The Dow crashed as much as 1,000 points on Monday as the spread of coronavirus in Italy and South Korea heightened concerns about a global pandemic. Adding to the worries, a surprising admission of guilt from Chinese premier Xi Jinping suggested the coronavirus is far from being under control in China.
All three major U.S. equity indexes dove sharply when exchanges opened on Monday and only managed to mount paltry recoveries from their session lows.
The Dow slid 2.76% after crashing more than 1,000 points at its lows. As of 3:11 pm ET, the DJIA had endured a cumulative loss of 799.22 points to settle at 28,193.19.
The S&P 500 lurched 2.78% lower to 3,244.96, while the Nasdaq’s 3.14% nosedive battered the tech-heavy index all the way down to 9,276.35
In the commodity sector, the price of gold surged to fresh multi-year highs above $1,680 – though it later retraced to $1,655. WTI crude oil plummeted with the stock market, down 3.4% at $51.56.
Dow bulls may finally be forced to accept the economic reality of the coronavirus outbreak, as Chinese Premier Xi Jinping made an (exceptionally rare) admission that the virus has exposed several shortcomings in his government.
Xi commented that China still does not have the infection spread under control, as he stated,
First, [we must] resolutely curb the spread of epidemic … increase the rate of treatment and cure, and reduce the infection and death rates effectively in Hubei and Wuhan.
His use of the word “crisis” is quite shocking from the famously guarded government and is likely to have a negative impact on Wall Street’s nervous mood.
The timing of the announcement is unsurprising given that China can no longer control the dialogue around the outbreak. It has now taken root in Iran, South Korea, and Italy.
South Korea has now announced more than 600 cases of the coronavirus, and recently raised its threat level yet again.
In Iran, the government fears the virus is in every single city and has announced eight deaths. As neighboring states shut land borders, the World Health Organization (WHO) is extremely concerned about this outbreak, largely because they fear Iran does not have the medical infrastructure to deal with a significant crisis.
Italy has become a base camp for the coronavirus in Europe with 155 confirmed cases and 11 cities under lockdown. Worried citizens are stocking up on food, with any shortages likely to have an impact on inflation in the region.
While the impact of the coronavirus has been obvious in plenty of dire economic statistics, none more so than the 92% drop in Chinese car sales, there are structural warning signs flashing red.
According to a research note from economist Andreas Steno Larsen at Nordea, China’s biggest exporters have been hoarding U.S. dollars as the fear of a major devaluation in the yuan runs rampant:
It seems like USDs are already scarce… at least in China. China’s MOFCOM said that exporters face difficulties in receiving FX, and already before the outbreak of the Wuhan virus, the conversion rate of “received FX” was at 12-months lows. Usually, this is a sign that exporters fear CNY weakness. We wouldn’t be surprised to see record-lows in the foreign FX conversion rate in February, which leaves a bit of homework to be done for the PBoC in terms of restabilising the credibility outlook around the CNY.
The People’s Bank of China (PBOC) keeps a tight grip on the CNY. Weaker fixings by the PBOC can be interpreted bearishly by the stock market, but so far, USD/CNH has not seen a dramatic spike.
Adding to potential volatility for the Dow Jones, Senator Bernie Sanders is powering his way towards the Democratic nomination after another win in Nevada.
One billionaire speculated that a Sanders presidency poses a bigger threat to the Dow Jones than the coronavirus.
With so much going on, the VIX has been on the rise. After such a busy weekend of bearish headlines, all signs point to a week of volatility in the Dow 30, particularly in stocks with sizeable Chinese exposure.
Almost every DJIA component got battered on Monday. Apple lost 3.2%. Boeing stock was down more than 3.25%. Nike, another company with sizeable China exposure lost more than 3.2%.
UnitedHealth Group was the worst hit, down 6.2% amid the very real momentum behind the Bernie Sanders campaign.
American Express was the next worst performer with a 4.5% setback.
At the time of writing, Verizon stock was the only member of the Dow Jones in the green, and even it was up less than 0.2%.
Last modified: February 25, 2020 4:33 PM UTC