NEW YORK (Reuters) – Global equity markets fell sharply on Thursday in their worst sell-off since markets crashed in March, while safe-haven assets rose after the Federal Reserve’s sobering outlook cast doubt on hopes for a V-shaped recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
A broad rout slammed Wall Street, a 10-day winning streak in Asia came to a halt [.T] and major European bourses fell about 4%, ending a recent rally that had recouped much of the market’s deep losses and even drove the Nasdaq to record highs this week.
U.S. Treasury and euro zone government bonds rallied after the Fed signaled it plans years of extraordinary support to counter the economic fallout from a still spreading pandemic.
U.S. gold futures settled more than 1% higher and the dollar, yen and Swiss franc all benefited from safe-haven flows as Wall Street slumped.
The number of Americans seeking jobless benefits fell last week, but millions laid off due to COVID-19 continue to receive unemployment checks, suggesting the U.S. labor market could take years to heal even as hiring resumes.
The Fed is not painting a perfect V-shaped recovery and is going to be ultra-accommodative for a very long time, said Esty Dwek, head of global market strategy at Natixis Investment Managers in Geneva.
“Suddenly the question is, ‘Well, why are they going to be so accommodative if the recovery is going so well?’” she said.
Some of the sell-off “is probably just by not being the V-shape the market is priced for right now, and some of it is taking a breather after the last few weeks,” Dwek said.
In a reality check to the stock market’s recent euphoria, the Fed predicted the U.S. economy would shrink 6.5% in 2020 and unemployment would still be at 9.3% at year’s end.
MSCI’s all-country world index, which tracks shares in 49 nations, fell 4.4% to 515.99, its biggest slide since March 18. Europe’s broad FTSEurofirst 300 index closed down 4.11% at 1,378.16.
On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1,678.94 points, or 6.22%, to 25,311.05. The S&P 500 lost 167.48 points, or 5.25%, to 3,022.66 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 447.70 points, or 4.47%, to 9,572.65.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the New York Stock Exchange by an 18:1 ratio, while the ratio was 13:1 on the Nasdaq.
Fed Chair Jerome Powell on Wednesday at the end of a two-day meeting of policymakers confirmed the Fed was studying yield curve control, a form of easing already employed by Japan and Australia.
John Vail, chief global strategist at Nikko Asset Management in Tokyo, said in his view the Fed is moving toward yield curve control, which should keep 10-year yields at 1% or less and will tend to suppress the dollar, at least for a while.
Yields on 10-year Treasury notes dropped sharply from last week’s peak of 0.96%. [US/] The 10-year Treasury note fell 8.9 basis points to yield 0.6592%, while Germany’s 10-year benchmark fell 10 basis points to a nine-day low at -0.43%.
The yen rose to a one-month high against the dollar, while the Swiss franc climbed to a three-month peak. The dollar also rose 0.4% to 96.556, against a basket of currencies.
The euro fell 0.56% to $1.1305, and the yen slid 0.24% to $106.8300.
U.S. gold futures settled up 1.1% at $1,739.80 an ounce.
(GRAPHIC: World stocks rally runs into resistance – here)
Market sentiment also took a hit as new coronavirus infections in the United States showed a slight increase after five weeks of declines, only part of which was attributed to more testing.
Eric Toner, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said, “There is a new wave coming in parts of the country. It’s small and it’s distant so far, but it’s coming.”
Oil prices tumbled, fueled by renewed concerns about demand destruction as new cases of coronavirus tick up globally, while the United States saw another large build in crude inventories.
Brent crude futures settled 7.62 percent lower at $38.55 a barrel. U.S. crude oil futures settled at $36.34 a barrel, down $3.26, or 8.23%.
Reporting by Herbert Lash, additional reporting by Elizabeth Dilts Marshall; editing by Steve Orlofsky and Jonathan Oatis