March 10, 2020

Market Update - 10 March 2020


Financial Keys


During this period of market volatility, we remain available to discuss your portfolio and investment strategy. We will continue to provide regular communication and keep you up to date with investment markets and the global economic environment.

During this period of market volatility, we remain available to discuss your portfolio and investment strategy. We will continue to provide regular communication and keep you up to date with investment markets and the global economic environment.

Following on from our last update sent to you on 28 February, please refer to the below:

Yesterday we saw one of the biggest daily falls in asset markets ever, which was triggered by a disagreement between oil majors Saudi Arabia and Russia. This was of course exacerbated by growing concerns regarding the impacts of Coronavirus.

Whilst most would’ve noticed the big drop in equity markets yesterday, more than 7% in the ASX 200, the bigger falls came in other more critical parts of the market, with oil down more than 25% and government 10 year bond yields down more than 40%. These are some of the biggest daily moves we’ve ever seen.

The US equity market opened more than 6% down and then breached the first automatic market cut-off level of 7%, which results in the market closing for 15 minutes. Oil is down another 20%, with the US 10 year bond yield below 0.50%.

Investors were shocked firstly by the failure of OPEC (the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries) and the Russians to reach a deal on oil production cuts to help lift the oil price; and were then concerned by the Saudis move to instead increase production significantly and then also significantly discount prices on contracts already in the market, effectively declaring a non-combat war on the Russians. The Saudis are in a position to produce oil at any price in the short to medium term, but at current prices will make it almost impossible to finance their budget. The move would financially cripple the Russians and the US shale oil/gas industry almost immediately. A deal is there to be reached to reverse this decision made by the Saudis.

Market sentiment wasn’t helped by increased Coronavirus fears, with the Italians introducing nationwide restrictions to contain the virus, following a spike in the number of cases and number of deaths.

But the main concern remains the oil price shock and the potential impact on sub-investment grade debt.

Regardless of a Saudi / OPEC / Russia agreement, yesterday and today’s moves will need to be met by strong fiscal stimulus by governments globally to combat the short-term impacts of Coronavirus, and increased support / confidence from central banks not via rate cuts but rather via increases to lines of liquidity and their overall balance sheets (i.e. money printing or quantitative easing). Whilst rate cuts won’t necessarily help current sentiment, we are likely to see further rate cuts from central banks from here, with the Fed possibly making another emergency rate cut of 0.5%.

On Tuesday the ASX dropped sharply on opening however these falls were quickly reversed on the back of President Trump announcing a significant stimulus package, the details of which would be announced Tuesday (US time).

What should investors do?

At this stage, we do not propose any significant action. As mentioned in our last article, investors should do their best to remain calm, comfortable with the quality, diversified portfolio they hold, and stay the course.

Selling into this panic is the worst mistake investors can make, especially so when you consider that the oil price war is likely to be temporary as are the impacts of Coronavirus. December and January market and economic data, prior to Coronavirus, showed global economic growth was stable and asset prices didn’t appear to be too far above fair value.

Once some of the panic starts to subside, there will be plenty of value to be had for long term investors, especially with cash at 0% and 10 year bond yields at 0.50%.

Coronavirus is not a structural issue - it's a temporary issue that will subside once countries have the right testing and protocols in place and once the northern hemisphere starts to get warmer weather. The flipside is that once it does subside, we anticipate there will be more monetary and fiscal stimulus in the system than we've ever seen before. That means the recovery, once begun, may be rather swift. 

From a medical perspective - the following may dispel some of the significant amount of incorrect news in the system -

  1. There has been 114,223 cases since the virus began and a little over 4,000 deaths, with almost 63,000 recovered
  2. There are 47,000 active cases, of which 87% of people are in a mild condition and 13% in serious or critical
  3. The number of daily new cases and new deaths in China is declining, whilst the rate for both is escalating outside of China
  4. The death rates vary by country, but the best like for like comparison we have is South Korea - most of the population has been tested, and the death rate is 0.6%, with a sufficiently well supported government response and hospital system
  5. Fatality rates are as follows:
  1. 80+ years old - almost 15%
  2. 70-79 - 8%
  3. 60-69 - 3.6%
  4. 50-59 - 1.3%
  5. 40-49 - 0.4%
  6. below 40 - 0.2%
  7. below 9 years old - no fatalities
  1. Of those aged 50 and over, in almost all cases, deaths have occurred due to pre-existing conditions, including Cardiovascular, Diabetes, Respiratory Disease, Hypertension, Cancer. 
  2. For those aged under 60 years of age, with no pre-existing conditions, the symptoms vary from slightly better than the common flu to slightly worse than the common flu

Again, we remain available to discuss your individual circumstance, portfolio and strategy.

Mark, Brendan and Matt

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