Virus Fear Drops Stocks to 4-Month Low; Bonds Jump: Markets Wrap

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(Bloomberg) — Fear over the economic fallout from the spreading coronavirus continued to rattle global markets, sending U.S. equities to a seventh straight loss and sparking demand for safe assets from Treasuries to the yen.

The S&P 500 plunged 3% Friday and is now down almost 15% from its record. The index is headed for for its worst week since 2008 and is mired in its longest slump in over three years. The sank to the lowest since June. The Cboe Volatility Index hit the highest in two years.

Banks led the sell-off, with JPMorgan (NYSE:) sinking 6%, as travel restrictions took hold and trading floors scrambled for contingency plans if offices are required to close. Airlines tumbled after Lufthansa curbed short-haul flights and United pared back travel in Asia. Only 37 stocks in the S&P 500 rose.

Treasury yields bounced off of all-time lows, though the two-year remained below 1%. Crude hit $45 a barrel, while gold tumbled the most intraday since June 2013. European shares sank to the lowest since August. Bank of America (NYSE:) strategists now expect the Federal Reserve to cut rates at its March meeting.

Terminal users can read more live analysis in Bloomberg’s markets blog.

U.S. equity markets shuddered as the World Health Organization raised its global risk level for the virus and a White House official suggested some schools could close. More major companies warned that disruptions could upend sales and profit forecasts. Germany quarantined about 1,000 people and Switzerland banned large events, leading to the Geneva car show being canceled. Iran and South Korea revealed more infections while the first cases appeared in Mexico and Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country.

“Investors are selling stocks first and asking questions later,” Keith Lerner, SunTrust’s chief market strategist, wrote in a note. “We are seeing signs of pure liquidation. ‘Get me out at any cost’ seems to be the prevailing mood. There is little doubt the coronavirus will continue to weigh on the global economy, and the U.S. will not be immune. There is much we do not know. However, it is also premature to suggest the base case for the U.S. economy is recession.”

Downgrades to the global outlook keep rolling in and money markets now see three Federal Reserve interest-rate cuts this year. Bank of America predicted that the global economy will see its weakest year since the financial crisis as the virus damages demand in China and beyond.

“Asset prices diverged significantly from growth in the past year, in part because of central bank policy, but also because passive investment’s main signal is price action,” reckons James McCormick (NYSE:), global head of desk strategy at NatWest Markets. “The COVID-19 escalation runs a real risk of virtuous cycle turning to a vicious one. Either way, given where growth estimates are heading for the next few months, I’d expect more downside.”

These are the main moves in markets:


  • The S&P 500 Index fell 3.2% as of 2:08 p.m. New York time.
  • The dropped 2.5%.
  • The Dow slid 3.7%.
  • The Index decreased 3.5%.
  • Germany’s slid 3.9%.
  • The MSCI Asia Pacific Index dropped 2.6%.


  • The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index rose 0.2%.
  • The euro fell less than 0.1% to $1.10.
  • The British pound dipped 1% to $1.2760.
  • The Japanese yen strengthened 1.28% to 108.20 per dollar.


  • The yield on 10-year Treasuries declined nine basis points to 1.17%.
  • The yield on two-year Treasuries decreased 13 basis points to 0.93%.
  • Germany’s 10-year yield decreased five basis points to -0.60%.


  • West Texas Intermediate crude sank 5% to $44.73 a barrel.
  • decreased 3.4% to $1,586 an ounce.
  • Bloomberg’s commodity index sank 2%.
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