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Mar 16, 2020

Another 10% plunge sends Canada stocks to lowest since 2016

Market reaction comes down to outside panic: Portfolio manager


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Canadian stocks plunged about 10 per cent as measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus only intensified concerns the economy is heading into a recession.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government will restrict the entry of all non-residents into Canada except Americans, while U.S. President Donald Trump urged social distancing and schools and restaurant services across North American will shut down to fight the pandemic.

The S&P/TSX Composite Index dropped 9.9 per cent to the lowest level since February, 2016, bringing its losses to 31 per cent from the Feb. 20 peak. U.S. stocks plunged the most since 1987 after Trump warned the economic disruption from the virus could last into summer.

Ten of eleven sectors fell on the Canada benchmark, while materials closed in the green. Air Canada, shares fell 28 per cent today alone on the government travel ban and is now down 62 per cent this year.

Dramatic rate cuts from global central banks, including the Fed on Sunday and the Bank of Canada on Friday, appear to have done little to calm investors who see global growth virtually grinding to a halt. Royal Bank of Canada was the first to cut its prime rate to 2.95 per cent from 3.45 per cent, matching the Canadian central bank’s cut.

Oil’s spectacular collapse deepened, with West Texas Intermediate futures settling under US$29 per barrel in New York as widening global efforts to fight the spread of the coronavirus looked set to trigger the most severe contraction in annual demand in history.

Gold extended losses after its worst week in almost four decades, with investors “selling whatever they can” as the widening economic impact of the coronavirus spurred panic across markets. Gold and silver equities however, defied slumps in their respective commodities, led by a jump in levered ETFs, which saw massive weakness and volatility last week.

The Bank of Canada will likely take the overnight rate to 0.25 per cent from 0.75 per cent ahead of the next scheduled decision on April 15, according economists from Bloomberg Intelligence.

Given the extent of pandemic-driven unknowns, the central bank may want to pull a page from the Fed’s emergency playbook and jettison the forecasting exercise over the near term.

“We continue to recommend investors refrain from buying the dips, and carrying above-average exposure to gold equities, even amid recent weakness in the commodity,” Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce portfolio strategists including Ian de Verteuil wrote in a note to clients early Monday.

CIBC is among banks calling for a recession this year domestically along with in the United States. Royal Bank of Canada thinks the country will fall into a recession this year after taking a double hit from falling oil prices and the global impact of coronavirus on economic activity. Meanwhile, Bank of America said Friday Canada will experience negative GDP growth during the second and third quarters of this year.


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