With the coronavirus death toll approaching 3000, South Korea suffering another swell of cases, financial warnings from the likes of Microsoft, and the launch of an emergency response plan in Australia, it was hard to find even a modicum of comfort on Thursday morning.
The fact Mike Pence – whose policies helped lead to Indiana’s worst outbreak of HIV, not at the height of the crisis, but in 2014/15 – has been put in charge of the US response to the coronavirus was arguably the tipping point for investors.
It’s an unserious choice by a President who, on Wednesday night, seemed too blasé about the issue for the market’s liking – especially since former Fed chair Janet Yellen speculated that a surge of cases in America could force the country into a recession.
This sickly soup gave Europe a serious fever after the bell. The FTSE, which yesterday had clawed its way higher, sank by 2.6%, tumbling to 6860 for the first time in almost exactly 13 months. A near 300 point fall for the DAX took it to a 4-month-plus low of 12480 – remember 7 days ago it was, incredibly, at an all-time high of 13800 – while the CAC suffered its own 2.5% decline.
As for the Dow Jones, after failing to keep hold of its Europe-boosting gains by the end of the American session, the US index is looking at a 1.1% fall when the bell rings on Wall Street. Though, as ever, there’s a long way to go between now and then, so the state of play may have changed.
Ahead of the unveiling of Boris Johnson’s post-Brexit trade strategy – something that will likely further expose the divisions between the UK and EU – the pound managed to rebound from Wednesday’s losses. Well, against the dollar at least; cable rose 0.3%, while against the euro sterling dipped 0.1%.