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Global markets roar back—too soon to call this the ‘coronavirus comeback’?

February 5, 2020, 10:39 AM UTC

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Good morning. The coronavirus outbreak is nowhere near peaking—the infection (24,324) and death (490) rates continue to climb—but the markets in Asia and Europe are unfazed this morning. The major indices are all in positive territory (and, as I write, climbing), as are U.S. futures.

Some of the momentum overseas today is a carry-over from Tuesday’s market gains in the States. You were no doubt pleased to see these numbers yesterday: the Dow (up 408 points), S&P 500 and Nasdaq (up 2.1%) all had impressive runs, and that looks set to continue at the open today.

There are a couple factors giving these markets a jolt of momentum. Investors seem reassured China will step in again and again and again with stimulus and generous policy moves to blunt the worst impacts of the contagion. And, there have been some standout earnings calls—Disney in the U.S. yesterday, BNP Paribas (a European bank!) this morning— to remind us we’re not falling off a cliff. And, oh yeah, there’s Tesla.

Shares in the electric-carmaker are up 36% so far this week, and more than 100% for the year. To repeat: year-to-date. The Tesla share price performance in recent weeks is beginning to resemble a SpaceX rocket launch diagram. To all those Tesla shorts out there, you may want to look away from this next Tweet comparing Tesla’s early 2020 stock run to that of Bitcoin in 2017.

Call it a comeback?

Let’s take a wayyyy-too-early look at how the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq have fared since January 17, the day Chinese officials went public with news the coronavirus contagion was becoming a major health threat.

After yesterday’s gains, the Nasdaq is trading above pre-outbreak levels while the S&P is close to regaining all the ground it lost over the past two-and-a-half weeks. The Dow, meanwhile, is once again flirting with 29,000.


To steal (and twist) a line from President Trump’s State of the Union Address last night, is this the start of the great markets comeback?

A lot of CEOs would say, not so fast.

Supply chains have been fundamentally disrupted by coronavirus. Shops and factories remain shut in China. Travel in the region has come to a halt. And 2020 forecasts in sectors from beer to sportswear are in jeopardy.

If the SARS outbreak of 2003 can offer us any guidance, it’s that the road down won’t be a straight one, and the road up will take some time to emerge.

Back in 2003, the China markets lurched down, then up, then down again for a 10-week span before reaching bottom. We’re not even three weeks into the coronavirus crisis. The peak looks a long way off from where I sit.

Bernhard Warner

Today's reads

Recovery in view? Investors cheered results from Deutsche Bank last week, latching on to hopes of a turnaround despite Germany’s biggest bank notching up a whopping net loss of $5.9 billion in 2019, its fifth straight annual loss. Deutsche Bank shares, already the best performing stock in the sector in Europe this year, jumped by another 4.3% after the results to a 14-month high. Our Geoffrey Smith asks whether the improvement which Deutsche’s Chief Executive Christian Sewing boasted of is real, or just a mirage?

Ford stalls. Ford Motor Co’s shares plunged nearly 10% in after-hours trading yesterday. The culprit: a profit forecast well below analysts’ estimates, an ominous sign that Chief Executive Officer Jim Hackett’s $11 billion turnaround plan may take longer to pay off, Bloomberg reports. Ford faces high costs this year as it rolls out a new version of its most profitable vehicle, the F-150 pickup, and the electric Mustang Mach-E, and revives the Bronco sport-utility vehicle in 2021. The company is also pouring billions into self-driving cars, while trying to turn around its money-losing overseas operations.

Baby Yoda boost. Walt Disney Co made a strong entrance into the streaming video wars dominated by Netflix, helped by Baby Yoda, Reuters reported. The new streaming service, Disney+, reached 28.6 million paying subscribers this week, crushing Wall Street forecasts. Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger said the service did not suffer significant cancellations after the end of “The Mandalorian,” a “Star Wars” series that became a cultural phenomenon thanks to a character nicknamed “Baby Yoda.”

Market candy

Egg on your face. Who knew egg futures were such an exciting market? The coronavirus outbreak has hatched a bout of speculative frenzy in the under-reported Chinese egg futures market. Investors in Chinese egg futures, the only derivative of its kind in the world, are betting the country’s move to limit transport will lead to tighter supplies later this year, Bloomberg reports. Futures for September delivery jumped as much as 6.8% on the Dalian Commodity Exchange on Tuesday, while the contract for shipment in May slid.