Investors erased $393 billion from China’s benchmark stock index on Monday, sold the yuan and dumped commodities as fears about the spreading coronavirus and its economic impact drove selling on the first day of trade in China since the Lunar New Year.
A nearly 8 per cent plunge on the Shanghai composite index was its biggest daily fall in more than four years. The Chinese yuan blew past the 7-per-dollar mark and Shanghai-traded commodities from palm oil to copper hit their maximum down limits.
The wipeout came even as the central bank made its biggest cash injection to the financial system since 2004 and despite apparent regulatory moves to curb selling.
“You wanted to know what a real decoupling from China might look like, or what a 'What if everyone just stayed at home and didn't buy anything?' economic thought-experiment looks like? Well here you are, folks,” Rabobank strategist Michael Every said in an afternoon note.
The yuan began onshore trade at its weakest this year and was down 1.2 per cent by the afternoon, sliding past the symbolic 7-per-dollar level to close at 7.0257.
Shanghai-traded oil, iron ore, copper and soft commodities contracts all posted sharp drops, catching up with sliding global prices.
The new virus has created alarm because it is spreading quickly, much about it is unknown, and authorities' drastic response is likely to drag on economic growth.
“This will last for some time,” said Iris Pang, Greater China economst at ING.
"It's uncertain whether factory workers, or how many of them, will return," she said. "We haven't yet seen corporate earnings since the (spread of the) coronavirus. Restaurants and retailers may have very little sales."
The People's Bank of China (PBOC) said the stocks plunge had irrational or even panic elements, triggered by herd behaviour, in a newspaper commentary published after markets closed. The sell-off cast a pall over Asia, though losses were contained because a slide had been expected. Hong Kong's Hang Seng, which shed almost 10 per cent in two weeks, closed 0.2 per cent firmer.
Opec+ may cut output
Opec and its allies are considering cutting their oil output by a further 500,000 bpd because of the impact on oil demand from the coronavirus, two sources and a third industry source familiar with discussions said. The demand from China has dropped nearly 20 per cent. Brent Crude was trading at $55.88 (1.31 per cent in the red at 8.40 pm IST).