Financial markets look set for another troubled week, as stocks in Europe and Asia tumbled on Monday and investors looked for safe places to park their money.
Major indexes in Germany, Britain and France were 2 to 3 percent lower in morning trading, most Asian markets closed down, and futures markets signaled that Wall Street would fall when trading begins.
Investors were reacting in part to a political stalemate in the United States. Senate Democrats on Sunday blocked action on an emerging deal to prop up the American economy, halting the progress of a nearly $2 trillion government rescue package. They contended that the legislation failed to adequately protect workers or impose strict enough restrictions on bailed-out businesses.
Investors signaled their skittishness by putting money in places generally considered safe. The price of the 10-year Treasury bond rose, sending yields lower. Gold futures also rose. Oil prices were slightly down, suggesting investors see little demand for fuel.
In the Asia-Pacific region, Australian stocks led the tumble with a 5.6 percent drop. In South Korea, the Kospi index fell 5.3 percent. Hong Kong shares were down 4.9 percent late in the trading day. In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite Index fell 3.1 percent.
SoftBank to sell assets, buy up its own falling shares.
SoftBank on Monday announced that it will sell down $41 billion in assets as it seeks to buy up its own shares, which have dropped precipitously in the last month amid investor concerns about the coronavirus’s impact on its holdings in top tech companies like Uber.
SoftBank, which controls a $100 billion tech investment fund, has bet heavily on tech companies — many offering services such as ride-sharing and hotel booking — that have seen their share prices plummet as consumers stay home amid the pandemic.
In a statement on Monday, SoftBank said it would use 2 trillion yen from the sale of its assets to purchase its own shares. The amount is on top of a 500 billion yen buyback announced earlier this month.
Since mid-February, the company’s share price have dropped by more than 50 percent.
Indian market plummets, triggering a halt in trading.
India’s stock market plunged about 10 percent at the market’s open on Monday, as investors reacted to the widespread coronavirus lockdowns ordered in many states and cities over the weekend.
The sudden fall triggered circuit breakers that imposed a temporary halt on trading. When trading resumed, major indexes continued falling, and by late morning, they were down about 11 percent.
The country’s currency, the rupee, also fell to an all-time low, with $1 worth about 76 rupees, compared to about 72 rupees in early January.
While India has lagged much of the world in the known spread of coronavirus infections, the number of official cases has begun rising sharply in the last few days, especially in densely populated urban areas like Mumbai, the country’s financial capital. On Monday morning, the government said there were 415 confirmed cases.
Commerce in India has ground to a near halt over the past few days. Over the weekend, the country stopped all long-distance passenger train service, and many cities, including Mumbai and the national capital of New Delhi, have shut down all local public transportation. Most businesses have been ordered to close until at least the end of the month.
Stuck in a Spare Room, Running a Company
On Thursday morning, Chuck Robbins, the chief executive of Cisco, signed on to a companywide video conference from his home office in Silicon Valley. The connection was stable, but the quality was not great.
“I tell you,” he said in an earlier interview, “this whole teleworking thing — as much as we sell it to our customers, I’m not sure I want to do it 100 percent of the time.”
As the coronavirus sweeps the globe, even chief executives — who normally flit from meetings to conferences in chauffeured SUVs and private jets — have been confined to spare rooms.
From there, they are working to keep their business afloat as the stock market plummets; managing supply chains upended by travel restrictions and labor shortages; and trying to keep their employees healthy and sane.
Reaching deals won’t be easy. Increasingly acrimonious relations between Washington and Beijing are complicating efforts to get Chinese-made masks to American clinics and hospitals. A breakdown over the last few days in the global business of moving goods by air around the world will make it costly and difficult as well.
At heart, the two countries, which only recently reached a truce in President Trump’s trade war, have some similar problems. Both face harsh questions over their missteps in responding to the outbreak. Washington and Beijing make handy foils for each other — and essential protective gear could get caught in the middle unless they reach an understanding.
A U.S. recession looms as the economic outlook darkens daily.
The American economy is facing a plunge into uncharted waters.
Economists say there is little doubt that the nation is headed into a recession. But it is harder to foresee the bottom, or predict how long it will take to climb back. The abruptness of the descent — and the near-lockdown of major cities — is unheard-of in advanced economies, more akin to wartime privation than to the downturn that accompanied the financial crisis more than a decade ago, or even the Great Depression.
Smaller companies will be hit harder than large ones because they have limited access to credit and less cash in the bank; a wide swath will be unable to survive. And unemployment could hit 10 percent in April, a level unseen since the nadir of the last recession, with the possibility of even higher jobless rates in the following months
A strong rebound — what economists call a V-shaped recovery, as opposed to a U-shaped one, with an extended low — would require a profound resurgence in confidence. But few see that on the horizon.
Catch up: Here’s what else is happening.
Drive-through testing sites were opened Sunday in Walmart parking lots in the Chicago area, part of the retailer’s collaboration with federal health officials, for health care workers and emergency personnel.
In a letter to congressional leadership on Saturday, the chief executives of the major airlines, UPS and FedEx said that they would postpone mass layoffs and stock buybacks and dividends if a bailout large enough is passed.
Reporting was contributed by David Gelles, Keith Bradsher, Ana Swanson, Carlos Tejada, Ben Dooley, Vindu Goel, Kevin Granville and Daniel Victor.