To make things worse the Italian government announced yesterday that it’s putting 16 million people in Northern Italy in lockdown to combat the spread of COVID-19. Other European countries will likely follow as people’s behaviour is not changing fast enough to contain the spread. This will obviously make the economic impact even worse despite signs are emerging that China is getting back to decent production levels and car congestion levels in major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. China took a massive economic hit from shutting down a large part of the country and while the country is now ready to produce the is likely moving to a state where it’s not ready to buy. The Japanese Economic Watchers Survey Expectations Index plunged to 24.6 in February which is only surpassed during the 2008 financial crisis.
S&P 500 futures went limit down overnight at 2,819 and has attempted twice to resume trading before being closed again. If S&P 500 futures hit 2,718 today it will be the fastest decline from peak to bear market (-20%) eclipsing other historical plunges such as 1929. The VIX Index and front-month VIX futures have hit 2008 levels suggesting further declines and extreme volatility. Our view is that the risk of a new credit crisis due to COVID-19 and the oil price war has increased dramatically and last week we highlighted which companies were most vulnerable in such scenario. Among industries banks, leisure (cruises, travel and hotels), automobile, airliners etc. are most vulnerable to lockdowns.