By Geoffrey Smith
Investing.com — Europe’s stock markets fell by the most in a decade on Monday, while government bond yields fell to new all-time lows, after emergency measures taken by Italy to stop the spread of the coronavirus threatened an even bigger hit to the world economy.
Rome effectively locked down 16 million people at the weekend – a quarter of the Italian population – including the wealthy and productive regions around Milan, Venice and Parma.
The German DAX and U.K. FTSE 100 both opened down over 8%. The Euro Stoxx 50 opened down nearly 5%.
The move came as crude oil prices suffered their worst one-day drop in almost 30 years, after Saudi Arabia cut its official selling prices and signalled it will ramp up output in the wake of the failure to agree new production cuts with Russia on Friday.
Brent crude futures were down 24.1% at $34.36 a barrel, having earlier fallen as low as $31.27 a barrel.
The virus continued to spread across the continent over the weekend, with Germany, France and the U.K. all continuing to register large increases in new cases, prompting the Bank of France to cut its first-quarter growth forecasts to 0.1% from 0.3% previously.
The European Central Bank will update its economic forecasts at its policy meeting on Thursday, where markets now broadly expect both a 10 basis-point cut to the bank’s deposit rate, and an expansion of its quantitative easing program.
That’s needed, among other reasons, to stop the euro rocketing higher on the foreign exchange market. EUR/USD was at $1.1431, having gained nearly 5% against the dollar in the last two weeks. However, it hit bank stocks hard: Deutsche Bank (DE:DBKGn) fell 16.2%, while most of Spain’s banks were down by between 9%-10%.