By Wayne Cole
SYDNEY (Reuters) – U.S. stock futures fell to their offshore trading limit within half an hour from opening on Monday even as the U.S. Federal Reserve led the world’s central banks in taking bold easing steps to cushion the impact of the coronavirus on economies.
The U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates on Sunday in another emergency move to a target range of 0% to 0.25% and said it would expand its balance sheet by at least $700 billion in coming weeks.
“They must really be scared. To do that in one fell swoop is really quite shocking. They pulled out whatever weapons they had and my sense is I think it may help initially but I don’t think it goes much further because this is still a developing issue,” said Robert Pavlik, chief investment strategist at Slatestone Wealth LLC in New York.
“They used up basically all their ammunition and we’re down to sticks and stones.”
The e-mini futures of S&P500 index dropped 4.77% to their daily trading limit outside the United States on mounting worries about further economic disruptions as more countries took steps over the weekend to limit human moves close their borders over the weekend.
U.S. Treasuries futures jumped more than a full point.
Five other central banks also cut pricing on their swap lines to make it easier to provide dollars to their financial institutions facing stress in credit markets.
The swap lines were set up by the Fed, the Bank of Canada, European Central Bank, Bank of England, Bank of Japan and Swiss National Bank in the financial crisis. They also agreed to offer three-month credit in U.S. dollars on a regular basis and at a rate cheaper than usual.
The move was designed to bring down the price banks and companies pay to access U.S. dollars, which has surged in recent weeks as a coronavirus pandemic spooked investors.
U.S. President Donald Trump called the move “terrific” and “very good news.”
The Reserve Bank of New Zealand (RBNZ) joined in with an unscheduled cut of 75 basis points to its rates, and speculation was rife the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) would also ease.
“Central banks around the world continue to react with emergency interest rate cuts to assist with the shock to demand arising from the spread of the COVID-19 virus, with necessary public health containment efforts coming at a substantial economic cost,” NAB chief economist Alan Oster.
“Central banks are also appropriately providing additional liquidity to financial systems.”
Most market had yet to open in Asia, but currencies were active with the U.S. dollar falling given that the Fed had cut by more than its peers.
The dollar dropped 1.7% on the Japanese yen to 106.01, while the euro climbed 0.5% to $1.1168.
The risk-sensitive Australian dollar fell 0.25% to $0.6182 while the New Zealand dollar slipped 0.1% to $0.6048.
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