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Asian stock markets tumble

March 19, 2020

Markets across Asia witnessed a fall, as investors feared a recession from the coronavirus pandemic.

A person walks by electric boards showing the 225-issue Nikkei Stock Average in Tokyo, Japan
Image: picture-alliance/AP Images/The Yomiuri Shimbun/I. Ohara

Asian stock markets failed to maintain their early gains on Thursday.

After a promising start, stocks fell in Hong Kong, mainland China, Japan, Australia and South Korea, as concerns about a coronavirus-induced recession grew. The Australian Central Bank also lowered its interest rate to 0.25% — its lowest ever — to deal with the economic upheaval due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Meanwhile, the stock market in the Philippines resumed operations on Thursday after a 2 day halt, amid fears in investors regarding an impending recession.

Read more: Coronavirus: Philippines suspends trading on stock exchange

The Philippines stock exchange opened 12.4% lower, leading to a halt of 15 minutes in trading. After trading resumed, the index further declined by 25%, becoming the biggest intra-day loss for the stock exchange in three decades. 

The Philippines had halted trading on Tuesday, becoming the first country in the world to do so in the light of the growing coronavirus pandemic.

A crash worse than 1929?

Oil prices have also taken a hit, reaching their lowest since 2002. The current price of crude oil is $21 per barrel. Oil has also been affected by an ongoing price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

European market continues to nosedive

European stock markets slumped further on Wednesday, despite countries injecting billions as part of stimulus packages to counteract concerns that the coronavirus pandemic would throw the world into recession.

The pan-European Stoxx 600 saw a 4% fall at the end of closing, while Frankfurt's DAX 30 plummeted 5.56% to 8,441.71. The Paris CAC 40 dived 5.94% and Milan slipped around 1.27%. London's benchmark FTSE 100 index dropped 4.05% to 5,080.58 points by the end of the day.

Countries seek Massive European stimulus measures

The market slump showed that the recent series of announcements of stimulus packages from countries worldwide failed to offset coronavirus woes.

"From what we see from the market reaction, massive monetary and fiscal measures deployed are not thought to be enough to prevent economies from plunging into recession," Swissquote Bank analyst Ipek Ozkardeskaya told French news agency AFP.

Read more: Coronavirus: What are countries doing to minimize economic damage

Germany had announced €1 billion ($1.1 billion) in credit for businesses and companies of all sizes through its state-owned KfW business development bank.

The southern state of Bavaria pledged a fund worth up to €10 billion, allowing the local government to buy stakes in faltering companies to prevent insolvencies.

COVID-19 awakens our herd instinct

Markets slump across Asia and the US

Falls in Europe on Wednesday followed losses in Asia where MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 3.8% to lows last seen in 2016. MSCI's global stocks index dropped 1%.

US stock futures were as much as 4% lower and hitting their daily low limit only a day after the S&P 500 jumped 6% and Dow Jones rose 5.2%.

The S&P 500 fell by nearly 30%, while the Dow reached its lowest level since 2016.

"A rise of 1,000 in Dow is something you see only during a financial crisis. It is not a good sign," said Nomura Securities fixed income strategist Tomoaki Shishido.

NYSE to move to all-electric trading

The New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) added to financial worries on Wednesday when it announced it would temporarily close its trading floor after two people tested positive for the coronavirus — moving instead to all-electronic trading starting on Monday.

The NYSE has suspended open-outcry trading and floor broker orders, but has vowed to remain functional despite closing its trading floor.

The price swings have left market participants reluctant to jump back into the market, reducing trading volume.

am, mvb/rs (AP, AFP, Reuters)

Virus: Stricken economy