U.S. stock futures and European indexes recovered some ground Friday on the heels of Wall Street’s worst day in more than three decades.
Futures tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average reached their 5% upper limit Friday, suggesting that blue-chip stocks may open higher in New York. U.S. stocks plunged Thursday, with the Dow falling 10% as the rapidly spreading coronavirus drove fears of a global slowdown despite action from the Federal Reserve.
Lawmakers and the Trump administration are nearing a final agreement on legislation aimed at aiding Americans affected by the spread of the coronavirus, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said.
The measures are being put into place as the U.S. and world economies look increasingly likely to slip into recession with expanding swaths of commerce being shut down amid the pandemic. New measures by major central banks to ease market strains and bolster the economy—and proposals on aid from the Trump administration and Congress—have failed to assuage investors’ anxiety.
“We’re in an environment characterized by an enormous amount of uncertainty from the virus, oil price wars and the sheer wealth effect of markets falling as dramatically as they have done,” said Philip Saunders, co-head of multiasset at Investec Asset Management.
The coronavirus crisis has sent shock waves through debt markets, prompting sharp swings in Treasury yields, which rise when bond prices fall. On Friday, the yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury edged up to 0.972%, from 0.842% Thursday.
In recent days, yields have risen despite a steep decline in stocks. That may be because when losses in riskier assets are deep enough, fund managers sometimes sell Treasurys either to offset losses or meet redemptions from investors. Some investors may also be selling Treasurys because they think yields fell too low earlier in the week, when the 10-year yield dropped below 0.4%.
Meanwhile, the pan-continental Stoxx Europe 600 jumped 6.7% as U.K. and Italian stocks rallied after Thursday’s steep declines. The European Central Bank announced a series of measures Thursday that disappointed investors, and added to the worst one-day sell off in European stocks on record.
Regulators across Europe and parts of Asia moved to stem the recent market rout. Italy’s financial regulator suspended short selling of 85 companies until the end of the trading day. The U.K. also banned trading activity on the same companies dual-listed on British exchanges. The Spanish regulator banned short selling on certain stocks such as British Airways’s parent company and several Spanish lenders.
“We saw a volatility spike yesterday and it’s still quite high, driven by the selloff in equities and spreads going higher,’’ said Kevin Ferret, a rates and derivatives strategist at Société Générale. ‘’I’m not expecting it to stabilize, you have a lot of uncertainties around the impact on growth. Are we going to a global recession? It’s becoming more likely.’’
Oil prices rose, with Brent crude climbing 5.7% to $35.10 a barrel, though the global benchmark for oil remains almost 47% below where it started the year.
In Asia, most major indexes closed down after a volatile day that prompted some exchanges to impose short trading halts. Japan’s Nikkei declined 6.1%. Australia’s ASX 200 index closed up 4.4% after its central bank provided A$8.8 billion to its banks in short-term borrowing known as the repo market. India’s Sensex index rose 4% after the Reserve Bank of India also said that it would inject cash into markets.
These policy moves followed packages announced by the Federal Reserve and the ECB to try to support the economies from the coronavirus fallout and a recent crash in oil prices. The Fed said it would provide $1.5 trillion to banks in the repo market.
Friday is about “central bank credibility’’ and could mark the “beginnings of a stabilization process,” said Mr. Saunders. Asset prices were marked down heavily after Thursday’s selloff, likely prompting some investors to buy.
While central banks had moved quickly to cut interest rates and make sure funding was available for banks and companies, that isn’t enough, according to Tai Hui, chief market strategist for Asia at J.P. Morgan Asset Management.
“Governments will need to accelerate their fiscal support” to limit the negative impact on businesses and low-income families, Mr. Hui said. Investors are now pricing in a U.S. recession, he said.
Markets are likely to stay volatile and global infection rates for the novel coronavirus have shown no signs of peaking, said Eli Lee, head of investment strategy at the Bank of Singapore.
“The rout started from valuations at fairly rich levels, and deep value has not sufficiently emerged for bargain hunters to show up in force,” Mr. Lee said, noting that global stocks had been comparatively expensive before the recent selloff began, which may explain its severity.