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The world's second-largest economy has largely bounced back from strict coronavirus lockdowns last year/ COURTESY


World markets slump as recession fears eclipse stimulus

LONDON, United Kingdom, Mar 18 – Global stock and oil markets plunged Wednesday, as vast stimulus measures failed to offset heightened concerns that the worsening coronavirus outbreak will tip the world into a deep downturn, dealers said. 

In European stock market trading, Frankfurt, London and Paris tanked around five percent in morning deals, after similar dizzying losses across Asia.

Before the market open in Paris, French regulators banned for one month short-selling, or the betting that markets will fall — extending an initial one-day halt, in an effort to curb steep losses.

World oil prices spiralled lower on energy demand woes, with New York’s WTI crude touching a 17-year low at $25.08 per barrel, hurt also by a bitter price war between producers Saudi Arabia and Russia.

The dollar meanwhile rose across the aboard, including versus the Japanese yen which is seen as a haven investment in times of economic turbulence.

The United States and Britain are spearheading a multi-billion-dollar international fightback against economic havoc unleashed by the coronavirus, as the European Union shuts its borders to travellers from outside for 30 days.

Yet most market commentators agree that the virus-wracked world economy will likely plunge into recession — which means a minimum of two successive quarters of economic contraction.

“From what we see from the markets’ 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 AFP.

“Every business and household is expecting governments to replace the coronavirus-led losses, which is simply not possible.

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“Hence, there is already a massive shock in activity and demand, which almost guarantees a worldwide recession regardless of the measures taken by central banks and governments,” Ozkardeskaya added..

Washington led the charge on Tuesday, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin saying officials were drawing up a package that could surpass $1 trillion, on top of $300 billion in deferred tax payments, making it among the largest federal emergency plans ever and surpassing assistance during the 2008 global financial crisis.

The measures would include cash payments to struggling families, with Mnuchin warning the pandemic could drive US unemployment to 20 percent, a Republican Senate source told CNN.

“We don’t want people losing jobs and having no money to live,” US President Donald Trump said at a White House press conference, adding that the package “is a substantial number. We are going big”.

British finance chief Rishi Sunak has meanwhile unveiled an “unprecedented package” of government loans worth £330 billion ($400 billion), while France and Spain announced tens of billions of euros in aid.

And with global airlines reeling, Italy has moved to re-nationalise the bankrupt former national carrier Alitalia, while France signalled it would not hesitate to take key firms into state control to protect them.

– ‘Uncertain nature’ –

The moves followed central bank interest rate cuts and pledges to make cash available to stop financial markets from jamming up.

“While all of these (stimulus) numbers appear impressive on the surface, the uncertain nature of how the virus will play out in the coming weeks means that the final bill could well be much higher,” said CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson.

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In Asian trading, Tokyo ended down 1.7 percent, while Sydney plunged more than six percent and Hong Kong lost more than four percent, while Shanghai was 1.8 percent off.

Key figures around 1050 GMT –

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 4.7 percent at 5,046.04 points

Frankfurt – DAX 30: DOWN 4.4 percent at 8,544.96

Paris – CAC 40: DOWN 4.6 percent at 3,807.43

Madrid – IBEX 35: DOWN 3.7 percent at 6,255.60

Milan – FTSE MIB: DOWN 1.7 percent at 15,050.61

EURO STOXX 50: DOWN 5.2 percent at 2,392.52

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 1.7 percent at 16,726.55 (close)

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Hong Kong – Hang Seng: DOWN 4.2 percent at 22,291.82 (close)

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 1.8 percent at 2,728.76 (close)

New York – Dow: UP 5.2 percent at 21,237.38 (close)

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 3.0 percent at $27.88 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 5.2 percent at $25.55

Dollar/yen: UP at 107.42 yen from 105.25 yen at 2100 GMT

Euro/dollar: DOWN at $1.0986 from $1.1016

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2016 from $1.2079

Euro/pound: UP at 91.53 pence from 91.21 pence

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