Risk assets retreat as virus cases continue to accelerate

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8 April 2020


The dollar firmed slightly against its major peers on Wednesday morning, including both the pound and euro, as optimism surrounding the spread of the coronavirus began to wane.

ost higher risk currencies had bounced back versus the safe-havens on Tuesday on signs that the worst of the virus may be over in Europe. The number of new daily cases of the virus in both Spain and Italy, the second and third worst affected countries in the world, have continued to slow in the past few days, albeit they remain very high. While this is undoubtedly encouraging, the same cannot be said for just yet for France and Germany, both of which saw jumps in the number of deaths recorded yesterday, the former reporting its highest daily death count thus far (1,417).

In the rest of the world, the US continues to be ravaged by the virus. Almost 2,000 deaths were reported due to the virus in the States on Tuesday alone, by far its largest number yet. The state of New York has been a hotspot, having seen a disproportionate number of cases there – it now accounts for 35% of all US cases despite only accounting for 6% of the total US population. Meanwhile in the UK, there are slightly more tentative signs that the containment measures are working thus far, with the number of new cases falling to its lowest level in a week. New deaths did spike to a new high 786 yesterday, although this may be down to the timing of reporting – the past 3-day average is actually less than the 3 days prior.

The result in financial markets to the ongoing uncertainty has been for investors to again flock to safety, with the yen and dollar gaining and stocks retreating. As long as the virus is yet to peak in key economic areas, particularly the US, it’s Ebury’s view that the safe-havens may continue to be well bid in the immediate-term.

US jobless claims eyed, OPEC set to meet tomorrow

There’s been very little macroeconomic news for investors to digest so far this week that covers the crisis period, with market’s squarely focused on the latest contagion numbers.

The issue with economic data is that it tends to run on a bit of a lag, with much of the prints we’ve had in the last few days covering the month of February, i.e the pre-crisis period. That will change on Thursday and Friday with the release of the latest US jobless claims and inflation data. Given the data out in the last couple of weeks, tomorrow’s jobs number is almost anyone’s guess, although the market is eying up a sky-high number of claims in excess of the 5 million mark. This would be around 3% of the total US labour which, if confirmed, would take the effective unemployment rate to in excess of 12% by our calculations – its highest level since WW2.

Elsewhere, tomorrow’s OPEC meeting will be in the spotlight. A historic production cut is eyed, which should help support oil prices and those currencies most heavily dependent on its production.