Graphic: A (markets) journal of the plague year

By Marc Jones and Ritvik Carvalho
LONDON (Reuters) - Last December, the World Health Organization was notified of the first infection with the new coronavirus. Twelve months later, as the following graphs show, global financial markets were on a roller coaster ride like no other.
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The virus wasn't even the first thing to scare the markets this year. The tone was set when an escalation of an oil market turf war between Saudi Arabia and Russia on Jan. 8 resulted in oil prices falling by over 5%.
Just days later, even though China's stock markets began to fall when a group of more than 50 cases of pneumonia in Wuhan city triggered a WHO warning, there could be a new SARS-like virus.
Oil continued to decline as traders now also worried about a drop in Chinese demand. However, other major markets were not seriously affected until mid-February when it became clear that the virus was rapidly spreading from Asia.
Keyword slaughter. From February 20 to March 24, when Europe's major economies collapsed, MSCI's 49-country world stock index lost more than a third of its value to a staggering $ 18 trillion.
Trillion Dollar Slaughter
Wall Street's S&P 500, Dow Jones and Nasdaq fell 35%, 38% and 30%, respectively. The internationally exposed FTSE and DAX markets in London and Frankfurt fell by 35% and 40%, the Japanese Nikkei by 30% and Chinese stocks by a modest 16%.
"Looking back, I felt like one of the villagers of the boy who cried the wolf story," said Ben Inker, head of asset allocation at investment firm GMO.
"We had seen a number of potential pandemics never really develop ... we assumed this would be contained and when it was not understood why the world was freaking out."
For reference, Wall Street's record quarterly decline in 1932 amid the Great Depression was 40%. The fact that the S&P and Dow hit record highs in mid-February made the crash seem more brutal this time around.
Coronavirus sell-off speed and severity beats previous market
Governments were already trying to prop up their economies, but like the financial crisis a decade ago, strong central bank medicine was required to stabilize markets.
The Federal Reserve's move to cut US interest rates to zero in mid-March initially had no effect, but when it opened new swap lines to keep money markets level with the dollar, the ECB and other major central banks came along with theirs own measures, facilitated by the router.
The amount of money and effort put into the problem was unprecedented.
The BofA calculates that central banks have spent $ 1.3 billion an hour buying assets since March and have made 190 rate cuts this year, which adds up to four every four trading days.
JPMorgan estimates that central bank moves have not only fueled the monster market rebound, but have left nearly $ 35 trillion, or 83% of all richer national debt in developed countries, with a "negative return" when inflation is factored in.
This means that investors are effectively paying for the privilege of lending to these countries. The German Ministry of Finance, for example, claims to have earned more than 7 billion euros this year by issuing new bonds.
G4 policy rates almost below zero
Central bank balance sheets swell at
It wasn't easy to block much of the global economy.
By April, the International Monetary Fund forecast a decline in global growth to -3 percent, which corresponds to a downgrade of 6.3 percentage points compared to the January estimate. The latest forecast is for -4.4% for the year. "This makes the Great Lockdown the worst recession since the Great Depression and far worse than the global financial crisis," it said.
Unemployment and global debt have also risen, and the World Bank warns that global extreme poverty will rise for the first time in over 20 years.
It could bring an additional 88 to 115 million people below the limit this year, and as many as 150 million by the end of next year.
Global GDP growth
Annual global unemployment will rise in 2020. Https://
Equity markets began to rebound in April, but the shocks didn't stop. Oil went negative for the first time, dropping to minus $ 40 a barrel as oil producers feared storage capacity could run out.
It didn't take long, however. It was back to nearly $ 20 a barrel in late April and now back over $ 50 - a 220% gain for anyone brave enough to dive in - though it's still down nearly 25% for the year as a whole.
The oil price crash 2020
A breakdown of the best and worst performing stocks also tells the story of the pandemic that has now killed more than 1.6 million people.
Malaysian rubber glove maker Supermax and Korean pharmaceutical company Shin Poong have shot up around 1,000% and 2,000%, respectively.
The boom in working from home and in video chat has increased Zoom 490%. Moderna, one of the drug companies that supply a vaccine, is up over 635%. Stocks on the sofa like Netflix and Amazon are up 64% and 75% respectively, while the other big trend of the year - electric cars - Tesla rose 683% and rival Nio nearly 1,000%.
Electric (vehicle) dreams
On the other end, cruise line Carnival is down 57%, beating numerous airlines, travel agents, and retailers, while aircraft engine maker Rolls Royce is beating nearly 50% over the year.
Global Stock Market Scorecard 2020
There has also been a seesaw of the major currencies. The safe haven dollar rose until mid-March, but has fallen 6.66% since the beginning of the year and 5% since the end of September, while the euro and the yen are up around 10% and 5%, respectively.
Sweden's krona is its best 2020 performance, jumping 13%. A 6.6% increase for China's yuan will also be one of its best years, though emerging markets are still in great pain.
Brazil's real is down 20%. Russia's ruble - one of last year's top performers - is down 15% despite a boom and a near-bulletproof balance sheet. The Turkish lira has risen from record lows but is still down 22%, while the Mexican peso and South African rand both fell 4.4%, despite falling 14% and 20% respectively at the end of September.
FX in 2020
November was also key. First came Donald Trump's US election defeat, which raised hopes that some of global trade tensions would ease. Then, days later, the long-awaited news that one of the top vaccine hopes had been shown to be over 90% effective in protecting people from COVID-19.
That double increase resulted in a monthly record jump of 12.6% in the MSCI World Stock Index, adding about $ 6.7 trillion in value, or $ 155 million per minute, to the value of world stocks.
It still works. Stocks are up over 13% through 2020, US and German government and corporate bonds have all returned between 10% and 13.5%, gold is up 25%, while the oversized FAANG Tech stock group is up 100% .
A market journal of a plague year
"The 2020 stock rally of lows is now greater than 1929, 1938, 1974; high prices collide with positioning bordering on greedy uptrend," BofA analysts wrote in a note titled "Frankenbull".
Annual global unemployment will rise in 2020. Https://
Dollar retraces after swap lines ease the financing crisis
The Rise of China
(Additional reporting by Dhara Ranasinghe and Thyagaraju Adinarayan in London; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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