Mar 3, 2020

Axios Markets

By Dion Rabouin
Dion Rabouin

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🎙"The vote, in the hands of an ignorant man, without either property or self respect, will be used to the damage of the people at large; for the rich man, without honor or any kind of patriotism, will purchase it, and with it swamp the rights of a free people." - See who said it and why it matters at the bottom.

1 big thing: Stimulus to the rescue!

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

News about the coronavirus outbreak got worse on Monday, but stock traders saw the bat-signal in the sky and sent the Dow to its biggest points gain on record.

What happened: The blue-chip index had its biggest one-day percentage gain since March 2009 and its largest point advance on record, gaining 1294 points. Other major indexes posted their biggest one-day percentage gains since December 2018, with the S&P 500 rising 4.6% and the Nasdaq gaining 4.5%.

  • As of Monday's close, the Dow had climbed 8.2% from Friday’s intraday low, WSJ reported.

Why it happened: Stock prices jumped after it was confirmed that finance ministers and central bank governors from each of the G7 countries would hold a conference call Tuesday morning, presumably to announce coordinated stimulus measures to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

  • The IMF and World Bank also released a joint statement saying both institutions "stand ready to help" and would "use our available instruments to the fullest extent possible, including emergency financing, policy advice, and technical assistance."

Yes, but: Expectations of the damage from the outbreak foreseen by the world's top economists are getting worse, not better.

  • Other markets weren't buying the boost from the stimulus, and traders piled into safe-haven assets like gold and the Japanese yen, and sent U.S. 10-year Treasury yields to a record low of 1.03%.

What they're saying: Deutsche Bank Securities chief economist Torsten Slok says he expects global growth to turn outright negative in the first quarter of this year, falling to -2% in Q1 but bouncing back to around 5% in Q3 and Q4, quarter over quarter.

  • He also sees U.S. growth turning negative in Q2, dropping to -0.5% before rebounding in Q3 and Q4.

OECD chief economist Laurence Boone released an outlook that showed global growth "possibly even being negative in the first quarter of 2020."

  • Her economic assessment sees the world's growth rate falling to 2.4% — below the 2.5% level identified as the measure for global recession, and well below the 2.9% growth in 2019 that was the weakest since the global financial crisis.
  • And even that forecast is a rosy one, "on the assumption that the epidemic peaks in China in the first quarter of 2020 and outbreaks in other countries prove mild and contained."

The bottom line: “If the central banks intervene, that is great and I appreciate that, but will this fix the problem?” Andrea Carzana, an equity fund manager for Columbia Threadneedle Investments, told WSJ.

  • “If companies need to shut down because of the virus, it doesn’t really matter how much liquidity you put into the system.”
2. Investors will have eyes on Bernie on Super Tuesday
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Data: PPIC Statewide Survey; Note: 535 surveyed by household income, 573 of all likely voters. ±5.7 percentage point margin of error; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

With Amy Klobuchar and Pete Buttigieg having dropped out of the 2020 U.S. presidential race, today's primaries will be a major test for Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.

What's happening: Sanders has a commanding lead in California, which has by far the most delegates of any state voting today.

  • A recent survey from Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) shows Sanders with a wide lead.
  • The latest CBS News Battleground Tracker/YouGov poll also shows Sanders with a significant advantage, at 31%, with Biden at 19%, Elizabeth Warren at 18% and Mike Bloomberg at 12%.
  • Polls also show Sanders with a sizeable lead in Texas, which holds the second highest number of delegates.

Why it matters to the market: Sanders' economic policy proposals and anti-Wall Street rhetoric are seen as a major potential negative for the stock market and a good showing could put him one step closer to the Democratic party nomination and the presidency.

Be smart: Only candidates who receive 15% of the vote will get a share of the state's delegates.

  • The PPIC study also asked respondents who their second choice would be and Warren led with 22%, followed by Sanders with 19%.
  • Biden, who received endorsements from Klobuchar and Buttigieg Monday night, got 13% of second place votes, while Bloomberg received just 9%.
3. Catch up quick

The statement from G7 finance ministers and central bankers will not specifically call for new government spending or coordinated interest rate cuts by central banks, sources say. (Reuters)

Australia's central bank cut rates to a record low of 0.50%, largely because of the coronavirus outbreak, which the RBA said was "having a significant effect on the Australian economy." (RBA)

Mainland China reported just 125 new coronavirus cases Monday, the lowest since authorities began publishing data in January, but infections continue to spread globally as South Korea reported 600 new infections and Italy's infection tally climbed past 2,000. The U.S. had six related fatalities. (Reuters)

Coronavirus fears have prompted a major uptick in orders from Amazon Prime Now and Amazon Fresh delivery services, and the company warned of limited availability and slower delivery. (Bloomberg)

Former GE CEO Jack Welch died on Monday. During the 20 years he led the company, its market value grew from $12 billion to $410 billion. (CNBC)

4. Global manufacturing hits weakest since 2009, and may get worse
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Data: JPMorgan; Chart: Axios Visuals

The global manufacturing industry fell into contraction in February, largely as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, with activity in China shrinking at a record pace, dragging down the world's index.

State of play: It was the steepest contraction since 2009, JPMorgan reported, "as demand, international trade and supply chains were severely disrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak."

  • "Output fell across the consumer, intermediate and investment goods industries, with the steepest drop at investment goods producers."

Between the lines: The numbers may even be too optimistic, says Nikhil Sanghani, assistant economist at Capital Economics. He notes "two key reasons" the readings, especially in emerging countries like China, Brazil and India that drive global growth and manufacturing, understate the toll of the outbreak's impact.

  • "First, the large drops in the suppliers’ delivery times component of the PMIs in most countries added to headline indices. This index is inverted as, in normal times, longer delivery times reflect strong demand causing bottlenecks. But now, it is a symptom of disruption to production."
  • "Second, the February survey period preceded the jump in cases outside of China. Most surveys were conducted around 12th to 20th February, yet there has been a surge in coronavirus cases since then. This is particularly so in Korea where measures taken to contain the virus, including a shutdown of Daegu (the country’s fourth largest city), will limit manufacturing activity."

Watch this space: "The upshot is that the manufacturing PMIs outside of China will probably weaken in March," Sanghani says.

5. Investors sold out of emerging markets in February
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Data: Institute of International Finance; Chart: Axios Visuals

Portfolio flows to emerging market assets fell to $3.4 billion last month, as equity flows were negative and debt flows fell by 60% from their January level, data from the Institute of International Finance showed.

Details: Investment in the less developed nations' securities saw a "dramatic collapse of flows in the last one-and-a-half weeks, when the increasing spread of the coronavirus rattled global financial markets," analysts said in a report.

  • "While the impact of coronavirus was first noticeable in January and was contained to China; a wider spread of the infection in recent weeks made a dent in other geographical areas, especially in EM Asia."
Dion Rabouin

On March 3, 1861, Russian Emporer Alexander II signed the Emancipation Manifesto, freeing 22 million from serfdom and granting them the full rights of free citizens.

Preceding the quote at the top of the newsletter, the czar said: "I did more for the Russian serf in giving him land as well as personal liberty, than America did for the negro slave set free by the proclamation of President Lincoln.

  • "I am at a loss to understand how you Americans could have been so blind as to leave the negro slave without tools to work out his salvation. In giving him personal liberty, you gave him an obligation to perform to the state which he must be unable to fulfill. Without property of any kind he cannot educate himself and his children. I believe the time must come when many will question the manner of American emancipation of the negro slaves in 1863."