Stocks tumble as bond markets sound US recession warning

People stand in front of an electronic stock board of a securities firm in Tokyo, Monday, March 25, 2019. (AP)
Updated 25 March 2019
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Stocks tumble as bond markets sound US recession warning

  • Concerns about the health of the world economy heightened last week after cautious remarks by the US Federal Reserve sent 10-year treasury yields to the lowest since early 2018

SYDNEY: Investors ditched shares on Monday and fled to the safety of bonds while the Japanese yen hovered near a six-week high as risk assets fell out of favor on growing fears about a US recession, sending global yields plunging.
US stocks futures fell, with E-minis for the S&P 500 skidding 0.5 percent. MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan dropped 1.4 percent to a one-week trough in a broad sell-off in equities in the region.
Japan’s Nikkei tumbled 3.2 percent to the lowest in two weeks, South Korea’s Kospi index declined 1.6 percent while Australian shares faltered 1.3 percent.
Chinese shares also declined with the blue-chip CSI 300 index down 0.8 percent.
On Friday, all three major US stock indexes clocked their biggest one-day percentage losses since Jan.3. The Dow slid 1.8 percent, the S&P 500 was off 1.9 percent and the Nasdaq dropped 2.5 percent.
Concerns about the health of the world economy heightened last week after cautious remarks by the US Federal Reserve sent 10-year treasury yields to the lowest since early 2018.
US 10-year treasury yields were last 1.9 basis points below three-month rates after yields inverted for the first time since 2007 on Friday. Historically, an inverted yield curve — where long-term rates fall below short-term — has signalled an upcoming recession.
“The bond market price action is an enormous blaring siren to anyone trying to be optimistic on stocks,” JPMorgan analysts said in a note to clients.
“Growth, and bonds/yield curves, will be the only thing stocks should be focused on going forward and it’s very hard to envision any type of rally until economic confidence stabilizes and bonds reverse.”
Compounding fears of a more widespread global downturn, manufacturing output data from Germany showed a contraction for the third straight month. And in the United States, preliminary measures of manufacturing and services activity for March showed both sectors grew at a slower pace than in February, according to data from IHS Markit.
National Australia Bank’s yield curve recession modelling is pointing to a 30-35 percent probability of a US recession occurring over the next 10-18 months.
“The risk of a US recession has risen and is flashing amber and this will keep markets pricing a high chance of the Fed cutting rates,” said London-based NAB strategist Tapas Strickland.
As bonds rallied on Monday, yields on 10-year Japanese government bonds slumped to minus 9 basis points, the weakest since September 2016. Australian 10-year year yields plunged to a record low of 1.754.
Some analysts, such as ING’s Rob Carnell, advised against rushing to place bets on the yield inversion.
“We suspect that drawing a recession conclusion from such data is not warranted until the 3M-10Y yield curve is inverted by a substantial amount,” Carnell said. “Just inverted as today’s markets indicate, doesn’t do it for me.”

POLITICAL HEADWINDS
Much of the concerns around global growth is stemming from Europe and China which are battling separate tariff wars with the United States.
Politics was also in focus in the United States and Britain.
A nearly two-year US investigation found no evidence of collusion between Donald Trump’s election team and Russia, in a major political victory for the US President as he prepares for his 2020 re-election battle.
Political turmoil in Britain over the country’s exit from the European Union also remains a drag on risk assets.
On Sunday, Rupert Murdoch’s Sun newspaper said in a front page editorial British Prime Minister Theresa May must announce on Monday she will stand down as soon as her Brexit deal is approved.
The British pound was a shade lower at $1.3198 after three straight days of wild gyrations. The currency slipped 0.7 percent last week.
In currency markets, the Japanese yen — a perceived safe haven — held near its highest since Feb. 11. It was last 0.1 percent higher at 109.77 per dollar.
The Australian dollar, a liquid proxy for risk play, was down for its third straight session of losses at $0.7076.
In commodities, US crude fell 61 cents to $58.43 per barrel. Brent crude futures eased 60 cents to $66.43.


China’s Xi promotes building initiative amid debt worries

Updated 26 April 2019
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China’s Xi promotes building initiative amid debt worries

  • Xi says Beijing wants “open, green and clean cooperation” with “zero tolerance for corruption”
  • High costs have prompted complaints some are falling into a “debt trap”
BEIJING: President Xi Jinping has promised to set high standards for China’s Belt and Road infrastructure-building initiative, seeking to dispel complaints the many billion dollars in projects leave developing countries with too much debt.
Xi avoided mentioning debt complaints in a speech opening a forum attended by leaders from some three dozen countries to celebrate his signature foreign initiative. But he said Beijing wants “open, green and clean cooperation” with “zero tolerance for corruption.”
Developing countries welcome the initiative to expand trade by building roads, ports and other facilities across Asia and Africa to Europe. But high costs have prompted complaints some are falling into a “debt trap.”
The United States, Russia, Japan and India also worry Beijing is trying to build a trade and political network centered on China and expand its strategic influence at their expense.
Xi’s government is trying to revive the initiative’s momentum after the number of new projects plunged last year. That came after Chinese officials said state-owned banks would step up scrutiny of borrowers and some governments complained projects do too little for their economies and might give Beijing too much political sway.
Countries including Malaysia and Thailand have canceled or scaled back projects while Ethiopia and others have renegotiated debt repayment.
Xi noted China’s finance ministry on Thursday issued guidelines for assessing debt risks for borrowers. The ministry said those “debt sustainability guidelines” are based on the standards of the International Monetary Fund and other international institutions.
The president tried to allay complaints about lack of economic benefits and political influence, saying Belt and Road is “not an exclusive club” and promotes “common development and prosperity.”
“We need to pursue open, green and clean cooperation,” Xi said. “Everything should be done in a transparent way and we should have zero tolerance for corruption.”
His audience at a Beijing conference center included Prime Ministers Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar, Lee Hsien-Loong of Singapore and Adiy Ahmed of Ethiopia and leaders or envoys from Greece, Serbia and Malaysia.
Xi said Beijing also wants to expand the scope of its initiative by encouraging cooperation among Belt and Road countries on health, water resources, agriculture and science and technology. He promised to fund scholarships for students from Belt and Road countries.