Markets have swung wildly over the last 10 trading sessions with whipsaw moves never seen in modern markets. Every stock, bond, metal or digital asset has been swept up in the Covid-19 scare of 2020 where nothing is immune. The wild gyrations are keeping many investors on the sidelines and forcing money managers to hedge, or raise cash in nearly every asset. The risk-off scenario never seems to cal market jitters as the media posts a fresh round of new cases and the death toll rises. Pandemic hysteria has affected everything and the economic engine seems to be in full stall mode.
The S&P 500 opened more than 8% lower Monday morning, immediately triggering a 15-minute trading halt launched when an index falls more than 7% from the prior session’s close. The so-called “circuit breaker” is intended to prevent further immediate losses. But even after the halt lifted, the blue-chip index, Dow and Nasdaq each held sharply lower.
During the overnight session, futures for each index had also been pinned to their “limit-down” levels established by CME Group daily to prevent further extreme losses, after each dropping more than 4%.
Stock futures opened sharply lower Sunday evening, even after the Federal Reserve launched a massive monetary stimulus program — including cutting rates to effectively zero and unveiling plans for large-scale asset purchases.
Specifically, the Fed slashed benchmark interest rates rates by 100 basis points to a band of between 0% and 0.25%. Underscoring the growing fears of a worldwide recession, the surprise announcement came just days ahead of the Fed’s scheduled March monetary policy meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday — and less than two weeks after the Fed had also unexpectedly cut rates by 50 basis points to a range of 1.00-1.25%.
Many market participants had expected the Fed would vote to cut rates to a zero lower bound for the first time since the financial crisis, but anticipated it would happen at this week’s meeting. The Fed will no longer hold its previously scheduled meeting, Fed Chair Jerome Powell said during a press conference Sunday evening.
In a statement, the central bank said it intends to maintain the new target interest rate band “until it is confident that the economy has weathered recent events and is on track to achieve its maximum employment and price stability goals.”