As of 1:45 p.m. in New York the Standard & Poor’s 500 is down 4.62% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average is off 5.13%. The NASDAQ Composite is lower by 4.40% and the Russell 2000 small cap index, with its heavy load of smaller U.S. oil producers, has lost 5.23%.
Speaking of oil, U.S. benchmark West Texas Intermediate is down 2.71% to $33.43 a barrel. International benchmark Brent is lower by 2.36% to $36.43 a barrel.
We don’t need to look far for the reasons behind today’s reversal of yesterday’s move to the upside. Yesterday the market was buoyed by President Donald Trump’s promise to announce a stimulus plan to fend off the worst economic effects of the coronavirus by the end of Tuesday. Today, the market is sagging because yesterday passed without a plan and the administration doesn’t seem to be on the verge of producing one.
The decision of the World Health Organization (WHO), which had been avoiding naming the coronavirus a pandemic out of a fear of adding to the existing near panic, to give in to the numbers and label the outbreak a pandemic just sums up how out of control the outbreak continues to be in countries that include Italy and the United States. Deaths in Italy, the center of the outbreak in Europe, jumped 31% overnight to 827. In the United States the number of confirmed cases rose to more than 1,000 with 31 confirmed deaths.
Today’s market action is a reminder that in a bear or near bear market there is no place to hide in the equity market and few safe havens even outside stocks. Safe blue chips such as Coca-Cola (KO), Procter & Gamble IPG), and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) are down as of 1:45 p.m. New York time by 3.05%, 6.07%, and 6.04%, respectively.
The usual pattern at this stage of a big downturn is that investors and traders look to sell anything where they might still have a profit or that has been holding up decently in order to find cash to stave off margin calls that might force the liquidation of a very underwater position.
This is true of gold today, too, with the contract for April delivery on Comex down 0.90% to $1645.30 an ounce.
U.S. Treasuries did move modestly higher, driving yields modestly lower. The 10-year Treasury yield fell to 0.78%, down 3 basis points from yesterday. The yield on the 2-year Treasury dipped to 0.46% from 0.53% yesterday.
The Invesco Currency Shares Yen ETF (FXY), a member of my Perfect 5 ETF portfolio, was up 0.71% on continued strength in the “safe-haven” Japanese yen.