- Mario De Fina/NurPhoto/Getty Images
- Central banks and governments around the world are turning to a slew of economic relief tools to curb the coronavirus’s fallout.
- Several trillion dollars worth of stimulus are set to pad G-20 economies in the coming weeks as the outbreak stifles consumer activity and threatens a deep global recession.
- Here are the six policy tools being used to keep economies afloat from the coronavirus’s economic toll, from interest rate cuts to short-selling bans.
- Visit the Business Insider homepage for more stories.
Governments around the world are employing a wide range of policy tools to lift their economies as the coronavirus buffets supply and demand.
Trillions of dollars are being put to work across G-20 nations through stimulus measures, central bank easing, and targeted relief packages. Several banks now expect a global recession to arrive in the first half of 2020. Economists making such calls point to relief measures as a key factor for determining the length and depth of a worldwide downturn.
Financial markets have so far been less than impressed by stimulus measures. US stocks sit roughly 30% below their mid-February peak, while Treasury bonds maintain historically low yields as investors crowd safe-haven assets.
Volatility has slightly tapered off in recent sessions as governments boost their economic relief efforts, but the VIX index – Wall Street’s preferred volatility gauge – remains at its highest level since the financial crisis.
Data revealing the effectiveness of each nation’s stimulus won’t be available for weeks, leaving analysts to mull which tools will best protect economic activity.
Here are the six actions being taken by major countries to curb the coronavirus’s economic fallout.
Interest rate cuts
The Federal Reserve was among the first major central banks to slash its benchmark rate and ease lending conditions when the virus began to spread outside of China. The interest rate sits near zero for the first time since 2008 after two emergency rate cuts, encouraging banks to borrow and add fresh capital to the financial system.
Saudi Arabia, the UK, Canada, South Korea, South Africa, and Australia, among other nations, have also slashed their interest rates to new lows in recent weeks. Such actions are viewed as a first-response mechanism to keep economic activity strong.
However, the effect of rates falling below zero is still debated among economists, limiting the extent to which central banks will lower their rates.
Fiscal stimulus packages
- REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
US markets tanked through early March as investors waited for the White House to meet the Fed’s monetary policy with a comprehensive fiscal policy plan.
Since then, the Trump administration has revealed plans to send Americans checks, issue loans to distressed industries, and boost programs for families hit hardest by the outbreak. The package is set to release $1.3 trillion to affected businesses and Americans.
Italy, the country currently suffering the most from the outbreak, approved a wide-reaching, 25-billion euro stimulus measure on Wednesday. The package calls for the nationalization of bankrupt airline Alitalia, partially funded sick leave for parents, funding for babysitters, payments for health sector hiring, and financial support for small businesses.
Canada, Russia, and Australia have also enacted stimulus plans aimed at providing relief for ailing sectors and citizens. Other countries are in the process of forming their own measures, leaving room for the worldwide stimulus total to swell as the outbreak intensifies.
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President Trump pushed the deadline to file US taxes to July 15 from April 15 on Thursday, giving Americans more time to assess their finances and shore up cash for any outstanding payments.
France issued a similar policy for its businesses, allowing them to postpone tax payments as credit lines dry up and revenue flows slow. Firms and employees in Russia’s tourism sector – an industry hit particularly hard by the virus – will also be able to delay tax payments.
The chaotic sell-offs taking place across global stock markets fueled mass retreats from risk assets over the past month, cutting companies off from once-reliable credit lines. The shock to corporate debt markets could quickly lead unprepared firms to bankruptcy, and nations have quickly responded by trying to calm markets.
Italy, France, Spain, Belgium, Greece, and South Korea have all issued temporary short-selling bans while the government looks to stabilize firms’ valuations.
The European Union’s financial regulator, the European Securities and Markets Authority, also called for greater transparency for investors’ short positions as the outbreak escalates.
“ESMA considers that the current circumstances constitute a serious threat to market confidence in the EU, and that the proposed measure is appropriate and proportionate to address the current threat level to EU financial markets,” the agency said in a statement.
Central banks around the world used capital injections early in their fight against the coronavirus to support liquidity in stressed money markets.
The Federal Reserve announced roughly $5 trillion worth of planned injections through market repurchase agreement, or repo, operations on March 12. Additional operations totaling $500 billion have been conducted on a day-by-day basis through the month.
The Fed also plans to buy at least $700 billion worth of bonds and mortgage-backed securities for additional easing. A recently announced commercial paper purchase facility will allow the bank to provide US businesses with funding for daily expenses such as rent and payroll.
The European Central Bank, People’s Bank of China, Saudi Arabia have also pumped additional liquidity into their financial systems in recent weeks through repo operations and asset purchases.
- REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Some countries have turned to business-specific tax cuts to keep firms above water as many are forced to shut their doors. UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak revealed 20 billion pounds worth of tax cuts and grants this week for the leisure, hospitality, and tourism industries that have faced a sudden stop in consumer demand amid the outbreak.
Turkey and China have also issued tax cuts for businesses struggling through the economic downturn.
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