Global stock markets fell sharply on Friday, with European indexes down more than 3 percent, before what looked to be another tough opening on Wall Street, capping a tumultuous week of highs and lows as the spread of the coronavirus continued to take a toll on investor confidence.
Yields on government bonds again fell to record lows, another sign that worried investors were fleeing risky assets like stocks and putting their money into low-interest but safe Treasury bonds.
Futures pointed to another drop when Wall Street starts trading. The S&P 500 fell more than 3 percent on Thursday.
For many the question now is how much damage can the virus do to the global economy and its growth prospects for the year.
“The epidemic has already dented anemic global economic growth this year and it can be expected to slow further, then contract, as the fear of the virus takes hold,” said Nigel Green, chief executive of deVere Group, an investment firm.
Factories in China are still struggling to get back up and running. Thousands of flights around the world have been grounded. Supply chains have been snarled, shaking some of the world’s biggest companies and forcing an untold number of workers to stay home.
“Against this backdrop, we should prepare for a short-term but severe global recession,” Mr. Green said.
In London, the FTSE 100 index was down 3.1 percent on Friday. Germany’s DAX index was 3.5 percent lower, and France’s CAC 40 index fell 3.7 percent.
In Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul, markets closed more than 2 percent lower. In the mainland Chinese markets of Shanghai and Shenzhen, markets fell about 1 percent. An index of China’s biggest companies listed in Hong Kong dropped by nearly 2 percent.
In London, the FTSE 100 index was down 2 percent on Friday morning. Germany’s DAX index and France’s CAC 40 index were both down 2.6 percent.
The yields on government bonds, typically considered a safe bet in uncertain times, hit fresh lows. The 10-year U.S. Treasury note briefly fell below 0.7 percent on Friday before recovering to about 0.75 percent. Bond yields fall when prices rise, and in times of panic money floods into government debt.