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European stock markets calm after pandemic-driven crash

Reuters | Updated: 13-03-2020 16:02 IST | Created: 13-03-2020 15:29 IST
European stock markets calm after pandemic-driven crash
Representative Image Image Credit: Piqsels

European stock markets found some footing on Friday, after logging their worst day ever as fears of an economic shock from the coronavirus pandemic were deepened by the European Central Bank's decision to hold interest rates steady.

The benchmark STOXX 600 index was up 2.6%, following a 12% crash on Thursday that erased over $1 trillion from the value of European firms and plunged global equities into a bear market. The battered banking sector was among the early advancers, tracking a rise in U.S. bond yields, with Commerzbank and HSBC adding between 2% and 5.3%.

"Markets have got to a point where if you have a six- to the 12-month horizon the risk-reward is shifting towards the upside," said Rupert Thompson, head of research at asset manager Kingswood. "The key question now is not 'are we going to have a short-lived recession in Q1 and Q2'," he said. "The key question is 'whether the recession lingers on to the second half of the year'. If that happens, quite possibly markets could fall somewhat further."

Fears of a global recession intensified on Thursday after U.S. President Donald Trump shocked investors with a move to restrict travel from Europe, while the ECB's move to hold off on interest rate cuts added to panic about a liquidity crunch. Asian equity markets had looked set to mirror a carnage on Wall Street in early trading with bourses from Seoul to Jakarta setting off down-limit circuit breakers, before finding a floor as hopes turned to a U.S. stimulus package.

Traders are also betting on the U.S. Federal Reserve to cut rates for a second time this month at its policy meeting next week. Gains in Europe were broad-based, with miners and utilities jumping 5.2% and 4.6%, respectively, while the energy sector tracked a rise in oil prices.

The travel and leisure sector was the only sub-index in the red, bringing its total losses for the month to more than 30%. Swiss diagnostics maker Roche jumped 5.4% after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued emergency authorization for a faster coronavirus test made by the company. After six straight days of declines, the stock was on track for its best day in more than two years.

German payments company Wirecard soared 12.2% to the top of the benchmark index after saying a KPMG audit found no manipulation in its financial statements.


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