Stocks plunged around the world, oil tumbled and the stress in U.S. credit markets deepened after the World Health Organization called the virus spread a pandemic and the Trump administration remained unable to detail any stimulus measures to combat the economic fallout.
The latest bout of virus-fomented turmoil tipped Dow Jones Industrial Average into a bear market, ending the longest bull run in the history of American equities. The blue-chip slumped 5.9 per cent Wednesday and ended 20 per cent below its February closing record. The S&P 500 dipped into bear territory before closing 19 per cent below its high.
Canada’s stock market has gone from a bull market to bear in just 14 trading days, wiping out $454.2 billion (US$330.6 billion) in value on the escalating spread of the coronavirus and plunging oil prices.
The benchmark S&P/TSX Composite Index slumped 20 per cent from its Feb. 20 closing peak, putting it in a bear market, after riding the bull wave for almost four years. Now, stocks have buckled under concern that the virus and a new downturn in the oil sector will hammer the economy.
The WHO declaration and no comments on stimulus from President Donald Trump rattled markets. Trump said late in the market session that he’d make a statement Wednesday night on the administration’s plans. European officials signalled a growing willingness to move soon to combat the virus’s effects on the region’s economy.
Signs that companies in the hardest-hit industries were drawing down credit lines to battle the effects of the virus on their businesses added to anxiety.
“We have no idea when the coronavirus, the spread, is going to subside. That uncertainty is going to continue to create a lot of volatility,” said David Spika, the president of GuideStone Capital Management. “We have no idea how to model it, we have no idea what to expect from it.”
Here are the main moves in global markets:
- Private equity titan Blackstone Group Inc. asked companies it controls to draw down their bank credit lines to help prevent any liquidity shortfalls.
- All but 10 stocks in the S&P 500 retreated Wednesday, with every industry down at least 3.9 per cent.
- Boeing plunged 18 per cent after it said it plans to draw down all of a US$13.8 billion loan. Hilton Worldwide lost 9 per cent when it said it would draw some of its credit line.
- Chipotle plunged 8.3 per cent.
- European equities wiped out a 2.3 per cent advance sparked by an emergency rate cut in the U.K.
- Municipal bonds tumbled, sending rates on 10-year benchmark state and local government debt higher by 22 basis points, the most since records began in 2011.
- The yen surged 1 per cent, while the euro advanced with the pound.
- Crude sank 4.2 per cent to sink below US$33 a barrel.
- Asian equities lost 1.7 per cent.
U.S. stocks extended their three-week slide as investors grappled with the potential economic hit from the virus that is upending daily routines around the world. Policy makers are seeking to assure traders they’re on alert, with the ECB indicating it may move as soon as this week, the Bank of England cutting rates and German Chancellor Angela Merkel pledging to do “whatever is necessary” to bolster the economy.
In the U.S., the Trump administration continues to promise “major” stimulus, but details remain uncertain. Democrats plan to urge the president to declare a national state of emergency. Markets are now growing worried that whatever does come will not have the ability to stave off a major blow to the world’s largest economy.
“Every day we get whipsawed back and forth, and what we’re seeing today is general disappointment that fiscal policy is not at all clear in how it’s going to stimulate the economy,” said Michael Reynolds, an investment strategy officer at Glenmede Trust Co.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden cemented his position as front-runner for the U.S. Democratic presidential nomination with primary victories Tuesday, further easing concerns among those opposing Bernie Sanders’s progressive platform.