Mar 9, 2020 - Economy & Business

Coronavirus outbreak has likely already pushed multiple countries into recession

A trader at the New York Stock Exchange on March 5. Photo: Michael Nagle/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Michael Nagle via Getty Images

Benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury yields fell to under 0.5% with the 30-year below 1% for the first time ever, oil plummeted by as much as 31%, Australia's ASX index lost 7.3% (its worst day since the financial crisis) and markets in Asia and Europe cratered.

What happened: The economic shock of the coronavirus looks set to worsen as more places around the world, including the U.S., may institute quarantine measures that would severely reduce consumer activity.

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals
  • More than half of the 50 U.S. states now have reported cases of COVID-19. As the virus spreads, concerts and conferences have been canceled and universities are telling students to stay home.
  • Top government officials have made a complete 180-degree turn from earlier statements from the president and others that the virus in the U.S. was contained.
  • In the U.S., S&P 500 E-mini futures fell so quickly they almost immediately hit a limit triggered when the index falls 5% from its close the previous session.

Further, Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, slashed its official selling price and plans to increase production significantly after a deal with Russia to coordinate a widespread reduction collapsed, Reuters reported. The actions were reminiscent of a move in 2014 that caused prices to fall by around two-thirds.

  • The drop in oil prices will be a major additional drag on oil-producing countries already contending with the economic shock of the virus outbreak.

What it means: Economic data shows that parts of China's economy suffered a shock from the COVID-19 outbreak greater than at any time during the great financial crisis, and market participants are beginning to factor in the possibility that more countries will face a similar hit.

  • Most economic forecasts so far have assumed the virus will be contained before it becomes a global pandemic.

The bottom line: Multiple countries are likely already in recession.

  • This includes economic heavyweights Japan, Germany, and Italy, which have seen low growth in recent years and are being hit by dramatically decreased demand from top trading partner China and by the negative shock of their own coronavirus outbreaks.
  • The Institute of International Finance found that the impact on global capital flows already has been worse than during the global financial crisis and predicted the world's growth would slow to near 1% this year, its weakest since the 2007–2009 recession.

Go deeper: What to expect next with the coronavirus

Go deeper

The looming global great recession

GDP data: OECD, BoA Global Research; Coronavirus data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Economists have removed their rose-colored glasses in recent weeks and are beginning to price in scenarios for the world that are as bad or much worse than the global financial crisis.

The state of play: "If you think about the situation going into the financial crisis, I would say all things being equal there was clearly a better ability to react economically … in Europe and in Japan and also in the U.S.," Thomas Holzheu, Americas chief economist at reinsurance giant Swiss Re, tells Axios.

Fueled by coronavirus, global oil demand set to drop record amount

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Global oil demand in the first quarter of 2020 is expected to decline by the largest amount in recorded history, IHS Markit projected Tuesday night.

Driving the news: The decline, which is set to exceed even what occurred in the 2009 financial crisis, is being driven by the spread of the novel coronavirus and subsequent stunted economic activity in China.

Trump eyes intervention in Saudi-Russia oil dispute

Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

President Trump said Thursday he's eyeing intervention in the oil price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, a dispute that combined with COVID-19's economic toll is pushing prices sharply downward and creating financial jeopardy for U.S. producers.

At the appropriate time, I will get involved, yes.
— President Trump