Stocks in Asia were poised for a mixed start, following the first back-to-back gains for global equities since mid-February, as negotiations in Congress continued toward a vote on the U.S. stimulus bill later this week. Earlier, the S&P 500 ended about 1% higher after a rally of more than 5% fizzled amid a dispute in the Senate. Futures in Japan slipped, while contracts gained in Hong Kong and Australia. Republican senators raised objections to the unemployment benefits section of the stimulus bill, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders threatened to hold up the legislation unless those objections were dropped. The dollar declined for a second day against its major peers. Treasuries edged lower. Elsewhere, gold drifted lower after a squeeze of historic proportions pushed its prices to the biggest one-day gain since November 2008 on Tuesday. The closing of refineries and demand for physical gold had caused a disconnect between prices in London and New York.
As central banks around the world reignite quantitative easing programs or adopt them for the first time, Japan’s key focus of controlling bond yields rather than a quota of purchases is being explored. When the Reserve Bank of Australia broke the emergency glass on March 19, it set a target for the yield on three-year Australian government bonds of around 0.25%, in line with its benchmark policy rate that was lowered to this level. The advantage of targeting a yield rather than promising to buy a specific amount of bonds is the greater flexibility it allows monetary authorities. If bond markets behave and yields fall into line with the targets, the program can be easier to manage with fewer purchases needed. That’s an approach the BOJ adopted in late 2016 — it targets a 10-year yield around zero — after its earlier QE program appeared on an unsustainable path given the huge volume of bond buying and resulting market distortions that were involved. Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard has floated the prospect for yield curve control in the U.S. recently too. Here’s what central banks should be considering.
As the virus’s spread expands, here’s the latest on how countries are coping. Spain had its deadliest day yet, while in Britain, the government moved to shut Parliament and Prince Charles tested positive. European Union leaders inched toward a rescue package. Germany unleashed a historic bailout. Russian President Vladimir Putin even postponed a public vote on constitutional changes next month that would allow him to rule to 2036. In the U.S. Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York said the stimulus package working its way through Congress is inadequate. He also restricted access to a malaria drug that President Donald Trump has touted as a treatment for the novel coronavirus. In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro, echoing Trump, urged the country to resume normal life to protect the economy. That may be too late for Thailand, which faces its biggest economic contraction since the Asian crisis. Singapore reported its biggest daily jump in new cases. Meanwhile, U.S. President Donald Trump said he would stop using the “China virus” label to deescalate the blame game with Beijing.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is trying to thread the needle as he battles to save the country’s economy and contain a health crisis as coronavirus cases surge. As leaders the world over are discovering, something may have to give. The conservative leader’s response to the outbreak so far appears to fall somewhere between the total lockdowns announced by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and India’s Narendra Modi, and that of U.S. President Donald Trump, who says he wants his economy re-opened by Easter despite warnings that would create a human catastrophe. He’s faced criticism from some who believe the government is over-reacting and from those who want more stringent controls. Confirmed cases have surged five-fold in the past week to more than 2,400, while thousands have already lost their jobs — sending waves of newly unemployed into long queues outside welfare agencies nationwide. Meanwhile, here’s how the virus is impacting Australian firms’ guidance.
What We’ve Been Reading
This is what’s caught our eye over the past 24 hours.
- Wall Street bonuses could fall 40% this year.
- The Olympics delay means the $12 billion games just got a whole lot more expensive.
- Amazon and Walmart are struggling to cope as India enters lockdown.
- Desperate airlines are switching passengers for cargo to stay alive.
- Netflix has reduced its video quality in more countries to handle the “stay at home” surge.
- SoftBank blasts Moody’s for “biased” ratings downgrade.
- A gaming boom is hiding the industry’s struggle to develop new titles.