Global stocks plunge, worsening slump.
U.S. stock futures were sharply lower and European stocks plunged on Thursday as investors digested the consequences of President Trump’s 30-day travel ban on European visitors to the United States.
S&P 500 futures tumbled more than 4 percent in premarket trading, pointing to another tumultuous day in U.S. markets after Wednesday’s drop that saw the Dow Jones industrial average enter a bear market for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis. Airline stocks were getting battered: United Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines were all down around 14 percent ahead of the start of trading on Wall Street.
The declines follow a spate of late news from the United States on Wednesday. President Trump announced that the United States would stop most Europeans outside Britain from traveling to the country for 30 days in an effort to slow the spread. The State Department advised Americans to reconsider all international travel. The National Basketball Association suspended its season after a player tested positive.
With global growth on the line, investors have been looking for world leaders to step in to keep the economic gears turning. Mr. Trump on Wednesday said he would extend financial relief for sick workers and would ask Congress for more. Britain has said it would spend more than $30 billion. Central banks are cutting interest rates.
So far, for investors, it hasn’t been enough.
In European markets, London led the drop, with stocks falling about 6 percent. The opening followed a broad fall in Asian shares.
Prices for 10-year U.S. Treasury bonds, a traditional safe haven for investors, jumped in Asian trading on Thursday, helping to keep yields near historic lows.
Oil prices were down more than 5 percent, shaken by a clash between Saudi Arabia and Russia over excessive production and by fears that the world simply does not need as much fuel as it once did.
All eyes are on the European Central Bank, with little hope.
As another wealth-destroying wave of selling swept through European markets early Thursday, eyes turned to the European Central Bank, and an anticipated midday announcement of emergency measures.
The bank was widely expected to deliver a cut to short-term interest rates while perhaps expanding its purchases of bonds, now running at about 20 billion euros ($23 billion) each month.
Investors and economists were expressing confidence that the central bank would deliver some sort of action, in large part because markets are gripped by fear and in need of confidence. Some central banks have already employed their tools: The U.S. Federal Reserve cut rates last week, and the Bank of England followed suit on Wednesday.
But any likely E.C.B. action is also expected to yield little meaningful change. The cuts from the Fed and the Bank of England were both followed by frantic selling, as investors appeared to construe activity as indications of dire conditions.
And the E.C.B. is particularly limited in its actions. Its rates are already below zero. Pushing them further into negative territory is unlikely to spur spending and investment. The central bank has already bought so many bonds that supply is scarce.
The travel ban is expected to take a deep toll on the economy.
President Trump’s decision to ban most European travelers from the United States is expected to shake tourism-dependent industries on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, from airlines to hotels to museums and amusement parks.
It will disrupt ambitious business plans, and add to the problems of world leaders already wrestling with the relentless coronavirus outbreak and the threat it poses to jobs and livelihoods.
Shares in European airlines traded sharply lower Thursday after Mr. Trump announced that he would suspend travel from most of Europe to the United States for 30 days, with the exception of Britain and Ireland. The State Department also warned Americans that they should reconsider all international travel, the most severe caution it can offer short of “do not travel.”
Travel and leisure stocks slumped nearly 10 percent on the benchmark Stoxx 600 index, and European airline shares plunged as much as 20 percent as the sector braced for a nearly unprecedented brake on activity. Air France, Lufthansa and IAG, the owner of British Airways and Iberia, fell as much as 13 percent. Shares in Carnival, the cruise ship operator, fell to 11-year lows.
Global economy was already weakening toward recession.
Even before the global pandemic, many of the world’s largest economies were slowing markedly, sliding toward trouble.
This is the chief finding from a report released by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development on Thursday morning — a potential indication that the deadly coronavirus risks turning what was already flagging growth into a global recession.
Members of the so-called Group of 20 countries — a bloc that collectively accounts for roughly 90 percent of the world’s economic output — saw their growth slow to 0.6 percent during the last three months of 2019, down from 0.8 percent during the previous quarter, according to the report. Japan, Italy, France and Mexico all contracted.
The trend was especially pronounced in Britain, where growth slowed from 0.5 percent between July and September to zero during the last three months of the year. Growth remained unchanged in the United States, remaining at a pace of 0.5 percent expansion.
The data enhance fears that the pandemic is hitting a world economy that was already weakened by a host of factors — the trade war between the United States and China, weakening growth in Europe, and the diminishing effect of tax cuts delivered by the Trump administration in the United States.
Trump’s travel ban sends airfreight rates surging.
President Trump sent global stocks tumbling when he said he would suspend most travel from Europe to the United States. One market saw a surge: the price of airfreight.
Mr. Trump quickly clarified that the suspension applied only to passengers. But airfreight costs surged all the same, for shipments across the Atlantic and around the world.
More than half of the cargo crossing the Atlantic Ocean travels in the bellies of passenger jets. With a large number of passenger flights now likely to be canceled, freighter jets have become essential to moving goods quickly over the Atlantic.
“It doesn’t really matter what the cargo is,” said Peter Stallion, a freight derivatives broker at Freight Investor Services, a London trading firm. “It’s all going to be squeezed onto a very limited freighter network.”
There are a lot more passenger jets than freighter jets, and now the latter are in tight demand. Many have already been put to work on routes out of China, where most passenger air traffic was canceled weeks ago. Now that China is reopening for business, freight agents are struggling to find space on freighters.
Investors shrug off stimulus in Australia, sending stocks tumbling again.
Australian stocks plunged more than 7 percent on Thursday, the worst drop since the 2008 financial crisis, as the government’s unveiling of a multibillion-dollar stimulus package did little to ease investors’ worries over the growing economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
The Australian government announced that it was injecting more than $11 billion into the economy in a stimulus package that will include payouts of up to $16,000 for small- and medium-size businesses to help cover employee wages, as well as tax incentives for bigger businesses to invest in equipment and other assets.
Australia has not been hit as hard by the virus as other countries, reporting 128 cases so far. But the government has warned that the toll on the country’s health and economic activity could grow much worse.
Chinese hackers exploit virus fears.
Over the past two weeks, two well-known Chinese state hacking groups have been baiting employees at large telecommunications companies and government agencies in Asia into downloading fake documents that purport to contain critical coronavirus information, three cybersecurity firms said.
Two California companies, CrowdStrike and FireEye, and the Israeli company Check Point confirmed this week that the Chinese groups were sending out coronavirus-themed documents loaded with malware. For now, the breaches have focused on targets in Vietnam, Mongolia and the Philippines.
FireEye reported that Russian hackers have been using legitimate coronavirus update documents to target entities in Ukraine, and North Korea hackers have used coronavirus information as bait to target a South Korean nongovernmental organization.
Security researchers worry the campaigns are an early warning for cyberattacks that could hit the United States. “We’re seeing cybercriminals and Chinese groups jump on coronavirus,” said Adam Meyers, the head of threat intelligence at CrowdStrike. “People need to be aware of what is coming.”
Mortgage refinancing applications surge as interest rates fall.
Consumers unnerved by the turmoil wrought by the coronavirus on Wall Street can focus on one bright spot, at least: falling mortgage rates.
The rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has dropped to about 3.74 percent, and the Mortgage Bankers Association said Wednesday that refinancing applications jumped 79 percent last week.
The index that tracks refinancing activity surged to its highest level since 2009, the worst of the financial crisis, and there has been an almost equally robust rise in applications for new mortgages.
If interest rates remain low, the association said it expected refinancing activity to exceed last year’s levels by 37 percent.
Here’s what else is happening.
The actor Tom Hanks said he and his wife, Rita Wilson, had tested positive for the coronavirus. The 63-year-old Academy Award-winning actor is in Australia, where he was set to film a movie about the life of Elvis Presley.
Reporting was contributed by Peter S. Goodman, Liz Alderman, Alexandra Stevenson, Isabella Kwai, Keith Bradsher, Nicole Perlroth, Matthew Goldstein, Geneva Abdul and Carlos Tejada.