Showing posts with label WHO. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WHO. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Stocks Lose Record Amounts, Treasury Bond Yields Smashed As COVID-19 Begins Taking Its Toll

All of the major US indices posted record losses as coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to rage through 115 countries, with 114,595 confirmed cases and a death toll now over 4,000 (4,028).

Adding to market grief, Saudi Arabia, in an effort to harm other oil producers sent crude futures plunging as it unilaterally slashed prices and raised production output. WTI crude fell below $30 a barrel, recovering slightly to above $34.00 a barrel prior to Tuesday's opening bell. Still, the price cut was mammoth, on the order of a 24.6% decline. WTI closed at $41.28 Friday, finishing at $31.13 on Monday.

The Dow, S&P, NASDAQ, and NYSE all recorded record point losses, blowing away earlier marks. The Dow's 2,013.76 loss nearly doubled the previous record from February 27 of this year (−1,190.95). On The NASDAQ, the 624.94-point loss topped the list, easily surpassing the February 9 drop of −414.30.

Losing 225,81, the S&P vaulted over its previous mark of −137.63, also on February 27 of this year, less than two weeks ago.

The treasury bond complex was not spared, with yields falling across the entire curve by enormous amounts. The 30-year bond finished at 0.99% yield, the first time ever it has been below one percent. The day's decline was an unprecedented 26 basis points. At the other end, one-month bills dropped 22 basis points, from 0.79 to 0.57%.

Offering the lowest yield is the six-month bill, at 0.27%. The 10-year note was absolutely shattered, down 20 basis points, from 0.74 to 0.54%. In terms of curve, the complex is exceedingly flat, with just 72 basis points between the top and bottom yields.

Gold and silver both were higher initially, but were beaten down over the course of the day.

In the United States, the number of new, confirmed cases are rising rapidly as tests from the CDC begin arriving in massive quantities to state and local hospitals and labs. There are now 755 cases of coronavirus in the US, and 26 deaths.

After China, the US ranks 8th overall. Italy has reported 9,172 cases with 463 deaths. Italy's death figures are the highest outside mainland China, as are the number of cases. The Italian government closed its borders completely on Monday after efforts to contain the virus to the northern provinces failed.

The other countries topping the list of most infected are, in order, South Korea, Iran, France, Spain, and Germany, after which comes the United States. All of the aforementioned countries are reporting more than 1,000 cases. Confirmed cases outside China has exceeded those inside China for nearly the past week and are doubling every three to four days.

In addition to the human tragedy, large events are being canceled worldwide. Ireland has canceled all St. Patrick's Day parades, and around the world sporting events, concerts and other large-crowd gatherings are being put on hold or canceled, including the huge South-by-Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas. The NCAA basketball tournament, commonly known as March Madness, which begins in a week, NBA basketball, and Major League Baseball, which opens its regular season on March 26, are all mulling the idea of playing games with no fans in the stands.

Businesses are gearing down due to the crisis, with many major firms instructing employees to work from home. School cancelations are on the rise globally, and will be widespread in the US in coming days and weeks.

The after-effects of the virus on the business community and the economy are just beginning to be felt according to many in finance, including hedge fund manager Kyle Bass, who believes the crisi will peak in about a month.

Even though the World Health Organization (WHO) is reluctant to call the worldwide spread of the pathogen a pandemic, it is surely one. The WHO does not want to use the world pandemic as it would trigger the default of "pandemic bonds," designed to provide $500 million to the organization should a pandemic be declared.

With less than an hour before the opening bell in the US, stocks seem to have caught a bid. Japan's NIKKEI was lower for most of the day but finished marginally higher on Tuesday. Other Pacific Rim bourses finished with gains of one to one-and-a-half percent, while European indices are currently sporting gains of around 2.5%.

US stock futures point to a higher open, as traders prepare for another stressful session. The so-called "dead cat bounce" applies, as the markets don't seem to have actually bottomed out. When all is said and done, many countries are going to report GDP losses for the first and likely, second quarters, plunging the world into what may be a prolonged recession.

At the Close, Monday, March 9, 2020:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 23,851.02, -2,013.76 (-7.79%)
NASDAQ: 7,950.68, -624.94 (-7.29%)
S&P 500: 2,746.56, -225.81 (-7.60%)
NYSE: 11,298.43, -1,053.60 (-8.53%)

Monday, February 24, 2020

WEEKEND WRAP: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Providing Effective Cover For Profit Taking In Stocks; Bonds Rallying; Gold, Silver Flying

Making new all-time highs during the week were the NASDAQ and S&P, while the NYSE and Dow lagged, despite having reached a similar pinnacle earlier this year.

Market news is abuzz with coronavirus as the culprit for this week of losses, as stocks turned south mid-week. While the virus has yet to kill or infect significant numbers outside mainland China - less than 20 deaths worldwide, sans the red nation - it's the damage to supply chains and earnings that most bothers the money mavens of lower Manhattan.

Seriously, the people working the computers, phones, tickers, and squawk boxes could care less about 75,000 sick Chinese people or even the 2500 dead from the virus. They're much more concerned that critical parts in a just-in-time (JIT) production process won't be arriving from across the Pacific. The wheels of enterprise and consumerism need to be kept turning, and essential parts not being delivered puts a severe kink in those plans.

While much of China is under quarantine, some segments have gotten back to work, though the timeline continues to shift. Originally, communities under quarantine were supposed to get back to work in early February. As the virus spread and the severity of the situation sank in, those dates continued to be moved back later and later. Presently, many companies in China won't be getting back to full production before the second week of March.

Stocks haven't really suffered amid all the fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD), but they are likely to in the immediate future. As of Monday morning of February 24, a global blood-letting is underway. Asian stocks were down in a range of one to two percent, but Europe is taking it harder, with indices in Germany, France, England, and elsewhere down more than three percent, making for one of the biggest one-day drops this century.

The US markets, set to open within the hour, are showing futures off by staggering amounts, indicating a serious decline at the opening bell. Indications are that the Dow could be down nearly 1000 points, while the NASDAQ may shed more than 300. Both would qualify as among the largest declines in history.

If markets panic, which appears to be what they're setting up for, a mixed message is going to be sent. While the money managers are concerned primarily with business disruption, the general population will read the message quite differently, assuming from the massive drops on Wall Street that the virus is a killer and is coming to a neighborhood or household near you, and soon.

This is the height of cognitive dissonance and what anyone with half a wit would like to avoid. Widespread public panic over a virus that has claimed ZERO deaths in the United States and far less infections than the ordinary flu is not a condition conducive to a functioning society. Further fears could be stoked by officials at the WHO and CDC, who readily dropped the ball on the virus from the start and are now becoming the leading cheerleaders for what is likely to be largely unwarranted despair.

What the virus represents is more a threat to sanity than one's physical health. Even taking the total number of cases including those in China, the chances of contracting COVID-19 are not even as good as getting into a traffic accident. People in America are more likely to suffer injury from slipping in a bathtub, falling off a ladder, or cutting themselves with a kitchen knife than catching Wuhan Flu.

So, when stocks crash on Monday, bear in mind that they were wildly overvalued and COVID-19 and its associated panic is providing a friendly cover for profit-taking. A rout is what this market is badly in need of, and, if stocks head into bear territory (a place they're not even close to approaching at this time), it's not likely to last much longer than the time it takes for coronavirus to spread worldwide, inflict disease and death, and finally peter out by June.

First quarter results for China are going to be horrendous, with GDP growth probably plummeting by 35-50 percent. In Europe, a quarter that avoids a negative number would be a surprise, while the US is likely to print something on the order of a onesie, in the range of 0.6 to 1.5 percent gain.

It's far too early to predict how the second quarter shapes up, but there's plenty of evidence that the first quarter is going to come in positive. Feeding that data into the political landscape, it suggests that even if the US does fall into a recession, it's not going to be confirmed until near the end of October, just in time to have an effect on US elections, as GDP would have to decline for two consecutive quarters.

There's a risk that the second quarter will be in the red, but prospects for the third are better if the virus carries along the same pathway as other similar infectious strains such as SARS and MERS. Warm weather and humidity are virus-killers.

It's getting interesting, though the fears of widespread infections are currently oversold.

Bonds have been and continue to take the situation with all due seriousness. The 30-year bond ripped lower on Friday to an all-time low yield of 1.90% and the 10-year is chasing it down, closing out the week at 1.45%, perilously close to its all-time low. The 10-year note yielded 1.37 on 07/05/16, and again on 07/08/16. That level could be tested this week and a sustained drop into the 1.15 to 1.25% range would not be unwarranted during a panic condition.

The curve, however, remains nearly flat for the 2s-10s, which are holding up a 12-basis point difference (2s at 1.34%), but the shortest duration paper, 1, 2, 3, and 6-month bills are all sporting yields higher than 10-year, so concern is evident that the US economy is vulnerable to a major shock.

Gold and silver made significant gains over the course of the week, as the flight to true safety accelerated. Gold ended at a seven-year high, at 1643.00 the ounce. Silver closed out on Friday at 18.45 per ounce. A good start to a real rally, but far away from a breakout point. Both are up sharply early Monday morning.

Crude oil had a relatively good week, though the price for WTI crude in Monday morning's futures are looking rather grim, down more than three percent and approaching the Maginot line of $50 per barrel. It's unlikely to hold that level. Speculators are currently eyeing the $45-48 range and the next support level.

All of this points to a near-term washout in stocks. While there's currently not any markers being set down for a sustained rout, it is possible, though considered unlikely, as is the case for what some call "the great reset" where markets crumble like in 2008 and the entire global financial edifice is blown asunder.

No serious person is calling for anything more than a short-term correction, though markets have a unique way of making everybody look like fools.

Stay informed, stay calm, prepare.

At the Close, Friday, February 21, 2020:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 28,992.41, -227.59 (-0.78%)
NASDAQ: 9,576.59, -174.37 (-1.79%)
S&P 500: 3,337.75, -35.48 (-1.05%)
NYSE: 13,975.78, -85.72 (-0.61%)

For the Week:
Dow: -405.67 (-1.38%)
NASDAQ: -174.38 (-1.79%)
S&P 500: -42.41 (-1.25%)
NYSE: -121.56 (-0.86%)

Sunday, February 2, 2020

WEEKEND WRAP: Virus Fears Spark Selling Spree; But Preventive Measures May Be Slowing Advance of 2019-nCoV

It wasn't a particularly positive week for equities. In fact, it was negative, across the board, ending with a massive selloff on Friday, culminating in the worst week for US stocks since October, 2019.

The better part of the decline came on Friday, after the WHO had issued an international alert on the coronavirus (2019-nCoV) and US stocks soared off lows on Thursday. Reality set in Friday and accounted for 75-80% of the total weekly decline.

As the weekend wore on (this is now Sunday noon in the US, Eastern Time), more reports proved encouraging. The official count from China confirmed 14,380 cases total, and 304 deaths. On Saturday, a death in the Philippines was suggested to have been caused by coronavirus but that has yet to be confirmed. Medical professionals are awaiting further testing. The patient died from pneumonia, but it may have come from normal, seasonal flu.

In the US, there's a better chance of dying from the common flu than the coronavirus, according to the CDC.

Preliminary considerations are suggesting that the spread of the virus is being slowed by China's quarantines and travel restrictions and monitoring around the world and that many reports on social media such as Twitter and Facebook have proven false, misleading or negatively hyperbolic.

Patient Zero, i.e., the first case of the disease to have been reported in the United States (Washington state), became quite ill, was treated intravenously with remdesivir (a drug produced by Gilead Sciences (GILD)) and was recovering.

Also on Friday, Great Britain finally extricated itself from the European Union via what's been known as Brexit, the referendum passed by the British public more than three-and-a-half years ago (June 23, 2016), and President Trump appeared on the way to being acquitted on charges of impeachment by the Senate, which voted 51-49 against calling additional witnesses. A final vote on acquittal or guilt will be held at 4:00 pm ET, Wednesday, February 5.

As frightening as the coronavirus and other news may be, people around the world can take heart in the video below: Nigel Farage's final speech at the European Parliament. As of 11:00 pm January 31, 2020, Britain formally withdrew from the European Union.

At the Close, Friday, January 31, 2020:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 28,256.03, -603.41 (-2.09%)
NASDAQ: 9,150.94, -148.00 (-1.59%)
S&P 500: 3,225.52, -58.14 (-1.77%)
NYSE: 13,614.10, -247.82 (-1.79%)

For the Week:
Dow: -733.70 (-2.53%)
NASDAQ: -163.98 (-1.76%)
S&P 500: -69.95 (-2.12%)
NYSE: -364.37 (-2.61%)

Friday, January 31, 2020

Coronavirus, Now Global, Will Dominate News For Months

The idea that stocks would erase losses and finish strongly positive after the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it was raising the level of threat to that of an international pandemic is just plain perverse.

It's what happens when 70% of the trading is performed by headline scanning algorithms that saw the WHO headline as essentially, "nothing to worry about, we got this."

Nothing could be further from the truth. The coronavirus has spread now to encompass the entire Northern Hemisphere, with Russia the latest to announce cases of the virus within its borders. Italy has issued a six month state of emergency. Two-thirds of China is under some form of travel restriction, quarantine, or other health-related orders. Person-to-person transmission has been reported in at least five countries, including Japan and the United States.

Within two weeks the most recent numbers (9692 confirmed cases, 213 deaths as of January 30) are going to be dwarfed by the magnitude of the spread of this pathogen, and there's still no reliable data on the ratio of confirmed cases to deaths, which range - according to medical experts - from two percent to as high as 12 percent, but nobody actually knows for sure.

The WHO, at its press conference Thursday announcing a global pandemic went out of its way to praise China's efforts to contain the virus. This statement was made only to avoid causing a panic. China was actually slow to report the initial outbreak, initially punishing people who were issuing warnings, eventually acting with little regard to human life, allowing the virus to spread unchecked for weeks.

Wikipedia has about as accurate and compelling a timeline as could be expected.

If the Chinese did such a bang-up job containing this virus, why is it now to be found in more than 25 other countries? Why are flights in and out of China only being banned now, nearly two months after the initial report of this new, deadly strain (December 1 or December 8)?

There's a very good chance, being that China has shut down most transportation facilities in and out of cities and provinces, that food shortages will occur and that more people may die from starvation or other causes than the actual disease.

This virus has been taken far too lightly and is going to continue to spread, virtually unchecked, for months.

Meanwhile, the Senate looks to wrap up the impeachment trial of President Trump on Friday after a vote to allow more witnesses is taken and will likely fail. The Republicans have 50 votes at least with which to defeat the motion, the only wild card being that the presiding judge, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Roberts, could conceivably take the unprecedented step of deciding the motion should the vote come down as a 50-50 tie.

He is expected to NOT take that step, as a tie would defeat the measure.

In economic news, the first estimate of 2019 fourth quarter GDP came in at 2.1%, making all of 2019, at 2.3%, the worst year under President Trump. GDP grew by 2.9% in 2018, and 2.4% in 2017.

And, in Virginia, the state assembly is wasting no time making sure citizens cannot defend themselves.

At the Close, Thursday, January 30, 2020:
Dow Jones Industrial Average: 28,859.44, +124.99 (+0.43%)
NASDAQ: 9,298.93, +23.77 (+0.26%)
S&P 500: 3,283.66, +10.26 (+0.31%)
NYSE: 13,861.92, +18.11 (+0.13%)