World stocks and oil comeback rally fizzles

A man walking past a bank electronic board showing the Hong Kong share index at Hong Kong Stock Exchange on March 13. Shares plunged in Asia on Friday, with Japan’s benchmark sinking as much as 10% after Wall Street suffered its biggest drop since the Black Monday crash of 1987. - AP

LONDON/HONG KONG: A rebound in European and US stocks on hopes Washington would agree on new stimulus measures fizzled this weekend as traders closed out a week of carnage over fears the coronavirus pandemic will trigger a global recession.

While the Dow shot 5.8% higher at the opening bell, having dived 10% Thursday in its worst session since 1987, in midday trading it was up just 1.6%.

In Europe, stocks also surged higher as they sought to erase Thursday's massive losses, with Milan up over 17 percent at one point, but it fell back and ended the day with a 7 percent gain.

London, Frankfurt and Paris, which all posted double digit losses on Thursday, were all up over 7 percent at one point.

But London closed up 2.5 percent and Paris 1.8 percent.

Frankfurt, which dipped in and out of negative territory despite the government pledging unlimited loans to businesses, ended the day 0.8 percent higher.

Markets had pushed higher on signs that the White House and Congress are getting close to agreeing on more measures to support the US economy.

"Now, as Trump prepares to declare a state of emergency, it appears nobody wants to be (holding) risk assets," said market analyst Chris Beauchamp at online trading firm IG.

The rally just provided more people with an opportunity to sell, he added.

"In reality, it is hard to see much upside for stock markets until the US has fought its way through the virus, something that may be at least a month away, and until then rallies, even 10 percent ones, will be sold," said Beauchamp.

Despite Friday's gains, Europe's main stock markets were still down heavily for the week.

London was down 17%, Frankfurt and Paris 20%, and Milan 23%.

The markets has wiped trillions of dollars off the globe's combined company valuations in just a few weeks.

"In mere weeks, the market has shifted gears from a transitory health scare to a full-blown global recession," said AxiCorp market strategist Stephen Innes.

"Global supply chains are no longer just 'disrupted' but are now in the process of shutting down completely," he added.

Oil prices, which also initially rebounded from Thursday's losses, sank back into the red as the day wore on as it appeared Saudi Arabia and Russia are no closer to ending their price war.

Fears that travel restrictions and business closures will further dampen energy demand have also pushed down prices.

The price of Brent crude is now down by 50 percent from the start of the year and just over third from the start of the month.

On currency markets Friday, the dollar hit a record-high against the Indian rupee. The greenback fought back also against the yen despite the Japanese unit's haven position.

"Most worryingly, US bond yields rose... when really the situation was ripe for a mass stampede to the US Treasury market driving down yields," said Jeffrey Halley, senior market analyst at OANDA.

"That suggests two things: One, credit is tightening -- a gruesome scenario for business. Two, investors are now moving to the ultimate haven -- hoarding cash in boxes under the bed." - AFP
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