Dow Surges Over 1,200 Points Following Coronavirus Rout

Last week's rout knocked every major index into what market watchers call a "correction," or a fall of 10% or more from a peak

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average soared nearly 1,300 points Monday as stocks roared back from a seven-day rout on hopes that central banks will take action to shield the global economy from the effects of the coronavirus outbreak.

The huge gains clawed back some of the ground lost in a massive sell-off that gave stocks their worst week since the financial crisis of 2008.

Technology companies led the broad gains, which gave the Dow its biggest-ever point gain and biggest percentage increase since March 2009. The S&P 500 index jumped 4.6%, its best day since December 2018.

European benchmarks were mostly higher, and Asian markets rose broadly.

Bond prices fell, pushing yields higher after having touched another record low earlier in the day. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 1.15% from 1.12% late Friday.

Investors are increasingly anticipating that the Federal Reserve and other major central banks around the world will lower interest rates or take other steps to shield the global economy from the effects of the outbreak.

“Investors have convinced themselves that global central banks will likely be even more accommodative in order to short-circuit any psychological damage,” said Sam Stovall, chief investment strategist at CFRA.

The Dow climbed 723 points, or 2.9%, to 26,132 as of 1:58 p.m. Eastern time. It was briefly up 815 points. The S&P 500 index rose 2.3% and the Nasdaq gained 2.3%. European benchmarks were mostly higher, and Asian markets rose broadly. The price of U.S. crude oil was up 4.6%.

The International Monetary Fund and World Bank announced simultaneously Monday that they are ready to help countries affected by the coronavirus through their emergency lending programs and other tools.

"We will use our available instruments to the fullest extent possible," the IMF managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, and World Bank President David Malpass said in a joint statement. "International cooperation is essential."

The statement echoed similar promises to act if necessary from the Federal Reserve on Friday and the Bank of Japan over the weekend. Some analysts now speculate that the Fed could cut rates sometime this week, before its next formal meeting March 17-18. Traders have priced in a 100% probability that the Fed will cut rates by a half-percentage point during or before its March meeting.

There were signs that the economic impact was continuing to mount. A measure of China's manufacturing output plunged last month to its lowest level on record, as the viral outbreak closed factories and disrupted supply chains.

Separately, economists at Goldman Sachs slashed their forecasts for U.S. growth to just 0.9% in the first quarter and to zero for the April-June quarter.

The Organization for Economic Development, a research organization made up of mostly advanced economies, cut its world growth forecast in a report Monday. The OECD said that even if there are only limited outbreaks outside China, the global economy will grow just 2.4% this year, the weakest since the financial crisis in 2009. That forecast matches several private estimates.

If other countries are hit with outbreaks similar to China's, growth could fall as low as 1.5%, the OECD said.

For investors, the great amount of uncertainty over how consumer behavior and spending will be affected has been unsettling.

“It’s not a typical economic blow," said Bill Strazzullo of Bell Curve Trading. "What if major cities are on some kind of a lockdown? What will that do to restaurants, entertainment, shopping, travel? It's almost impossible to game this out.”

Last week's rout knocked every major index into what market watchers call a "correction," or a fall of 10% or more from a peak. Market watchers have said for months that stocks were overpriced and long overdue for another pullback. The last time the market had a drop of that size was in late 2018, when the trade war with China was escalating and investors were worried about rising interest rates.

The virus outbreak that began in central China has been shutting down industrial centers, emptying shops and severely crimping travel all over the world. More companies are warning investors that their finances will take a hit because of disruptions to supply chains and sales.

Shoppers stocking up on everyday goods as fear over the coronavirus' spread hits consumers helped lift shares in household goods companies. Costco jumped 8.1%. Walmart rose 6%. Procter & Gamble gained 3.5%.

Stocks in travel-related companies have been among the hardest-hit as the outbreak has led to canceled flights and disrupted vacation plans. Cruise operators continued to pile up losses Monday. Royal Caribbean Cruises fell 2.5%, Norwegian Cruise Line dropped 8% and Carnival fell 4.7%.

Technology and health care stocks accounted for a big share of the gains. Apple climbed 5.9% and Gilead Sciences rose 6.4%. The biotechnology company has been testing one of its drugs as a potential treatment for the coronavirus.

Given that the main economic impact so far of the virus outbreak is on the supply side of economies rather than on the demand side, questions are being asked as to whether looser monetary policy will have any meaningful impact.

“For all the talk of lower rates the one thing a rate cut can’t do is get people back to work and supply chains back running again," said Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets.

Stimulus hopes nevertheless helped shore up markets in Asia earlier. The Nikkei 225 index closed 1% higher, while the Shanghai Composite index rose 3.2%. The benchmark for the smaller exchange, in Shenzhen, jumped 3.8%, while South Korea's Kospi climbed 0.8%. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong climbed 0.6%.

China has seen most of the 90,000 or so virus cases worldwide. In the United States, authorities have counted at least 80 cases of the virus, two fatal, and concern was driving some to wipe store shelves clean of bottled water, hand sanitizer and other necessities. Both deaths were men with existing health problems who were hospitalized in Washington state.

Oil prices have also slumped as traders price in the prospect of lower demand as a result of the virus outbreak. Last week, oil prices tanked by around 15%. On Monday, benchmark U.S. crude was up $2.07 to $46.83 per barrel. Brent, the international standard, rose $2.28 to $51.95.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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