Asian markets set for more losses as coronavirus spreads

Tom Westbrook, Reuters

Posted at Mar 02 2020 08:04 AM

A man wearing a protective mask is seen inside the Shanghai Stock Exchange building, as the country is hit by a new coronavirus outbreak, at the Pudong financial district in Shanghai, China Feb. 28, 2020. Aly Song, Reuters

SINGAPORE - Stock futures plummeted on Monday as investors were rattled by weekend data from China that showed its fastest ever contraction in factory activity, raising fears of a global recession from the coronavirus.

Pandemic fears pushed markets off a precipice last week, wiping more than $5 trillion from global share market value as stocks suffered their steepest slump in more than a decade.

The sheer scale of losses has prompted financial markets to price in policy responses from the US Federal Reserve to the Bank of Japan and the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA).

Futures now imply a full 50 basis point cut by the Fed in March while Australian markets are pricing in a quarter-point cut at the RBA's Tuesday meeting.

In equities, e-minis for the S&P500 declined more than 1 percent in early Asian trading while futures for Japan's Nikkei imply a 2 percent drop.

Australia and New Zealand shares were down 2.2 percent and 3.2 percent, respectively, in early trade.

The implied yield on US 10-Year Treasury futures traded below 1 percent for the first time.

"The outsized sell-off in risk assets and bid for safe havens last week implies that markets are anticipating further acceleration (of the virus' spread)," Barclays analysts said in a note.

Investor panic last week sent bonds soaring and stocks plunging. The S&P 500 index fell 11.5 percent, only its fifth double-digit weekly drop since 1940.

Yields on US government bonds, which fall when prices rise, hit a record low 1.1160 percent.

Oil prices dropped to their lowest in more than a year and even gold plunged as holders liquidated what they could to cover margin calls on riskier investments.

In currencies, investors sought shelter in the Japanese yen, which jumped to a 20-week high on the dollar in tandem with a massive shift in money markets, which now expect imminent rate cuts in the United States.

All of this leaves just about every major asset class on edge and few analysts sounding optimistic.

"So it was right not to 'buy the dip,'" said Michael Every, Rabobank's senior strategist for the Asia-Pacific.

The yen was last up 0.4 percent at 107.66.

The Aussie and its New Zealand cousin huddled near 11-year lows at $0.65 and $0.6224, respectively. The euro was up 0.3 percent at $1.1062.

That left the dollar index off 0.2 percent at 97.911.

China's Caixin Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), due at 0145 GMT (9:45 a.m. in Manila), and PMI figures from around the world due later on Monday will add more detail to the picture of economic pain.

Later in the week, central bank meetings in Australia, on Tuesday, and Canada, on Wednesday, will be closely watched.