NYSE trading floor. Coronavirus panic sent world stock markets tumbling again on Friday, setting them on course for their largest weekly fall since the 2008 global financial crisis, with over $5 trillion wiped from global market value. Image Credit: AP

New York: Coronavirus panic sent world stock markets tumbling again on Friday, setting them on course for their largest weekly fall since the 2008 global financial crisis, with over $5 trillion wiped from global market value so far this week.

Stocks shaved some losses on Wall Street after Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank will act as appropriate to provide support to the U.S. economy, but the S&P 500 index remained on track for its second-largest weekly percentage decline since 1940.

Yields on U.S. government bonds, widely seen as the world’s most secure asset, posted fresh record lows.

Disruptions to international travel and supply chains, school closures and cancellations of major events have all blackened the outlook for a world economy that was already struggling with fallout from the U.S.-China trade war.

Hopes the epidemic, first detected in China in December, would be over swiftly and economic activity quickly return to normal have been shattered as the World Health Organization warned it could spread worldwide.

“The uncertainty hovering over the markets will only be alleviated when there is a sense that the worst is almost over,” said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial Inc. “Until then it is risk off.” The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 685.7 points, or 2.66%, to 25,080.94, and the S&P 500 lost 62.2 points, or 2.09%, to 2,916.56.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe shed 2.42% for a weekly loss near 11%, its second largest on record.

$5 trillion wiped out

The over $5 trillion lost in market cap is roughly equivalent to Japan’s yearly GDP, the third-largest in the world.

In Asia, MSCI’s regional index excluding Japan shed 2.6%. Japan’s Nikkei slumped 3.7% on rising fears the July-August Tokyo Olympics may be called off due to the coronavirus.

The CSI300 index of Shanghai and Shenzhen shares dropped 3.5% bringing its weekly loss to 5%, the largest since April.

About 10 countries have reported their first virus cases over the past 24 hours, including Nigeria, the biggest economy in Africa.

Rate cuts priced in

Expectations the Fed will cut interest rates to cushion the blow are rising in money markets and Powell’s remarks reinforced the sentiment. Fed funds futures are now fully pricing in a rate cut next month, with the question only being how large it will be.

The European Central Bank historically lags the Fed but it is now seen cutting by another 10 basis points by June.

The yen’s luster shined, with the Japanese currency rising by the most for any week since mid-2016.

On Friday the yen strengthened 1.61% versus the greenback at 107.88 per dollar.

The dollar index fell 0.32%, with the euro up 0.27% to $1.1028. Sterling was last trading at $1.279, down 0.73% on the day.

The appeal of guaranteed income sent high-grade bonds rallying. U.S. yields - which move inversely to the price - plunged, with the benchmark 10-year note yield hitting a record low of 1.126%.

“The market is pricing in a rate cut by March and three rate cuts this year, which is a huge turnaround from the start of the year. But the fact that it looks like coronavirus has a long way to go means this is not surprising,” said Chris Scicluna, head of economic research at Daiwa Capital Markets in London.

Benchmark 10-year notes last rose 1-9/32 in price to yield 1.1257%, from 1.299% late Thursday. The 30-year bond last rose 2-24/32 in price to yield 1.6676%, from 1.783%.

Commodities tank

Oil prices slumped again and were set for their steepest weekly fall in years on fears of drooping demand.

U.S. crude fell 3.89% to $45.26 per barrel and Brent was last at $50.50, down 3.22% on the day.

Palladium led a free fall in precious metals as coronavirus drove panic-stricken investors to liquidate assets across the board.

Spot gold dropped 3.5% to $1,584.51 an ounce after touching a 7-year high on Thursday. Palladium dropped 9.9% to $2,564.01 an ounce after hitting a record high on Thursday.

Among industrial metals, copper rose 0.34% to $5,634.85 a tonne. Three-month aluminum on the London Metal Exchange rose 0.68% to $1,701.50 a tonne.