Stock markets reached all-time highs at the beginning of 2020; then came Coronavirus which caused panic selling in most asset classes due to the adverse impact it could have on businesses and the global economy.
The following week the panic seemed to be over, with some major equity markets rallying. This was particularly evident in the US which posted record highs again, driven by strong quarterly earnings and growth projections from the world’s largest companies, in addition to strong US job creation.
It is impossible to predict the full affect Coronavirus may have on the world economy. The World Health Organization has declared the epidemic a public health emergency, so Coronavirus could still cause markets to decline. The future outcome is unknown.
Highs and lows
What I find most interesting is the volatility it has caused. One example is Tesla, the electric vehicle manufacturer, which saw its shares increase by around 115% in 2020 only to fall by 15% in one day - its worst day ever. The sudden decline was driven by reports that Coronavirus would impact production and deliveries at its factory in China. This highlights the increasingly volatile market.
For bond issuers, 2020 also started off well, with the highest issuance of US high yield debt in a decade at $37bn - until Coronavirus fears saw investors pull $2.9bn out of high yield funds. One high profile US high yield ETF saw its asset base shrink by 7% in a single day – a rapid increase in volatility.
One to watch
The recent bout of volatility may be a sign of things to come for 2020. Trustees need to avoid making decisions based on short-term events and focus instead on their long-term investment strategy.