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Coronavirus: Asian stock markets, U.S. futures fall after Federal Reserve rate cut

Asian stock markets and U.S. futures fell Monday after the Federal Reserve slashed its key interest rate to shore up economic growth in the face of mounting global anti-virus controls that are shutting down business and travel.

Sydney’s benchmark plunged 9.7 per cent, Hong Kong‘s Hang Seng lost 3.4 per cent and India opened down 4.9 per cent. Shanghai lost 2 per cent. Brent crude, the international oil standard, fell nearly 4 per cent while gold gained.

READ MORE: Coronavirus — U.S. inches closer to shutdown as COVID-19 deaths rise to 64

Japan‘s Nikkei 225 index sank 3 per cent after initial trading higher ahead of a decision by the Bank of Japan on emergency action to help counter recession.

The central bank’s decision to expand purchases of stocks, corporate bonds and other assets viewed as riskier than Japanese government bonds fell flat. The BOJ also announced plans to provide up to 8 trillion yen ($75 billion) in 0 per cent, one-year loans to companies facing cash crunches due to the impact of the crisis.

On Wall Street, futures for the benchmark S&P 500 index fell 5 per cent on Sunday night and triggered a halt in trading.

The Fed cut its key rate by a full percentage point — to a range between zero and 0.25 per cent — and said it would stay there until it feels confident the economy can survive a near-shutdown of activity in the United States.

“Despite whipping out the big guns,” the Fed’s action is “falling short of being the decisive backstop for markets,” said Vishnu Varathan of Mizuho Bank in a report. “Markets might have perceived the Fed’s response as panic, feeding into its own fears.”

Japan’s central bank was holding a policy meeting, convened several days earlier than planned. Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda has pledged to do whatever is needed to help buttress slumping economic growth after the economy contracted at a 7.1 per cent annual rate in the last quarter, before the impact of the virus outbreak had even been felt.

Western governments have shut public facilities and imposed travel curbs, raising the cost of efforts to contain the outbreak that has infected nearly 170,000 people worldwide. China, where the coronavirus emerged in December, accounts for about half of those, but a dozen other countries have more than 1,000 cases each.

Spain followed Italy’s lead in imposing nationwide curbs will allow its 46 million people to leave home only to go to work, to buy food and medicine or on errands to care for the young and elderly. In the Philippines, soldiers and police sealed off the crowded capital, Manila, from most domestic travellers.

New York City announced it will shut down the largest U.S. public school system as early as Tuesday, sending more than 1.1 million children home. Governors in California, Illinois and Ohio told all bars and restaurants to close or reduce their number of customers.

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