For weeks, investors have been pleading for governments to shore up a global economy ravaged by the coronavirus.
But after the biggest wave of stimulus announcements since the outbreak began, fear is mounting that the efforts might not provide the salvation markets are looking for.
Emergency measures in the U.K., Italy and Australia, along with a commitment from Germany’s Angela Merkel to do “whatever is necessary,” were met with fresh waves of selling by stock investors who sent the MSCI All-Country World Index to the brink of a bear market.
The gloom veered toward panic after President Donald Trump announced an underwhelming set of U.S. support measures and restricted travel from Europe, sparking a 4% drop in S&P 500 futures and a 7% tumble in contracts on the Euro Stoxx 50.
While government stimulus helped revive the world economy from its rapid plunge during the 2008 financial crisis, investors are growing increasingly skeptical that policy makers can engineer a quick revival this time around. Fiscal and monetary measures may only help with the knock-on effects of the epidemic’s widespread shutdown of economic activity, leaving investors little option but to await the subsiding of the virus itself.
“One of the key problems that financial markets have with the current set of economic challenges is the perceived shortcomings of prototypical policy responses” in the case of the virus, Morgan Stanley strategists led by Michael Zezas wrote in a note Wednesday.
Trump’s announcement of restrictions on travel from Europe for 30 days underscored how steps to slow the spread of the disease unavoidably also hammer businesses, and so corporate earnings and stock-market valuations.
With both the demand hit from the rapidly rising risk of a global recession alongside a full-blown price war between major crude producers, oil prices continued to tumble, falling more than 6% in New York.
The front-month future on the Cboe Volatility Index, or VIX, shows the concern as well. It’s above 50 in early Thursday trading.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison formally announced nearly A$18 billion in stimulus -- but that didn’t help shares. The S&P/ASX 200 Index fell almost 8% at one point on Thursday.
Even a coordinated response of fiscal and monetary policy makers appears not to impress traders. The Bank of England cut interest rates by half a point Wednesday before the U.K. government announced $39 billion in stimulus. The FTSE 100, which had started the session up as much as 2.2%, ended the day 1.6% lower.
The yen, often seen as a haven play, rose after the U.S. travel restrictions were announced. The euro also gained.
The asset that might actually be impressed with all the cash being pumped into the system might be gold. And it was higher for a while, but it’s struggling to stay in the green as the session goes on.
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