Stocks slide to two-week low on China virus fears, safe havens gain

Stocks slide to two-week low on China virus fears, safe havens gain

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Stocks markets tumbled worldwide on Monday and investors worried about the possible economic impact of the coronavirus drove up the price of safe-haven assets such as the Japanese yen and government debt.

China’s yuan tumbled to a 2020 low and commodity-linked currencies such as the Australian dollar fell on mounting concern about the coronavirus. The yen was the main beneficiary, though its move higher was limited.

Crude prices dropped below $60 a barrel for the first time in nearly three months on risk aversion, while gold prices surged 1% to nearly a three-week high.

Benchmark U.S. Treasury yields fell to three-month lows while the yield on 10-year German bunds, the euro zone benchmark, fell to its lowest in almost two months.

Key indexes for British, French and German equity markets slid more than 2%, as did pan-European markets. Stocks on Wall Street fell more than 1% as investors grew increasingly anxious.

Markets in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and Australia were closed on Monday.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe .MIWD00000PUS shed 1.56% to a three-week low, while its emerging market index lost 1.59%.

The broad FTSEurofirst 300 index in Europe .FTEU3 dropped 2.23 percent at 1,619.61 while the pan-European STOXX 600 index lost 2.29%.1,620.23

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 405.73 points, or 1.4%, to 28,584, the S&P 500 .SPX lost 46.54 points, or 1.41%, to 3,248.93 and the Nasdaq Composite .IXIC dropped 167.91 points, or 1.8%, to 9,147.00.

U.S. equities were overdue for a correction, said David Kelly, chief global strategist at JPMorgan Funds in New York. “We have a slow and steady economy, a giddy and fast market and eventually those two things have to meet in the middle somewhere.”

The benchmark S&P 500 rose more than 12% from the end of September to an all-time high last week.

FILE PHOTO: A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange shortly after the opening bell in New York, U.S., January 24, 2020. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

“The market was due for a fall and coronavirus is a perfect case of an unknown unknown. An increase in uncertainty causes the market to fall but the real question here does it affect the global economy?” Kelly said, adding he did not expect it to significantly change global economic growth or corporate earnings.

China extended its Lunar New Year holiday and the Shanghai stock exchange said it will reopen Feb. 3. More big businesses in China shut down and told staff to work from home in a bid to contain the disease’s spread as the death toll rose to 81.

The Nikkei share average .N225 in Tokyo slumped 2.03%, its biggest percentage fall since August, with tourism shares hard hit.

The ability of the coronavirus to spread is getting stronger and infections could continue to rise, China’s National Health Commission said on Sunday. The total number of confirmed cases in China rose to 2,835.

Robert Pavlik, chief investment strategist at SlateStone Wealth LLC in New York said investors are scared that the virus could lead to an economic slowdown but at the moment the market has overreacted.

“The market has been waiting for some sort of sell-off to develop after a roughly 30% year and for a reason for it to happen,” Pavlik said.

Oil prices fell about 2% and earlier falling more than 3%.

Brent crude LCOc1 slid $1.23 a barrel to $59.46, its lowest since late October and the biggest intra-day fall since Jan. 8. U.S. crude CLc1 fell 96 cents to $53.23 a barrel.

U.S. Treasury prices advanced, pushing their yield lower.

Benchmark 10-year Treasury notes US10YT=RR rose 19/32 in price to yield 1.6149%.

The benchmark 10-year Bund yield was down 5 bps to -0.414%. DE10YT=RR

FILE PHOTO: The London Stock Exchange Group offices are seen in the City of London, Britain, December 29, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville

In the currency market, the dollar index .DXY rose 0.12%, with the euro EUR= down 0.1% to $1.1012.

The yen JPY= strengthened 0.31% versus the greenback at 108.96 per dollar.

Spot gold XAU= rose as much as 1.0% to $1,586.425 an ounce, the highest level since Jan. 8, as the coronavirus outbreak pushed up demand for the safe-haven metal.[GOL]

Reporting by Herbert Lash; Editing by David Gregorio

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