As global markets rebound, Trump floats stimulus measures

Global stock markets and oil prices rebounded after Monday's plunge. President Donald Trump has proposed payroll tax cuts and other measures to calm the fears of financial markets.

Ahn Young-joon/AP
Currency traders watch monitors at the foreign exchange dealing room of the KEB Hana Bank headquarters in Seoul, South Korea on March 10, 2020. Shares edged slightly higher in Tokyo and Seoul Tuesday after global stock markets and oil prices plunged on Monday.

Global stock markets rebounded on Tuesday from record-setting declines after U.S. President Donald Trump said he would ask Congress for a payroll tax cut and other measures to ease economic concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.

Oil prices also recovered some of their losses in Monday's stunning plunge.

In Japan, a task force set up by the prime minister approved a 430 billion yen ($4.1 billion) package with support for small to medium-sized businesses.

“Markets don’t trade on good or bad, they trade on better or worse,” said Alec Young, managing director of global markets research at FTSE Russell. “I would expect the authorities to pull out all the stops to reduce uncertainty," Young said. “This may be their one opportunity to do that.”

Perhaps the most notable market move Tuesday was that Treasury yields also pushed higher in a sign that fear has receded a bit, though they remain far below where they were even a week ago.

European indexes, many of which suffered their biggest one-day drop since the 2008 global crisis on Monday and fell into a bear market, were up by more than 3%. China's main stock index closed 1.8% higher and Tokyo rose 0.9%.

Wall Street is likewise expected to recover somewhat from its largest daily drop in 12 years, with futures for the benchmark S&P 500 and for the Dow Jones Industrial Average both up by 4.2% early Tuesday.

Monday's global sell-off reflected alarm over economic damage from the coronavirus that emerged in China in December. Anti-disease controls that shut down Chinese factories are spreading as the United States and European countries close schools, cancel public events, and impose travel controls.

Anxiety mounted after Italy, the hardest-hit place in Europe, said travel controls imposed earlier on its north would be extended nationwide. Ireland canceled St. Patrick's Day parades and Israel ordered visitors quarantined ahead of Passover and Easter, one of the busiest travel periods of the year.

The mounting losses and a flight by investors into the haven of bonds have fueled warnings the global economy, which already was showing signs of cooling, might be headed into a recession.

The drop in U.S. stock prices was so sharp that it triggered Wall Street's first trading halt in more than two decades. But Mr. Trump's comment that he will seek relief for workers as ripple effects of the outbreak spread gave some investors an excuse to resume buying.

"This is not like the financial crisis where we don't know the end is in sight," said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. "This is about providing proper tools and liquidity to get through the next few months."

  • In European trading hours, London's FTSE 100 was up 3.8% to 6,193 and Frankfurt's DAX advanced 3.2% to 10,965. The CAC 40 in France gained 3.8% to 4,885.
  • The Shanghai Composite Index rose 1.8% to 2,996.76 and the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo advanced 0.9% to 19,867.12. Hong Kong's Hang Seng climbed 1.4% to 25,392.51.
  • The Kospi in Seoul added 0.4% to 1,962.93 and Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 rose to 5,939.60.
  • Benchmark U.S. crude jumped 8.5%, or $2.65 to $33.78 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It lost 25% on Monday after Saudi Arabia and Russia engaged in a price war in the oil market. The Saudis confirmed on Tuesday that they will increase production to record levels.
  • Brent crude, the standard for international oil prices, gained 8.3%, or $2.85 to $37.21 per barrel in London.

Stock markets usually welcome lower energy costs for consumers and businesses. But the decline cuts into revenue for producers, including the United States. And the abrupt drop, coming amid virus fears, rattled investors.

Intending to calm the fears of financial markets over the impact of the epidemic, Mr. Trump told reporters on Monday he is seeking “very substantial relief" to the payroll tax.

The New York Times reported: 

But clearly unsettled by the plunging markets and the potential effect on his re-election prospects, Mr. Trump offered an economic response without any new health measures.

Speaking with reporters, he said he would meet on Tuesday with Republican congressional leaders to discuss a “very substantial” payroll tax cut and legislation to protect hourly wage earners who miss work because of the virus. He said he would also explore expanding loans by the Small Business Administration. He did not provide any details.

“It’s not their fault,” he said of affected workers. “It’s not our country’s fault. This was something that we were thrown into and we’re going to handle it and we have been handling it very well.”

While the virus outbreak is easing in China, where the virus was first detected, fast-growing clusters have turned up in South Korea, Japan, Iran, and Italy, and the caseload is growing in the United States.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the virus, as has already happened with about three-quarters of those infected in China.

Central banks in the United States, China, and other countries have cut interest rates to try to shore up economic activity. But economists warn that while rate cuts might help to buoy consumer demand, they cannot reopen factories that are closed due to quarantines or lack of workers and raw materials.

"Even coordinated policy responses are not a tried and tested panacea and by no means guarantee the ability to durably pull markets back from the brink of bear territory," Vishnu Varathan of Mizuho Bank said in a report.

  • On Wall Street, the S&P 500 index fell 7.6% in biggest one-day drop since Dec. 1, 2008. The Dow lost 7.8% and the Nasdaq composite gave up 7.3%.
  • The S&P dropped 7.4% in the first few minutes of trading, triggering an automatic 15-minute market-wide trading halt. That has happened only once before, in 1997.
  • The S&P 500 has fallen 18.9% from its Feb. 19 record and has lost $5.3 trillion in value. U.S. stocks are close to entering a bear market, defined as a drop of 20% from their peak.

The yield on 10-year U.S. Treasury bonds edged up to 0.69% after falling as low as 0.5% as investors shifted money into haven assets. It had never been below 1% until last week.

The yield, or the difference between the market price and what investors will receive if they hold the bond to maturity, is seen as a measure of economic confidence. Investors shift money into bonds if they expect economic growth and stock prices to weaken.

That pushes up the bond's market price and narrows the yield.

In currency trading, the dollar rose to 104.69 Japanese yen from 102.37 late Monday. The euro slipped to $1.1361 from $1.1439.

This story was reported by The Associated Press. AP writer Zeke Miller in Washington, Stan Choe and Damian J. Troise contributed to this story. Material from The New York Times was used in this report. 

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