Asia markets, Dow futures fall after the index finishes its worst month since October 2008

Many small businesses, who employ almost half of the American workforce, are on the brink of losing it all. CNN's Kyung Lah reports.

Posted: Apr 1, 2020 1:50 AM
Updated: Apr 1, 2020 1:50 AM

Asia markets fell Wednesday, as the coronavirus pandemic worsened in Japan and investors digested Wall Street's downbeat tone.

Japan's Nikkei 225 slumped 4.5%, Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index fell 2.4% and China's Shanghai Composite dipped 0.3%.

Stock markets are reacting to "a likely increase in the duration and breadth of coronavirus lockdowns in the US and elsewhere, which is pointing to a potentially deeper and longer-term hit to economic activity than was anticipated even a week ago," Stephen Innes, a strategist at AxiCorp, wrote in a note on Wednesday.

Shares of HSBC plunged 9.4% in Hong Kong and Standard Chartered sank 6.3%, after both lenders announced dividend cuts and buyback suspensions.

The banks said their decisions were in response to requests from British authorities in light of disruptions from the coronavirus pandemic.

Similar requests have been made to several UK banks, HSBC said in a statement Tuesday.

"There are significant uncertainties in assessing the time period of the pandemic and its impact," the company added.

In China, a private survey showed Wednesday that the country's manufacturing activity expanded slightly in March as companies reopened following widespread shutdowns during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Caixin/Markit manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index rose to 50.1 last month, compared with a record low of 40.3 in February. It was above the 45.5 that analysts polled by Reuters expected.

The Caixin survey came one day after the Chinese government reported that its official manufacturing PMI surged in March to 52, from February reading of 35.7.

The official non-manufacturing PMI survey, which measures the services sector, jumped to 52.3 in March from 29.6 in February. Caixin's services survey will release later this week.

A reading above the 50-point level indicates growth compared to the previous month, while anything lower shows a contraction.

In the United States, stock futures fell after the Dow closed out its worst first quarter in history — the index lost 23.2% during the first three months of the year.

Dow futures sank 689 points, or around 3.2%, during after-hours trading Tuesday. S&P 500 futures fell close to 3.1% and Nasdaq futures were down about 2.6%.

Coronavirus has caused massive volatility in financial markets in recent weeks as the virus spreads and causes shutdowns across much of the globe. March was the worst month for the Dow and the S&P 500 since October 2008. It was the worst month for the Nasdaq since November 2008.

March was also devastating for the oil industry. US oil prices plummeted 54% during the month.

And in the United States, the coronavirus outbreak is expected to escalate in the coming days.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday warned the nation to be prepared for a "very very rough two weeks." Faced with the prospect of 100,000 to 200,000 coronavirus deaths, Trump extended social distancing guidelines nationwide until April 30. He had originally hoped to have much of the country back to work by Easter.

There were, however, some positive signs for financial markets Tuesday.

Several big Chinese companies that trade on Wall Street ended the day higher, even as the broader US market fell, a sign that investors may believe China's economy and businesses are recovering from coronavirus. Alibaba closed up 0.4%, Baidu ended nearly 1.9% higher and Tencent Music Entertainment Group climbed 3.9%.

-- Laura He and Michelle Toh contributed to this report.

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