 per barrel and Brent was recently at $27.27, up 29 cents on the day.

Graphic: World FX rates in 2020 here

Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; additional reporting by Herbert Lash, Karen Brettell, Kate Duguid in New York, Marc Jones in London and Uday Sampath Kumar and Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Dan Grebler, Cynthia Osterman and David Gregorio

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