After April finished with a whimper on stock markets, the new month has come in similarly weak. Threatening to make a bad situation worse is President Donald Trump, who has weighed in with a threat to impose new trade tariffs on China in retaliation for coronavirus.
With the U.S. election campaign likely to get into full swing in coming months, Trump might up his anti-China rhetoric -- he says he was confident the virus originated in a Chinese lab. But the full effect of that newsflow will not be felt fully today, a public holiday in many countries.
MSCI world stocks have added to last night's 0.7% fall, which broke a six-day winning streak. Wall Street capped its best month in 33 years with a loss, hurt by horrible U.S. economic data and mixed company results.
U.S. weekly jobless claims totalled 3.84 million and U.S. personal spending tumbled 7.5% in March, the biggest decline on record. That came a day after figures showed the biggest quarterly contraction for the U.S. economy since the Great Recession.
The Federal Reserve has widened a programme aimed at Main Street. That put pressure on the dollar, which is set for a 2% weekly loss. It has steadied somewhat this morning, however.
Economic data are awful everywhere. Data today showed Tokyo inflation — a good gauge for the rest of Japan — fell for the first time in three years and Japanese April factory activity shrank at the fastest pace in a decade. South Korean exports, a good bellwether for world trade, suffered the worst slump in 11 years, with a 24% fall.
The holiday means currency liquidity will be thin and there is no exchange trading in euro zone government bonds or equities. London is open, however, and the FTSE has opened 2.4% lower after the previous day’s 3.5% slump, which was the biggest in a month.
On the earnings front, another dire bank reading, this time from RBS, where profits halved in the first quarter and provisions of 800 million pounds were made against bad loans. In all, Britain's biggest four banks - RBS, HSBC, Barclays and Lloyds - have set aside a combined 6.7 billion pounds to cover an expected rise in defaults.
On the aviation front, Ryanair will ground almost all its planes until July, while British Airways plans to lay off a quarter of its pilots. And London's Heathrow Airport, usually the busiest in Europe, said passenger numbers would be down around 97% in April.
Is there any good news at all? On the coronavirus front, growth in new infections as well as deaths seems to have slowed. More countries should resume economic activity, with Germany out of the blocks next week.
Deutsche Bank notes also that lockdowns may have averted 11,000 air pollution-linked deaths in Europe – figures will be multiples of that across Asia and Latin America.
Also, during Wall Street's night of the FAANGs, Apple revenues pleasantly surprised, pushing shares higher. Amazon warned of its first quarterly loss in five years, hitting shares after-hours, but its forecast of a 26% revenue jump to around $80 billion is still an astonishing feat -- one analyst calculated that as amounting to $10,000 worth of sales every second for three months.
Some major emerging markets, from South Africa to Malaysia, have started or announced plans to gradually re-open economies But the sector is taking a hit from the worries of a renewed tariff war between China and the United States, the latest falls offsetting the week’s 5% gains for stocks.
Brazil’s record-low real slumped another 2.8% overnight, Mexico’s peso dropped 1% and South Africa’s rand is down almost 1% today.
— A look at the day ahead from EMEA deputy markets editor Sujata Rao. The views expressed are her own —