Equity markets slump as lockdowns spook investors

By Waheed Abbas

Published: Mon 23 Mar 2020, 6:49 PM

Last updated: Mon 23 Mar 2020, 8:51 PM

Panic selling in global equity markets continued on Monday, with most of the major bourses trading in the red as lockdowns spooked investors.
Lockdowns and closures intended to halt the spread of the new coronavirus expanded over the weekend to many cities around the world, as the number of people infected surged past 336,000.
Dubai Financial Market plunged 3.78 per cent to 1,714 points, led by the fall in Air Arabia, Emaar Properties, Emirates NBD, Emaar Malls, and Dubai Islamic Bank. Abu Dhabi index plummeted 3.11 per cent, pushed down by Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Methaq, Dana Gas and Sharjah Islamic Bank.
Among other regional bourses, Saudi Arabia's Tadawul slumped nearly three per cent to 5,990; Qatar Stock Exchange lost 3.8 per cent; and the Bahrain Bourse dipped 0.4 per cent.
Oil prices also started the week on a negative note. WTI crude fell 1.2 per cent to $22.36 while Brent was down nearly three per cent to $28.14 per barrel by Monday evening.
The US markets opened mostly lower early Monday as Congress wrangled over a massive stimulus package while the Federal Reserve unveiled new emergency programs to boost the economy. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 0.8 per cent at 19,014.47. The broad-based S&P 500 also dropped 0.8 per cent to 2,285.83, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index added 0.1 per cent at 6,888.80 a few minutes after opening the trade on Monday.
Many investors are waiting for markets to fall further before plunging back in, said Naeem Aslam of Avatrade. Should the market drop by another 10 per cent to 20 per cent, the overall decline from recent peaks would be over 50 per cent, and "that would be a massive buy signal," Aslam said.
In Asia, most stock markets ended in the red with Indian markets triggering a circuit breaker halt to trading. India's Sensex plummeted 11.3 per cent after a sharp drop on the open triggered a circuit breaker halt to trading. Singapore's benchmark plunged 7.8 per cent after the city-state announced a sharp increase in confirmed infections and its first two deaths. Shares also fell nearly eight per cent in Bangkok.
Japan's Nikkei 225 index was the outlier, gaining 2.0 per cent after the International Olympic Committee and Japanese officials indicated they are considering postponing the Tokyo Games, due to begin in July.
South Korea's Kospi lost 5.3 per cent to 1,482.46. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index shed 4.9 per cent, to 21,696.13, while the Shanghai Composite index slipped 3.1 per cent to 2,660.17. The Nikkei closed at 16,887.78. Sydney's S&P/ASX 200 fell 5.6 per cent to 4,546.00 after plunging more than 8 per cent sharply just after the open.
European markets cut their losses after the Fed action was announced. European markets pushed higher after starting the day sharply lower. Germany's DAX rose 1.5 per cent to 9,059 and Britain's FTSE 100 was flat at 5,190. In Paris, the CAC 40 rose 1 per cent to 4,087.
- waheedabbas@khaleejtimes.com

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