Mar 3, 2020 - Economy & Business

Stock traders expect stimulus to save the day despite coronavirus fears

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

News about the coronavirus outbreak got worse on Monday, but stock traders saw a stimulus bat-signal in the sky and sent the Dow to its biggest points gain on record — 1,294 points.

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."
  • However, while G7 finance ministers and central bankers confirmed that they "stand ready to cooperate further," they ultimately stopped short of committing to a specific stimulus package, per the Wall Street Journal.

The state of play: 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.

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."

Go deeper: Don't panic about the stock market

Go deeper

Coronavirus could shrink global GDP

Data: OECD; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Here's how serious coronavirus is: With the exception of the global financial crisis, the last time that the world saw a quarter of negative GDP growth was in 1982.

Flashback: Back then, China accounted for only about 1% of global GDP. Today, that number is 15%.

Wall Street has its best year since 2013

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Wall Street had its biggest annual gain in six years — with the S&P 500 rising 29% and the Nasdaq Composite rising 35% in 2019. The Dow lagged behind other indices, but saw its biggest yearly gain since 2017.

Why it matters: U.S. stocks rebounded from 2018's year-end meltdown to log impressive gains, despite uncertainty stemming from the trade war and a slowdown in economic growth.

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.