Coronavirus News USA

The US dollar strengthens while stock markets are routed as coronavirus panic continues



US stock futures were sharply lower Thursday, retreating just hours after recording a brief spike when the European Central Bank announced it would pump $821 billion into keeping the financial system afloat. The ECB’s measure is just the latest emergency stimulus plan announced by a central bank to help economies in the face of a potentially disastrous worldwide recession.
Dow (INDU) futures were last down 840 points, or 4.2%, while S&P 500 (SPX) futures fell 4.5%. Nasdaq (COMP) futures were down 3.6%.
The declines in US stock futures tracked with Asia Pacific. The Korean Exchange briefly suspended trading in Seoul after markets there plummeted, tripping a circuit breaker. The benchmark Kospi (KOSPI) is down 7.3% after falling more than 9% at one point.
The Kospi was the region’s worst performer, but equities elsewhere were all down, too. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was last down 4%, erasing a 3% gain it made to start the day. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index (HSI) fell 4.5%, while China’s Shanghai Composite (SHCOMP) was last down 2.3%.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 (N225) last traded down 1.2%, clinging to the distinction of being the region’s best performer. The Bank of Japan earlier offered to buy 1 trillion yen ($9 billion) worth of Japanese government bonds in an unscheduled move.

But global restrictions on movement and the continued spread of the coronavirus are outweighing the responses from policymakers, according to analysts at UBS Global Wealth Management CIO.

“In the absence of credible signs that infection numbers in the western world can be controlled, volatility is likely to remain elevated,” they wrote in a research note.

The dollar’s strength

The US dollar, meanwhile, jumped to a record high against the Mexican peso. The greenback also rose against the Japanese yen — a traditional safe haven currency — to its highest level since February.

Currencies elsewhere in Asia weakened Thursday, too.

“The strong US dollar is slamming global capital markets like a sledgehammer today,” wrote Stephen Innes, global chief markets strategist at AxiCorp. He added in a research note that the “unbridled” demand for the world’s reserve currency is causing extreme weakness in the Australian and New Zealand dollar, as well as the Korean won.

Central banks in emerging markets are also in a “world of pain,” Innes said, as they can’t justify selling reserves of the dollar when their local banks are seeing a rise in demand for the currency.

“That merely signals more [US dollar] strength to come as the buying frenzy continues,” he added.

The British pound has also been routed. The currency has fallen to roughly $1.15, trading at its lowest levels against the dollar since the 1980s. The United Kingdom has been rattled by the virus, and is now considering a partial lockdown in London to stem its spread, multiple sources have told CNN.

Central banks take dramatic steps

Equity markets, meanwhile, don’t seem to have been helped much by the flurry of steps taken worldwide by central banks to stave off catastrophic economic turmoil. News of the European Central Bank’s massive economic rescue plan only managed to prop up stocks for a couple of hours before they sank again.

Other central banks also detailed new plans during daytime hours in Asia, with little effect on stock markets. The US Federal Reserve, for example, said it would enhance liquidity for critical money markets.

And the Reserve Bank of Australia announced it would cut rates to 0.25%, also in a bid to manage the coronavirus fallout. Other banks will likely follow, according to Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst for Asia Pacific at Oanda.

“The central banks of Indonesia, Taiwan and the Philippines all meet today, and universally, I expect them all to cut rates,” he wrote in a research note. “Unfortunately, it will come just as pressure on their currencies reaches a frenzied level, but it will be the lesser of two evils.”

— Clare Duffy, Jake Kwon and David Goldman contributed to this report.



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