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Good morning, and welcome to a new quarter. Nobody is sorry to see the backside of Q1.
Let’s take a look to see if the turn-of-the-calendar is improving market sentiment.
We begin in Asia where the Hang Sang and Shanghai Composite are both trading lower this morning, erasing yesterday’s gains. HSBC and Standard Chartered dragged down the Hong Kong session after saying they’ll scrap dividends and buybacks. Making matter worse, the region is on alert for a possible second wave of coronavirus, a devastating scenario.
Now to Europe. The European bourses finished Q1 on an up note yesterday. Today, they fell at the open. The markets are rattled by the number of companies suspending buybacks and withdrawing full-year outlooks—from automotive parts manufacturer, Continental AG, to Adidas.
Meanwhile, the airlines are on life support as global air travel grinds to a halt. IATA, the industry trade group, warned yesterday that airlines will run out of cash by the summer if lawmakers fail to deliver meaningful aid to the sector. IATA director general Alexandre De Juniac told Bloomberg TV that airlines are expected to burn through $61 billion this quarter alone.
As I type, the Dow and S&P 500 futures are edging lower. Both indices just wrapped up their worst first quarter ever.
The U.S. future and global markets sank after President Trump yesterday evening warned Americans to brace for a “painful” and “tough” next two weeks in which the number of coronavirus dead could rise to as much as 240,000.
Elsewhere, the dollar climbs for a third straight day. Gold is flat, and oil is down. Gasoline is cheap and plentiful, with it falling below a buck-a-gallon across parts of the United States. I haven’t driven my car or motorino in three weeks so I couldn’t tell you how much it costs around here.
Worst. Q1. Ever. That sums up the dismal start of the year for the Dow and S&P 500. Looking deeper into the record books, it was the Dow’s worst quarter overall since 1987, the year of the infamous Black Monday crash. And you have to go back to the height of the 2008 financial crisis to find a quarter this bad for the S&P 500.
And equities aren’t even the worst performer, as today’s chart shows.
The worst behind us?
Unless you were long dollar, you and your portfolio had a quarter to forget. Oil prices fell by a whopping 60%, its worst quarter ever. And crude is down again this morning.
Now let’s drill down on the S&P and Dow figures for a moment. It wasn’t that long ago—mid-February to be precise—that both had hit all-time highs. Weeks later they were in bear territory. The Nasdaq, meanwhile, had an even more volatile quarter—it recorded seven new 52-week highs and 13 lows in Q1.
Warning: there will be some Latin in today’s postscript.
In recent days, I’ve been puzzling over a neighbor’s sign that greets me once I exit my apartment building. It reads, Hic Manebimus Optime. The words stop me in my tracks every time.
I’ve read enough ancient maps and inscriptions to know how to decipher hic (“here” as in “here be…”) and optime (“optimal” or “very well”). But manebimus really threw me.
So I turned to my wife, What’s that mean?
“We will stay,” she responded. “We’ll stay here, very well.” (It’s also translated to “We’ll stay here, most excellently!”)
I’m embarrassed that I didn’t spot its significance (and prominence) straight away. The phrase can be found on T-shirts, and has been adopted by hardcore Italian soccer fans, according to the English writer Tobias Jones in his book Ultra.
The phrase was evidently uttered by a defiant Roman centurion in the fourth century, during the sack of Rome. At the height of the panic, with the invaders bearing down on the city, this soldier uttered these words to calm the masses, to convince them not to flee.
I’ll see you here tomorrow, most excellently.
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