Seoul's benchmark surged 2.2% after the government announced a spending package to pay for medical supplies and aid to businesses hurt by the virus. Markets appeared to be unimpressed by a pledge Tuesday from the Group of Seven major industrialized countries to support the global economy that included no specific measures.
On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P 500 index tumbled 2.8% despite the Federal Reserve's surprise 0.5% rate cut. It was the index's eighth daily decline in nine days. China, Australia and other central banks also have cut rates to shore up economic growth in the face of anti-virus controls that are disrupting trade and manufacturing. But economists warn that while cheaper credit might encourage consumers, rate cuts cannot reopen factories that have closed due to quarantines or lack of raw materials.
“Despite the Fed cutting rates in support of the U.S. market, fear had clearly returned to reign in the markets,” Jingyi Pan of IG said in a report. More reductions may give “limited support,” Pan wrote. “Perhaps besides vaccines, there may be little quick and easy solution to easing the shock for global markets.”
In early trading, London's FTSE 100 lost 0.3% to 6,700.71 while Germany's DAX added 0.2% to 12,010.94. France's CAC 40 shed 0.2% to 5,359.75. On Wall Street, the S&P 500 future rose 1.5% and that for the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 1.6%.On Tuesday, the Dow sank 2.9% and the Nasdaq composite fell 3%.
U.S. markets have fallen 11% since setting a record two weeks ago. On Wednesday in Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.6% to 3,011.67 while the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo added 0.1% to 21,100.06. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.2% to 26,222.07.
The Kospi in Seoul rose to 2,059.33 after the government announced a $9.8 billion spending package to pay for medical supplies and aid to businesses that are struggling with disruptions to travel, auto manufacturing and other industries.
Despite the extra spending, the virus “poses a major downside risk” to Korean economic growth, Rajiv Biswas of IHS Markit said in a report. Market benchmarks in Singapore and the Philippines declined while New Zealand, Indonesia and Malaysia rose.
In another sign of U.S. investor caution, the yield on the 10-year Treasury sank below 1% for the first time in history. It was at 0.95% early Wednesday. A smaller yield — the difference between the market price and what investors receive if they hold the bond to maturity — indicates traders are shifting money into bonds as a safe haven out of concern about the economic outlook.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell acknowledged the ultimate solution to the virus challenge will have to come from health experts and others, not central banks. The Fed has a long history of coming to the market's rescue with lower rates and other stimulus, which has helped this bull market in U.S. stocks become the longest on record.
On Monday, the Dow recorded its biggest daily gain in more than a decade on rising anticipation for coordinated support from the Fed and other central banks. Even before Tuesday's announcement, traders were convinced he Fed would cut rates by half a percentage point on March 18 at its next meeting.
The U.S. rate cut was the Fed's first outside a regularly scheduled meeting since the 2008 global crisis. That prompted some traders to think the Fed might foresee an even bigger economic impact than markets fear.
Benchmark U.S. crude gained 8 cents to $47.26 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract rose 43 cents on Tuesday to close at $47.18. Brent crude, used to price international oils, added 1 cent to $51.87 per barrel in London. It fell 4 cents the previous session to close at $51.86 a barrel.
The dollar gained to 107.44 yen from Tuesday's 107.12 yen. The euro was flat at $1.1171.