As stock markets dive, these commodities are leading the plunge down

February 27, 2020, 10:01 AM UTC

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Buongiorno, Bull Sheeters. President Trump may view the coronavirus outbreak as a low-risk affair, but the markets are on high alert again today.

Here’s what’s moving the broader indices today.

Markets update

Europe is down significantly across the board, and the U.S. futures too are pointing to another bad day. Yesterday, saw the sixth straight session in the red for the Dow and S&P 500, putting them uncomfortably close to correction territory. Meanwhile, the Nasdaq, which finished slightly higher yesterday, looks to open in the red this morning after Microsoft became the latest tech giant to lower its quarterly outlook on coronavirus concerns.

If there’s anything positive from the numbers this morning, it’s Asia where markets are mixed.

Pounded for weeks, the Hong Kong and Shanghai markets have been clinging to their gains throughout the trading day on Thursday, possibly a sign that the markets see the situation beginning to stabilize there.

Elsewhere, the dollar is down. Gold is up, and crude is down. Again.

As we’ve noted here before, commodities are taking a beating from the outbreak. Crude is among the worst hit. Analysts were banking on 2020 being a strong year for oil demand, my colleague Katherine Dunn reports, but then the outbreak obliterated all those year-ahead projections.

The crude collapse is the subject of today’s chart.

Crude awakening


The chart above zooms back as far as Jan. 17. At the time, crude was trading above $64 per barrel, and was trending higher. And then coronavirus hit.

As I was putting this chart together this morning, the price of Brent Crude was a mere four-tenths of a percent away from bear territory (looking back over the past six weeks). It’s climbed a bit since then, but it’s still under major pressure. Natural gas, meanwhile, is doing nearly as poorly, down 18.4%, while the wider Bloomberg Commodity Index is off 8.3% in that period.

Typically, there are winners to be found when oil is cheap. Airlines stocks, for one, usually take off under such conditions. But the opposite is happening. European low-cost flyers EasyJet and Ryanair are down more than 15% this week. Airlines are cutting flights to Asia to Italy and elsewhere as people just aren’t getting on planes.

And so oil producers are getting hit on both sides—individual consumers are cutting back on travel and producers are in a holding pattern until the virus threat passes.

This makes the price of crude a good indicator to measure the economic damage of the coronavirus outbreak. A sustained uptick in price will likely tell us demand is recovering, as are parts of the most ravaged parts of the global economy.

On the plus side—I promised you a “winner” in this analysis—is the environment. There are indications that air quality in some of China’s most industrialized cities is vastly improved since officials shuttered factories there. So, take a breath.

We’ll see you here tomorrow. Have a nice day.

Bernhard Warner

Today's reads

Record property deal. U.S. private equity giant Blackstone is making a big bet on student housing, paying $6 billion for the iQ Student Accommodation business in Britain’s largest private real estate deal. The business, purchased from Goldman Sachs Group and the Wellcome Trust, owns and manages properties with more than 28,000 student beds in the U.K. Private-equity firms are betting heavily on U.K. real estate, which has lagged other western European markets since the Brexit referendum in mid-2016, Bloomberg reports.

Six figures. Some advice for those looking for a better-paying job: move! Silicon Valley, not surprisingly, tops a list of places with the most six-figure incomes. More than 28% of people working in the San Jose/Sunnyvale/Santa Clara area of California take home pay of $100,000 or more, compared with less than 7% nationally, says Fortune’s Chris Morris. The Washington D.C. area, second on the list, saw the number of high-paying gigs surge nearly 38% between 2015-2018. And the Sacramento, Calif. area saw a 73% improvement in that time.

Gold rush. The coronavirus outbreak could push gold to $1,800 an ounce within months, Goldman Sachs forecasts. Investors are snapping up the precious metal as a safe haven amid coronavirus fears, depressed real rates, and a renewed focus on the U.S. election. Spot gold, up more than 8% this year, traded at $1,651.70 an ounce Thursday.

Market candy

This day in history. Monday’s coronavirus-induced 1,000-point plunge in the Dow shocked investors. But it’s not the first time a crisis originating in China has roiled global markets in late February. On February 27, 2007, China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite Index, which had been rising rapidly for months, plunged by 9%, its biggest fall for a decade, after it was hit by rumors of a state crackdown on speculation. Market jitters spread around the world, with the Dow Jones index sliding 416 points that day, its biggest one-day points loss since the September 11 attacks. Chinese markets went on to greater peaks, but February 27 marked the beginning of the end of China’s stock market bubble.

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