Asian markets braced for deeper rout as virus panic worsens

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Asia’s stocks were poised to plunge further on Friday as panic gripped world financial markets and even safe-haven assets such as gold were ditched to cover losses in the wipeout.

S&P 500 futures ESc1 are down 0.5% in Asia. Nikkei futures NKc1 were 10.88% lower in late New York trade. Australia’s benchmark lost 7% and New Zealand’s index was last more than 8%, its biggest intraday drop on record.

Currency trading was erratic amid poor liquidity and a rush to secure financing in dollars. [FRX/]

Overnight, Wall Street’s Dow industrials index .DJI suffered its largest daily decline since the 1987 Black Monday crash.

The plunge, as the coronavirus pandemic spreads, gathered steam after U.S. President Donald Trump spooked investors with a move to restrict travel from Europe, and after the European Central Bank disappointed markets by holding back on rate cuts.

Trade was halted on the S&P 500 .SPX. after it hit downdraft circuit breakers. It fell further when trade resumed, eventually losing 9.5% to close 27% below February’s peak.

Gold XAU= fell 3.5%, yields on long-dated U.S. Treasuries rose amid the panic, and in the currency markets, investors stampeded into the dollar. [US/] [GOL/]

“Everyone is just de-risking,” said Stuart Oakley, Nomura’s global head of flow FX in Singapore.

“It’s not just a case of the stock market going down, anyone who’s long the stock market needs to chop out…it’s just a case of people wanting to bring risk back to flat,” he said.

In a televised address late on Wednesday, U.S. President Donald Trump imposed restrictions on travel from Europe to the United States, shocking investors and travelers.

Traders were disappointed after hoping to see broader measures to fight the spread of the virus and blunt its expected blow to economic growth.

The New York Federal Reserve pumped more liquidity to banks to try and stabilize the system as markets show signs of stress.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe .MIWD00000PUS shed 9.51% and was down more than 20% from its 52-week peak.

The VIX volatility index – Wall Street’s “fear gauge” – and an equivalent measure of volatility for the Euro Stoxx 50 .V2TX hit their highest since the 2008 financial crisis.

In early Asia currency trade volumes were light and tight liquidity exaggerated moves. The dollar handed back some gains to the yen, pound and franc and Australian dollar AUD=D3 lifted about 1% from an 11-year low to $0.6287.

The euro EUR= found footing at $1.1171 after falling as far as $1.1054 overnight.

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