Dollar rules; ECB stimulus boosts bonds but not stocks
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[March 19, 2020] By
LONDON (Reuters) - The dollar surged on
Thursday as extraordinary steps by central banks across the world to
stem a coronavirus-induced financial rout saw mixed success, boosting
bonds but failing to halt losses in stocks.
The dollar gained as investors rushed to secure liquidity, pushing the
British pound <GBP=D3> down 0.9% to its lowest since 1985 and rising 1%
against major currencies <=USD> to its highest since March 2017.
Bond markets stabilized somewhat after the European Central Bank pledged
late on Wednesday to buy 750 billion euros ($820 billion) in sovereign
debt through 2020.
That brought the ECB's planned purchases for this year to 1.1 trillion
euro, with the new purchases alone worth 6% of the euro zone's GDP.
Government bond yields in Italy and across the euro zone dropped after
the ECB's emergency measures, though European stocks fell back into
negative territory after arresting their rout in early trading.
"The announcement (the ECB) has made has gone some way to comforting
markets that borrowing costs in those economies won't be allowed to
spiral higher," said Mike Bell, global market strategist at J.P. Morgan
Europe's broad Euro STOXX 600 <.STOXX> fell 0.9% after gaining more than
1% in early trading. Indexes in Frankfurt <.GDAXI>, Paris <.FCHI> and
London's FTSE <.FTSE> all saw advances wiped out.
Earlier, MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan
slumped by 4% <.MIAPJ0000PUS>. Korea and Taiwan led the losses as the
index plunged to a four-year low, with circuit breakers triggered in
Seoul, Jakarta and Manila.
Expected price swings for some of the world's biggest currencies
rocketed to multi-year highs as the demand for dollars forced traders to
dump currencies across the board.
For the British pound versus the dollar, expected volatility gauges
leapt to 24.4%, their highest level since before the 2016 Brexit vote.
"One unresolved and really critical issue is what's going on in
volatility," said Andrew Sheets, chief cross-asset strategist at Morgan
Stanley. "I think that volatility needs to stabilize before the broader
market can heal."
MSCI's world equity index <.MIWD00000PUS>, which tracks shares in 49
countries, fell 0.9%. Wall Street futures also fell, pointing in
volatile trading to losses of around 2%. <EScv1>.
ITALIAN YIELDS FALL
Italy, which has seen its borrowing costs jump in recent days, led the
drop in yields after the ECB move.
Its two-year bond yields slumped by than 100 basis points to 0.41%
<IT2YT=RR>, heading for their biggest one-day fall since 1996. Italy's
10-year bond yields slid as much as 90 bps to 1.40% <IT10YT=RR>.
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Pedestrians wearing facial masks look at an electric board showing
stock averages of Japan's Nikkei and the U.S. Nasdaq outside a
brokerage at a business district in Tokyo, Japan January 30, 2020.
The gap over the safer German Bund's yields tightened almost 100 bps
from Wednesday's closing levels and were set for the biggest daily drop
since the 2011 euro one crisis.
Markets elsewhere failed to respond to central bank action. Before the
ECB move, the U.S. Federal Reserve promised a liquidity facility for
money market mutual funds and the Bank of Japan made two unscheduled
bond purchases totaling 1.3 trillion yen ($12 billion).
The Australian central bank slashed interest rates to a record low of
Traders reported huge strains in bond markets, however, as distressed
funds sold any liquid asset to cover losses in stocks and redemptions
Benchmark 10-year sovereign bond yields in New Zealand, Malaysia, Korea
and Singapore and Thailand surged as prices fell, and U.S. 10 year
Treasuries <US10YT=RR> rose 10 basis points through the session.
"Not only central banks but governments are throwing everything at the
economy right now, but markets aren't responding," said Luca Paolini,
chief strategist at Pictet Asset Management.
Commodities also fell as the virus outbreak worsened. The pandemic has
killed almost 9,000 people globally, infected more than 218,000 and
prompted widespread emergency lockdowns.
Gold <XAU=> fell 1%, and like other assets was buffeted by volatility.
Copper hit its down-limit in Shanghai.
Oil jumped after an overnight plunge to an 18-year low in Asian trade.
Brent <LCOc1> was last up $1.16 to $26.04.
Underlining expectations of severe economic damage from the pandemic,
J.P. Morgan economists forecast the U.S. economy will shrink 14% in the
next quarter and the Chinese economy will lose more than 40% on an
annualized basis in the current one.
"There is no longer doubt that the longest global expansion on record
will end this quarter," they said in a note. "The key outlook issue now
is gauging the depth and the duration of the 2020 recession."
(Reporting by Tom Wilson; Additional reporting by Tom Westbrook in
Singapore and Sujata Rao in London; editing by Sam Holmes, Larry King)
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