Asian markets braced for deeper rout as virus panic worsens


Posted at Mar 13 2020 08:17 AM

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) near the close of trading in New York, US, March 12, 2020. Brendan McDermid, Reuters

SINGAPORE -- Asia's stocks were poised to plunge further on Friday as panic gripped world financial markets and even safe-haven assets such as gold were ditched to cover losses in the wipeout.

S&P 500 futures are down 0.5 percent in Asia. Nikkei futures were 10.88 percent lower in late New York trade. Australia's benchmark lost 7 percent and New Zealand's index was last more than 8 percent, its biggest intraday drop on record.

Currency trading was erratic amid poor liquidity and a rush to secure financing in dollars.

Overnight, Wall Street's Dow industrials index suffered its largest daily decline since the 1987 Black Monday crash.

The plunge, as the coronavirus pandemic spreads, gathered steam after US President Donald Trump spooked investors with a move to restrict travel from Europe, and after the European Central Bank disappointed markets by holding back on rate cuts.

Trade was halted on the S&P 500 after it hit downdraft circuit breakers. It fell further when trade resumed, eventually losing 9.5 percent to close 27 percent below February's peak.

Gold fell 3.5 percent, yields on long-dated US Treasuries rose amid the panic, and in the currency markets, investors stampeded into the dollar.

"Everyone is just de-risking," said Stuart Oakley, Nomura's global head of flow FX in Singapore.

"It's not just a case of the stock market going down, anyone who's long the stock market needs to chop's just a case of people wanting to bring risk back to flat," he said.

In a televised address late on Wednesday, US President Donald Trump imposed restrictions on travel from Europe to the United States, shocking investors and travelers.

Traders were disappointed after hoping to see broader measures to fight the spread of the virus and blunt its expected blow to economic growth.

The New York Federal Reserve pumped more liquidity to banks to try and stabilize the system as markets show signs of stress.

MSCI's gauge of stocks across the globe shed 9.51 percent and was down more than 20 percent from its 52-week peak.

The VIX volatility index - Wall Street's "fear gauge" - and an equivalent measure of volatility for the Euro Stoxx 50 hit their highest since the 2008 financial crisis.

In early Asia currency trade volumes were light and tight liquidity exaggerated moves. The dollar handed back some gains to the yen, pound and franc and Australian dollar lifted about 1 percent from an 11-year low to $0.6287.

The euro found footing at $1.1171 after falling as far as $1.1054 overnight.