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BlackRock Commentary: Market equity performance

Jean Boivin, Head of BlackRock Investment Institute together with Elga Bartsch, Head of Macro Research, Mike Pyle, Global Chief Investment Strategist and Scott Theil, Chief Fixed Income Strategist all within the BlackRock Investment Institute share their insights on global economy, markets and geopolitics. Their views are theirs alone and are not intended to be construed as investment advice.

The coronavirus outbreak is set to deliver a sharp and deep economic shock. Market moves are reminiscent of the 2008 crisis, but we don’t think this is a repeat. Stringent containment and social distancing policies will bring economic activity to a near standstill, but provided aggressive fiscal and monetary policy actions are taken to bridge businesses and households through the shock, activity should return rapidly with little permanent economic damage.

Weekly Commentary


Developed market equity performance, 2020 vs. 2008

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Past performance is not a reliable indicator of current or future results. It is not possible to invest directly in an index. Sources: BlackRock Investment Institute, with data from Refinitiv Datastream , March 2020. Notes: Data are as of March 13, 2020. The yellow line shows the performance of MSCI World Total Return Index since it closed at a record high on Feb. 12, 2020. The orange line shows the performance of the index over the same number of trading days since Sept. 12, 2008, the last trading day before Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy.

The market’s gyrations have sparked memories of 2008. Developed market stocks have fallen as much as 27% from the February peak, but pared losses on Friday. The magnitude of the selloff is similar to that in the aftermath of Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy in 2008. See the chart above. We have also seen sharp swings in fixed income, with U.S. Treasury yields first hitting record lows and then closing up on the week. Crude oil prices last week posted their largest single-day decline since the Gulf War amid a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia. What will it take to stabilize markets? A decisive, preemptive and coordinated policy response is key, in our view. This includes aggressive public health measures to stem the outbreak, as well as coordinated monetary and fiscal easing to prevent disruptions to income streams – especially to households and smaller firms – that could cause lasting economic damage. We see encouraging signs on both sides of the Atlantic that such a monetary and fiscal response is underway. 

The evolution and global spread of the coronavirus outbreak are highly uncertain. What we know: Containment measures and social distancing mechanically bring economic activity to a halt, as seen in China and Italy. There is a strong incentive to enact such measures proactively to slow the growth of coronavirus infections, and France and Spain over the weekend joined Italy in imposing drastic lockdown measures. The impact on economic activity will likely be sharp – and deep. Yet we believe that the sharper the containment measures taken and the deeper the economic hit in the near-term, the more confident we should be about the rebound after such measures are lifted. We see the shock as akin to a large-scale natural disaster that severely disrupts activity for one or two quarters, but eventually results in a sharp economic recovery.

The key assumption behind this view: Policy makers act to stabilize economies and forestall any cash-flow crunches that could lead to financial stresses and tip the economy into a financial crisis. The Fed on Sunday cut rates to near zero, announced up to $700 billion in bond purchases and other measures to ensure the proper functioning of markets, and set up arrangements with other central banks to make U.S. dollar funding available. The White House earlier unlocked disaster funding, and Congress is set to pass a bill to cover health care and paid leave for some workers. A more sizable fiscal response is possible amid growing recognition in Congress that this is needed. The UK last week delivered on a coordinated set of measures including a Bank of England rate cut and a budget that included relief to affected sectors. This, and similar moves by Canada last week, is the type of coordinated monetary and fiscal action that we have flagged a need for in dealing with the next downturn. The European Central Bank provided material relief to the banking system at the heart of financing the euro area economy, and several European nations signaled they will significantly loosen fiscal policy. Yet the ECB’s move was not the “whatever it takes” package markets had expected, and bond yields of some peripheral nations jumped.


Market Updates


Selected asset performance, 2020 year-to-date and range

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Past performance is not a reliable indicator of current or future results. It is not possible to invest directly in an index. Sources: BlackRock Investment Institute, with data from Refinitiv Datastream, March 2020. Notes: The two ends of the bars show the lowest and highest returns versus the end of 2019, and the dots represent year-to-date returns. Emerging market (EM), high yield and global corporate investment grade (IG) returns are denominated in U.S. dollars, and the rest in local currencies. Indexes or prices used are: spot Brent crude, MSCI USA Index, the ICE U.S. Dollar Index (DXY), MSCI Europe Index, Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global Broad Corporate Index, Bank of America Merrill Lynch Global High Yield Index, Datastream 10-year benchmark government bond (U.S. , German and Italy), MSCI Emerging Markets Index, spot gold and J.P. Morgan EMBI index.


The contours of a policy response to coronavirus are starting to take shape as the outbreak – and related containment measures – propagates across the globe. A credible response will require a joint effort between fiscal and monetary policy (see the following page for more). To date, the policy response has failed to stabilize markets, with U.S. equities last week registering their sharpest one-day decline since Black Monday of 1987 and European equities suffering their largest daily loss in history.

Week Ahead

  • Tuesday: U.S. industrial output and retail sales; Germany ZEW economic sentiment
  • Thursday: Philadelphia Fed manufacturing business outlook survey

After a flurry of interest rate cuts by global central banks, growth data may return to the spotlight this week as markets grapple with the extent of the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak. China’s industrial output and retail sales data for February likely will show a slump.


BlackRock’s Key risks & Disclaimers:

This material is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. The opinions expressed are as of March 16, 2020 and may change. The information and opinions are derived from proprietary and non-proprietary sources deemed by BlackRock to be reliable, are not necessarily all-inclusive and are not guaranteed as to accuracy. As such, no warranty of accuracy or reliability is given and no responsibility arising in any other way for errors and omissions (including responsibility to any person by reason of negligence) is accepted by BlackRock, its officers, employees or agents. This material may contain ’forward looking’ information that is not purely historical in nature. Such information may include, among other things, projections and forecasts. There is no guarantee that any forecasts made will come to pass. Reliance upon information in this material is at the sole discretion of the reader.

The information provided here is neither tax nor legal advice. Investors should speak to their tax professional for specific information regarding their tax situation. Investment involves risk including possible loss of principal. International investing involves risks, including risks related to foreign currency, limited liquidity, less government regulation, and the possibility of substantial volatility due to adverse political, economic or other developments. These risks are often heightened for investments in emerging/developing markets or smaller capital markets. 

Issued by BlackRock Investment Management (UK) Limited, authorized and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered office: 12 Throgmorton Avenue, London, EC2N 2DL

MeDirect Disclaimers:

This information has been accurately reproduced, as received from  BlackRock Investment Management (UK) Limited. No information has been omitted which would render the reproduced information inaccurate or misleading. This information is being distributed by MeDirect Bank (Malta) plc to its customers. The information contained in this document is for general information purposes only and is not intended to provide legal or other professional advice nor does it commit MeDirect Bank (Malta) plc to any obligation whatsoever. The information available in this document is not intended to be a suggestion, recommendation or solicitation to buy, hold or sell, any securities and is not guaranteed as to accuracy or completeness.

The financial instruments discussed in the document may not be suitable for all investors and investors must make their own informed decisions and seek their own advice regarding the appropriateness of investing in financial instruments or implementing strategies discussed herein.

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