Asia shares slide as virus damage deepens


Asian shares have slid and oil prices have taken another tumble as fears mount the global shutdown for the coronavirus could last for months, doing untold harm to economies.

“We continue to mark down 1H20 global GDP forecasts as our assessment of both the global pandemic’s reach and the damage related to necessary containment policies has increased,” said JPMorgan economist Bruce Kasman.

They now predict global GDP could fall at a 10.5 per cent annualised rate in the first half of the year.

There was much uncertainty about whether funds would have to buy or sell for month and quarter end to meet their benchmarks, many of which would have been thrown out of whack by the wild market swings seen over March.

E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 skidded 1.2 per cent right from the bell on Monday and Japan’s Nikkei 3.2 per cent.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan eased 0.2 per cent, while South Korea shed 2.7 per cent.

Central banks have mounted an all-out effort to bolster activity with rate cuts and massive asset-buying campaigns, which has at least eased liquidity strains in markets.

It was not encouraging, then, that British authorities were warning lockdown measures could last months.

While President Donald Trump had talked about reopening the US economy for Easter, on Sunday he extended guidelines for social restrictions to April 30.

Japan on Monday expanded its entry ban to include citizens travelling from the United States, China, South Korea and most of Europe.

Bond investors looked to be bracing for a long haul with yields at the very short end of the Treasury curve turning negative and those on 10-year notes dropping a steep 26 basis points last week to last stand at 0.66 per cent.

That drop has combined with efforts by the Federal Reserve to pump more US dollars into markets, and dragged the currency off recent highs.

Indeed, the dollar suffered its biggest weekly decline in more than a decade last week.

Against the yen, the dollar was pinned at 107.44, well off the recent high at 111.71. The euro was firm at $US1.1126 after rallying more than 4 per cent last week.

For now, the dollar’s retreat provided a fillip for gold, which was up 0.3 per cent on Monday at $US1,622.50 an ounce.

But it has been little help for oil as Saudi Arabia and Russia show no signs of backing down in their price war.

Brent crude futures lost $US1.45 to $US23.48 a barrel, while US crude fell 91 cents to $US20.60.

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