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Coronavirus pandemic | BofA cuts March quarter growth forecast to 4%

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Wall Street brokerage Bank of America Securities has cut its March quarter growth forecast by 30 bps to 4 per cent, amid coronavirus pandemic-driven shutdowns and expects a cut in key benchmark rates on or before the April 3 monetary policy review. The brokerage expects the pandemic-driven lockdowns to run through mid-April, crippling economic activities across the value-chain.

The agency also pegged down FY20 growth forecast to 4.7 per cent and FY21 to 5.1 per cent, respectively, assuming a 2.2 per cent global growth.

But if the global economy falls into a recession, the domestic economy is likely to fall further to 4.4 per cent in FY21, it warned.

The brokerage has also lowered its forecast for the June quarter (first quarter of 2020-21) by a sharper 80 bps to 4 per cent citing the pandemic impact on economic activities even as the government is taking measures to contain the spread of the deadly virus that has killed close to 8,000 people globally.

Back home, the country has so far been comparatively secure but the government and health authorities are expecting an implosion of the pandemic in the country over the next week.

The pandemic has already taken the lives of three people in the country and left hundreds in home and hospital quarantines.

“We cut our real growth forecast by 30 bps to 4 per cent for the March quarter and by 80 bps to 4 per cent in the June quarter on rising Covid-19-related shutdowns,” BofA Securities said in a note on Wednesday.

Its India economists Indranil Sen Gupta and Aastha Gudwani said their India Activity Indicator continues to point to a long bottom.

While growth has improved to 4.3 per cent in January from 3.5 per cent in December 2019, it is still below the 4.4 per cent printed in October-November.

Four of the seven components have improved in January from December, they said and warned that "although we had called that the worst is over after the November dataprints, the Covid-19-related shutdowns will likely pull down activity further".

Expecting an inter-MPC meeting rate cut of 25 bps before or at the scheduled April 3 review, they forecast two more repo cuts of 25 bps each in June and October, and said this is needed as high real lending rate is exerting a drag on growth.

The brokerage also blamed the rising real lending rates as the main villain delaying the fragile recovery.

On the rate cuts, they expect RBI to cut rates by 25 bps before/on April 3 as the US Fed has done so by a whopping 150 bps. The RBI will likely cut again in June with inflation set to fall to its 2-6 per cent mandate and the March quarter growth coming down to 4 per cent.

An October rate cut is likely as base effects and weak demand is expected to drag inflation down to 2.5 per cent in the first half of FY21, the note said.

FOREX-Yen firms in fresh flight to safety

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 The safe-haven yen gained sharply, but the dollar held onto hefty overnight gains against other currencies on Wednesday, as fears over the coronavirus pandemic kept markets frazzled despite massive injections of liquidity by central banks.

The yen JPY= rose 0.8% to 106.80 per dollar with a flight to safety in the Asia afternoon as stock markets around the region extended losses. MKTS/GLOB

The pound and euro were ahead, but struggled to win back more than a fraction of the ground ceded to the dollar on Tuesday. The Aussie and kiwi languished below 60 cents.

Markets have crumbled this month as investors liquidated nearly everything for cash - driving up the dollar's value and the cost of borrowing the greenback abroad.

"Funding strains are still there, and I think that is what's spooking the market still," said Moh Siong Sim, currency analyst at the Bank of Singapore.

The world is adopting a war footing as the pandemic spreads and country after country announces draconian lockdowns. The virus has killed over 8,000 people globally, while the total number of cases is approaching 200,000, a Reuters tally shows.

While crisis is also being met with massive fiscal and monetary policy measures, there are only tentative signs that it is working.

The Bank of Japan on Tuesday made its biggest injection of dollar funds since 2008, helping to reduce the cost of dollars, relfected in cross-currency basis swap spreads. spread on dollar/yen swaps JPYCBS3M= narrowed to around -58 basis points from 120 basis points on Tuesday.

Three-month euro/dollar cross-currency basis swap spreads EURCBS3M=ICAP had also fallen back overnight to 39 basis points from as high as 120 basis points.

But it failed to improve market sentiment.

"The newsflow is about as fluid as we have seen," said Chris Weston, head of research at Melbourne brokerage Pepperstone.

"It mirrors that of the (2008) financial crisis if not worse ... it's very difficult to deal with this and I think FX traders don't really know where to look at the moment."

The pound GBP= pared some gains to sit 0.4% higher at $1.2094 and the euro EUR= was steady at $1.1007.

Export exposed currencies fared much worse.

The Australian dollar AUD=D3 has lost nearly 15% against the greenback this year and fell below 60 cents for the first time since 2003 overnight. It last stood at $0.5930, while the kiwi NZD=D3 was $0.5942.

Traders have also been watching volatility in the U.S. Treasury market to get a sense of the demand for dollars.

The yield on benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasuries US10YT=RR soared 34 basis points overnight, the largest single-day rise since 2004. US/

"It all stems from a shortage of US dollars," said Gunter Seeger, senior vice president in investment-grade fixed income at New York asset manager PineBridge Investments.

"People are very, very nervous," Seeger said.

"Everyone's nervous about the virus, about oil prices, about their job, about everything."



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Indonesian’s Rupiah’s Freefall May Be About to Get Even Faster

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Indonesia’s currency has been in a free-fall, even defying the central bank’s intense market intervention. The decline may now gather further pace as demand for dollars climb from companies set to repatriate dividends.

With the foreign investors adopting a flight-to-quality approach, even the high real returns on Indonesian sovereign bonds won’t be enough to stop the rush to exit, according to I Made Budhi Purnama Artha, head of treasury at Maybank Indonesia in Jakarta. Bank Indonesia should pump in more dollars to prevent the rupiah from declining further and protect investor confidence, he said.

The rupiah has gone from being Asia’s best performing currency in January to the worst in the past month as a global sell-off sparked by coronavirus concerns deepened. On Tuesday, the currency weakened past 15,000 to a dollar for the first time since the emerging market rout in 2018, raising concerns even a near-record foreign exchange reserve and all-out central bank intervention may fail to ease the turmoil.

Foreign investors have pulled more than $4 billion from rupiah bonds this year, on course for the biggest quarterly outflow ever, and have dumped about $600 million of shares, contributing to the third trading halt within a week. With the risk-off sentiment guiding investors, an expected interest rate cut on Thursday may do little to reverse the sell-off.

The trajectory of rupiah will “depend on whether global financial markets will still be as volatile as this month in the future,” said Wisnu Wardana, an economist at PT Bank Danamon Indonesia. “Our base scenario for Covid-19 is it lasts in Indonesia for six months with a peak in May. Pressure on rupiah might increase especially if other countries succeed to contain the virus while Indonesia struggles.”

The rupiah fell as much as 0.3% to 15,224 to a dollar on Wednesday, extending losses this year to almost 9%. The yield on benchmark 10-year rupiah bonds was at 7.58%, near its highest level since August, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

A second wave of outflows from Indonesian markets may come in April and May, when foreign companies typically repatriate their dividends. But with the U.S. Federal Reserve cutting rates by 100 basis points, the high carry on Indonesian may lure bank investors and cushion the impact, Maybank’s Artha said.

Indonesian bonds are a barometer of risk appetite with foreign investors owning about 35% of the nation’s total sovereign rupiah bonds.

Here’s what market strategists and economists are saying about the outlook for rupiah:

David Sumual, economist at PT Bank Central Asia

“Bank Indonesia has to ensure sufficient liquidity between the central bank and banks, banks and banks, banks and the real sector at different costs. The intervention using forex reserves can be done because the needs of dollars for trade are declining. Aside from what the bank has been doing now, they still have bilateral swap agreements and the Chiang Mai Initiatives as a second line of defense. The virus pandemic needs a strong fiscal response. The government would also need to consider issuing a decree if it needs to exceed the legal budget deficit of 3% of GDP.”

I Made Budhi Purnama Artha, head of treasury at PT Maybank Indonesia

“During limited liquidity, demand for dollars is relatively pretty high, resulting in continued rupiah weakening. Dollar demand also triggered by the sell-offs by equity and fixed income investors. The cut in Fed fund rate will make Indonesian assets relatively attractive again and has the potential to attract bonds investors to re-enter Indonesian market. This can offset demand from fleeing equity investors and demand for dollars which tend to rise in April-June on dividend payment.”

Wisnu Wardana, economist at PT Bank Danamon Indonesia

“The most important thing is to maintain dollar supply domestically. Therefore, the policy to reduce foreign currency reserve requirement should be appreciated. Under the current circumstances, the best course of action is to guide the value of financial instrument to its fundamental level.”

Josua Pardede, economist at PT Bank Permata

“The strengthening of the U.S. dollar against the rupiah and other developing country currencies is influenced by the anticipated global economic slowdown from Covid-19 after it being declared a global pandemic. In addition, the very aggressive response of the U.S. central bank also gave a negative signal to emerging market financial markets, including the Indonesian capital market.


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Forex - Yen Trades Lower as Asian Stocks Turn Green

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 Prices of the safe-haven yen fThe AUD/USD pair gained 0.2% to 0.6127. Minutes of the Reserve Bank of Australia’s (RBA) March 3 meeting said the central bank cut its benchmark interest rate and was ready to do so again as it became “increasingly clear” the coronavirus would cause major disruption to economic activity worldwide.

 

The central bank slashed the cash rate to 0.5% to provide support to the economy, according to the minutes, which also showed officials agreed on “the importance of monitoring the rapidly changing developments closely in subsequent weeks and maintaining contact to assess the implications” of the outbreak for the economy.

 

The RBA is set to announce further policies on Thursday this week. It is expected to cut rates to 0.25%. 

 

Meanwhile, the U.S. dollar index that tracks the greenback against a basket of other currencies was unchanged at 98.155 as traders await the Commerce Department to issue its report later in the day. 

 

Retail sales are expected to have risen 0.2% in February, down from a 0.3% rise in March, according to economists’ forecasts compiled by Investing.com.

 

Meanwhile, economists are looking for February industrial production to have risen 0.4% and capacity utilization to have ticked up to 77.1%.

 

The dollar was pressured on Monday after the Federal Reserve slashed interest rates to near zero late on Sunday and announced massive bond buying.

 ell on Tuesday in Asia as equity markets turned green after opening lower.

The USD/CNY pair inched up 0.1% to 6.9947. 


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Near-zero U.S. rates may not sink the dollar

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When the U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates to near zero on Sunday, the dollar fell, since the move blew away the yield on owning dollars and with it much of their attraction.

Yet few are willing to bet on a prolonged decline. Pandemic fears are roiling markets, driving a scramble for both safety and funding in the world's reserve currency.

Analysts are already discounting the dollar's slide on Monday as modest and maybe temporary, given the scale of the Fed's emergency move. They are also drawing a distinction between the unwinding of the dollar's yield and what happens next.

"We had this very, very bold move by the Federal Reserve," said Paul Mackel, head of emerging markets FX research at HSBC in Hong Kong. "(But) if you look at the reaction of markets, it's very mixed if not underwhelming. And in the currency market specifically, the dollar funding still remains quite tight."

He said the dollar was drawing support for various reasons, from investors seeking safety from wild trading in other asset classes to businesses that want to be cash-rich in uncertain times.

"Whenever you have a big enough financial shock, the scramble for liquidity and the reserve currency in the world, which is the dollar, typically intensifies," Mackel said.

Despite the Fed's 100-basis-point cut and aggressive liquidity measures, the cost of borrowing dollars internationally - reflected in cross currency swaps - has kept rising.

Japanese banks on Monday were paying 10 times the average price to swap yen for one-month dollars .

The dollar has historically gained in spot markets whenever there is an offshore funding squeeze, since it is almost always against a backdrop of global uncertainty and market volatility that tends to hurt the balance sheets of non-dollar economies.

This time, the dollar's yields are also higher than those in the euro zone or Japan.

In the spot market, the euro was recently unchanged against the dollar (EUR=) on Monday and the yen up nearly 2% as U.S. yields dived after the Fed announcement.

But both stayed below recent peaks and the dollar surged against commodity and emerging-market currencies, adding to already massive gains as pandemic headlines flowed across screens.

The dollar has gained around 10% against the New Zealand dollar and some 12% against the Australian dollar this year.

Although positioning data <0#NETUSDFX=> has the value of long dollar positions tumbling with the unwinding of the euro/dollar carry trade, the market remains long dollars.

Nomura, Japan's biggest brokerage and investment bank, said on Monday it expects the dollar to extend already big gains against the Korean won and Thai baht, and added to a bet the Singapore dollar will fall against the dollar.

Westpac FX analyst Sean Callow said as long as investors' worries about the virus remains, demand for dollars should stay strong.

"It's hard to see much upside for the Aussiekiwi or Canadian dollar, given what's happened with commodities and energy prices in general and sensitivity to risk appetite," he said.

"If you're having liquidity problems on a currency like the Aussie, if there's concern there, then it's just multiplied for any emerging-market currency ... I don't think too many people have the luxury of just standing by."


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Forex - U.S. Dollar Falls Amid Fed Rate Cuts, QE Program

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The U.S. dollar fell on Monday in Asia after the U.S. Federal Reserve slashed its benchmark interest rate to zero and launched a massive quantitative easing (QE) program in an emergency move over the weekend. 

On Sunday, the Fed shocked investors by announcing a 50 basis point rate cut. It was the second rate slash by the central bank in less than two weeks as it delivered a rare emergency rate cut at the start of the month. 

The Fed also announced a QE program that entails $700 billion worth of asset purchases.

Following the news, the U.S. dollar index fell 0.4% to 98.482.

In other news, U.S. President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on Friday as the country recorded more than 2,000 cases and 50 deaths. 

The USD/JPY pair lost 1.0% to 106.79 as Asian markets traded in the red again. 

The Bank of Japan is expected to ease policy on Thursday to cushion the economic fallout from the coronavirus and shore up business confidence in the country. 

Meanwhile, the Japanese government is reportedly preparing a new spending package of up to 20 trillion yen ($190 billion), as it tries to fend off a recession.

The AUD/USD pair and the NZD/USD pair both fell 0.2%. 

The EUR/USD pair rose 0.2% to 1.1128 as traders await a meeting between European Union finance ministers later in the day. Reuters reported today that the ministers might agree on a coordinated economic response to the coronavirus pandemic, with the European Commission forecasting the effects of the virus could push the EU into a recession.

The USD/CNY pair slipped 0.1% to 6.9993. While not a directional driver for the yuan today, data showed China’s latest industrial production, employment and retail sales figure all came in a lot worse than expected. 


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EM ASIA FX-Most currencies weaken as pandemic panic boosts dollar appeal

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 Most Asian currencies fell against a firmer dollar on Friday, with the Indonesian rupiah and the South Korean won declining the most, as intensifying panic over the coronavirus outbreak sent investors scurrying into the world's reserve currency.

The dollar's appeal was also boosted by the Federal Reserve's move to inject $1.5 trillion in short-term liquidity and change the durations of Treasuries it buys to mitigate the coronavirus-induced economic stress. FRX/

"The overriding theme from the last 24 hours is that markets are hunting for U.S. dollars, and don't really care what rates they pay to get them," Jeffrey Halley, market analyst at OANDA, wrote in a note.

Reflecting the demand for the greenback, the benchmark U.S. Treasury yields US10YT=RR fell, he said.

In Asia, the Indonesian rupiah IDR= and the Korean won KRW=KFTC were the top losers as investors trimmed exposure to risky assets.

The rupiah, being one of the high-yielding emerging currencies, sees ample foreign investment, but risk aversion sparked by the coronavirus pandemic has caused the recent unwind, said Sim Moh Siong, a FX strategist at Bank of Singapore.

Indonesia has been among the most proactive countries to roll out measures to shield its economy and currency, with the central bank purchasing bonds for two consecutive days and the finance minister introducing a second stimulus package worth $8 billion. rupiah slid 2% to its lowest since November 2018, while the won, whose movement is closely linked to its stock market, hit a four-year trough.

The trade-sensitive won benefited when the United States and China signed an interim trade pact earlier this year before worries of a global recession weighed on investor sentiment and led to heavy equity capital outflows, Siong said.

Indonesian .JKSE and South Korean .KOSPI stocks also plunged, triggering circuit breakers.

The Thai baht THB=TH , the Taiwan dollar TWD=TP and the Malaysian ringgit MYR= weakened between 0.1% and 0.8%.

Among gainers were currencies of oil-importing India INR=IN and the Philippines PHP= , benefiting from an overnight drop in crude prices. O/R

Meanwhile, all Asian currencies were on track to post loss for the week during which oil prices crashed and global central banks and governments unveiled measures to contain the impact of the coronavirus.

CHINESE YUAN

The Chinese yuan CNY=CFXS strengthened 0.7% on Friday, and was on its way to mark its best session in more than a week.

Maybank analysts said a combination of strong virus containment measures, hopes for a recovery in the economy and a recent dive in U.S. rates enhanced the yuan's yield appeal, giving it a kind of immunity.

"Investors will be determined to look past the ugly data in the near term," they said.

Chinese stocks .SSEC have fallen less than their global counterparts in recent weeks as the spread of the virus has slowed and many factories have slowly resumed work. CNY/

The following table shows rates for Asian currencies against the dollar at 0620 GMT.

CURRENCIES VS U.S. DOLLAR

Currency

Latest bid Previous day Pct Move Japan yen

105.430

104.63

-0.76 Sing dlr

1.408

1.4110

+0.24 Taiwan dlr

30.180

30.150

-0.10 Korean won

1219.100

1206.5

-1.03 Baht

31.850

-0.78 Peso

51.040

51.31

+0.53 Rupiah

14810.000 14510

-2.03 Rupee

74.083

74.25

+0.23 Ringgit

4.280

-0.23 Yuan

6.982

7.0280

+0.67

Change so far in 2020

Currency

Latest bid End 2019

Pct Move Japan yen

105.430

108.61

+3.02 Sing dlr

1.408

1.3444

-4.49 Taiwan dlr

30.180

30.106

-0.25 Korean won

1219.100

1156.40

-5.14 Baht

31.850

29.91

-6.09 Peso

51.040

50.65

-0.76 Rupiah

14810.000 13880

-6.28 Rupee

74.083

71.38

-3.65 Ringgit

4.280

4.0890

-4.46 Yuan

6.982

6.9632

-0.26

($1 = 14,810.0000 rupiah)


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FOREX-Dollar gains from safe-haven scramble as virus rattles markets

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The dollar stood tall on Friday as investors scrambled for the world's most liquid currency amid deepening panic about the coronavirus, while the euro nursed losses after the European Central Bank disappointed by not cutting rates.

The greenback held gains against most currencies after a blowout in swap spreads showed investors are facing a shortage of dollars as equity markets plunged on fears about the global economic impact of the flu-like virus.

The ECB on Thursday unveiled a stimulus package that provides loans to banks with rates as low as -0.75% and increases bond purchases. Federal Reserve moved to provide $1.5 trillion in short-term liquidity and changed the durations of Treasuries it buys, but money markets show investors expect the Fed will have to go even further to restore calm to financial markets.

The government in Italy, which has become Europe's hot spot for coronavirus infections, has effectively put the entire country on lockdown to try to slow the virus.

Investors have so far expressed disappointment with the government response to rising infections in the United States, and traders warn there could be more disruptions in a broad range of financial markets.

"Risk off used to benefit the yen, but now we see that risk off is supporting the dollar," said Takuya Kanda, general manager of the research department at Gaitame.com Research Institute in Tokyo.

"We are in panic mode, because we don't know how far stocks will fall."

The euro EUR=EBS traded at $1.1202, following a 0.72% decline on Thursday in the wake of the ECB decision. For the week, the common currency was on course for a 0.7% decline.

Against the pound GBP=D3 , the dollar rose slightly to $1.2541 in Asia on Friday, which followed its biggest one-day gain against sterling since July 2016. The dollar was up 3.8% against sterling this week, its best performance since October 2016.

The greenback held gains against the Swiss franc CHF=EBS , trading at 0.9435, headed for a 0.7% weekly gain.

The ECB rolled out yet another stimulus package on Thursday to help fight the coronavirus pandemic but did not join its counterparts in the United States and Britain by cutting rates.

Investors, who had bet the ECB could cut rates at least 10 basis points and possibly more, were disappointed.

ECB President Christine Lagarde also aggravated a market selloff by saying it was not the central bank's job to close the spread between the borrowing costs of various members, comments which she later tried to roll back. are rushing to introduce travel bans, extra financial liquidity and monetary easing as the rapid spread of the virus across the world slams the brakes on the global economy.

The dollar rose 0.88% to 105.58 yen JPY=EBS on Friday, on course for a 0.2% weekly advance.

With signs of financial stress emerging across different markets, the New York Federal Reserve said it would make the money available in three tranches of $500 billion each and that it would start purchasing a broader range of U.S. Treasury securities.

The Fed meets next week and many analysts now expect the central bank to chop its own target policy rate, quite possibly to zero, and give markets new guidance about how it plans to combat the economic fallout from the coronavirus.

The Bank of Japan, which will announce a policy decision next week Thursday after the Fed, announced the unscheduled purchase of 200 billion yen ($1.90 billion) in government debt on Friday. It also said it would inject an additional 1.5 trillion yen in two-week lending in a sign of concern that liquidity could dry up. basis swap spreads for the yen JPYCBS3M= and the pound GBPCBS3M=ICAP blew out in what traders say is a sign of a dollar shortage.

Highlighting the sense of crisis, senior officials from the Group of Seven talked on Thursday and confirmed they will cooperate closely as equities tumble and corporate bond spreads widen. Canadian dollar CAD=D3 rose slightly to C$1.3894 against the greenback, pulling back from a four-year low.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's wife has tested positive for the coronavirus, his office said. Trudeau is not showing any symptoms but will stay in isolation for 14 days, according to his office. Australian AUD=D3 and New Zealand dollars NZD=D3 managed to bounce more than half a percent against the greenback in Asian trade. The antipodeans were mauled on Thursday as investors shunned riskier currencies that are linked to the global commodities trade.

The Reserve Bank of Australia also injected an unusually large amount of cash into the financial system on Friday as panic spread. ($1 = 105.0200 yen)


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Oil market set for record surplus amid coronavirus-led demand slump

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The US banking giant, Goldman Sachs, said in a recent note, the oil market would be swooning in record supply by April amid coronavirus led slump in demand and a bigger-than-expected surge in low-cost output.

 Key quotes

“Oil market could see a record surplus of about 6 million barrels per day by April.

The high-cost producer response at our second quarter 2020 $30/bbl Brent forecast will not be sufficiently fast to offset the record large inventory builds set to occur in coming months.

The jump in inventories could also force some inland high-cost producers to shut production, since storage logistics may be stretched.

The demand loss is due to the fast-spreading coronavirus outbreak at about 4.5 million bpd.

The accumulation of oil inventories over the next six months could be similar to a build up over 18 months in 2014-16.

Global demand growth, on the other hand, would see a reduction of about 310,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2021 and comfortably offset any fast supply response from high cost producers, especially with the shale output now forecast to drop by 900,000 bpd in the first quarter of 2021.

Finally, any potential re-escalation of geopolitical tensions in the Middle East would not prevent the bearish pressure of quickly accumulating inventories unless it led to a historically large outage.”


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USD/JPY, AUD/JPY, DOW JONES FUTURES SINK ON TRUMP NATION ADDRESS

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The anti-risk Japanese Yen gained as the sentiment-linked Australian Dollar declined alongside Dow Jones futures after U.S. President Donald Trump addressed the nation amid the coronavirus outbreak. Over the past 24 hours, Wall Street entered bearmarket territory with global growth increasingly at risk. The markets were thus looking for details of fiscal support with monetary policy already at its limits worldwide.

Mr Trump announced that the country is suspending all travel from Europe over the next 30 days, excluding the United Kingdom. He then turned to Congress, asking it to take legislative action on relief such as increasing funding by $50b to SBA (Small Business Administration). Another major policy is calling on the House for immediate payroll tax relief. He also instructed the Treasury to defer some tax payments, offering about $200b in liquidity.

Following his speech, S&P 500 futures extended their rout, dropping in excess of 2% during Asia trading hours. This is as the Nikkei 225 declined over 2.7% as the ASX 200 plummeted almost 5%. European futures are also pointing notably lower. With that in mind, risk aversion may be in the cards for the remainder of the day as investors flock into Treasuries. Sentiment-linked crude oil prices are aiming lower.



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