By Lorcan Roche Kelly
Global stocks continue to drop as investor fears over the spread of the coronavirus increase. Indexes in Asia were lower with Japan’s Topix closing down 2.4% as the strengthening yen further increased pressure on exporters. In Europe, another day in the red for the Stoxx 600 Index is pushing that gauge closer to correction levels. A survey of European companies in China showed that every one of the 577 respondents said they expected to be hit by the outbreak. S&P 500 futures pointed to another day of losses for U.S. stocks. The 10-year Treasury yield was trading below 1.3% and gold was higher.
More cases, more closures
The global spread of the coronavirus is pushing governments to take more measures to reduce the risk, with increased travel restrictions, school closures and cancelled events becoming a worldwide phenomenon. In the U.S. the first case where the person with the virus doesn’t have known ties to an existing outbreak has been identified, a worrying sign that the infection is already circulating despite reassurances from President Donald Trump. The list of companies cutting their forecasts also continues to grow with Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, Aston Martin Lagonda Global Holdings Plc and Microsoft Corp. among the latest names to cite the outbreak.
Bets on central bank easing this year are rapidly rising, with investors now pricing in a 90% chance of a Federal Reserve cut in April. Swap data shows rate reductions are also expected at almost every other major central bank by the end of 2020. On the fiscal side, Hong Kong and Malaysia have already announced increased spending to boost their economies. German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz is considering temporarily suspending the country’s debt brake to allow more borrowing. Trump has asked Congress for $2.5 billion to help fight the outbreak, but has not suggested major fiscal stimulus yet.
Brexit is back
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the European Union he will end negotiations by June if it is not clear by then that he is going to achieve a Canada-style free trade agreement with the bloc. The pound, which had been higher earlier in the session, dropped against the dollar after the government published its negotiating mandate. The EU’s mandate, published on Tuesday, suggests it too will take a hard line when negotiations about the future relationship between the two sides begin next week.
The second reading of U.S. fourth quarter GDP is at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time. Durable goods orders for January are also published then, with the headline number expected to fall into negative territory. Initial jobless claims may show a small rise when that data is also released at 8:30 a.m. After yesterday’s strong home sales numbers, pending home sales at 10:00 a.m. will give another indication of the strength of the market. There is a raft of earnings releases with Dell Technologies Inc., Best Buy Co. Inc, Beyond Meat Inc., and JC Penney Co. Inc. among the many companies reporting.