Markets could remain suppressed for months in this perfect storm of ailment and argument

Oil and commodity stocks bore the brunt when stock markets plunged yesterday after the global markets resumed their Covid-19-driven fall
Gary McDonald Business Editor

TO borrow a line from Sean O'Casey's Juno and the Paycock, "Th' whole worl's in a terrible state o' chassis" . . .

Stock markets around the globe are in panic mode, prompted by the sharp rise in coronavirus cases outside China and an all-out oil price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Indeed by the time you read this piece over your latte and cornflakes, who knows what wave of panic will have hit the Asian markets and sent more stocks and shares into a tailspin?

Responding to the current economic uncertainties and the coronavirus outbreak are certain to be at the centre of Wednesday’s Budget statement by Rashi Sunak.

But right now, it's unclear what broader interventions can ease fears around what's happening in this perfect storm of ailment and argument.

What's safe to say is that, 12 years since the financial crisis, we are headed back in that general direction. And the downturn could be substantial, though hopefully short-lived.

Right now, the prospect of millions of people in the UK going into self-isolation, or even working from home, will be catastrophic for the economy.

An additional impact could come from parents and other carers having to remain at home if nurseries, schools or facilities for caring for the sick and elderly are closed, which could dwarf the economic impact of workers staying at home because of the illness itself.

What happens to the hospitality and retails sectors if people stop spending on eating out, attending events or avoiding crowded public places (we've already seen hundreds of sporting, corporate and cultural events cancelled or postponed)?

And, of course, those dramatic declines in people travelling, especially by air, is worrying the big oil producers like Shell and BP, prompting their value to plunge.

A falling London market is bad news for us all, and you don't need to dabble in stocks and shares to feel the pain, because falls reduce future incomes, and therefore spending, most obviously when individuals reach retirement and draw on their accumulated defined contribution pension pots.

However, plummeting oil prices will have a beneficial short-term bonus in that it will be cheaper to heat our homes and fill up our cars (some are going as far as to suggest a sub-£1 litre of petrol or diesel).

That will be little consolation, though, if the global economy slips into recession over the coming months.

The markets are in turmoil right now and there is much to digest around that and coronavirus.

And in the face of this uncertainty, expect the markets to remain suppressed for weeks, probably months.

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