Pedestrians stand in front of monitors displaying the U.S. Dollar (USD) and China Renminbi (CNY) exchange rate outside Morgan Stanley & Co. headquarters in the Times Square neighborhood of New York. (Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg)

Investors See More Pain Ahead as Global Stock Rout Gathers Pace

(Bloomberg) -- As the sell-off that struck the U.S. and Europe on Friday ripped through Asian stock markets, investors said that more pain is yet to come.

Indexes in Australia, Hong Kong and China tumbled on Monday, with Japan’s Topix index and a gauge of regional equities heading for their steepest declines this year. The moves came after U.S. shares notched their worst day in 11 weeks on Friday as a gauge of Treasuries inverted for the first time since 2007 and data from Europe renewed fears about global growth.

After almost three months of optimism surrounding U.S.-China trade talks and dovish central bank messaging spurred the best start to a year for global equities in two decades, investors have shifted focus and are starting to react to bad omens for the economy.

“The market had gone too far in pricing in good news,” said Nader Naeimi, head of dynamic markets at AMP Capital Investors Ltd. in Sydney. “It was just a matter of time. This is going to be the start of a multi-week correction in markets.”

Investors See More Pain Ahead as Global Stock Rout Gathers Pace

Despite a surprisingly dovish stance by the Federal Reserve last week, the S&P 500 Index lost about 0.8 percent for the week as the yield on 10-year Treasuries, already at a 14-month low, extended its decline.

“Historically a ‘dovish’ Fed is not necessarily a good sign, as it announces that an economic downturn is on the way,” said Eleanor Creagh, Sydney-based market strategist at Saxo Capital Markets (Australia) Pty. Ltd. “And the bottom line is growth is slowing,” she said.

Tipping Point

“We are reaching that point where the weakening fundamentals are catching up with the equity market, the equity market has been buoyed by buybacks and is waking up to the fact that the Fed is not raising rates because the U.S. economy needs support and is weak as we approach the buyback blackout period,” Creagh said.

Quarter-End Profit Taking

With less than a week left in the first quarter, some investors may be taking money off the table, according to Kerry Craig, the Melbourne-based global market strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management. “After such such a strong quarter, profit taking shouldn’t be unexpected.”

Start of a Correction?

Naeimi isn’t alone in his view that global stock markets could be headed for a correction.

“If the market did correct 10 percent, I wouldn’t be surprised,” said JPMorgan’s Craig. “I’m not sure it’s the start of it, but I don’t see a huge amount to support for the market.”

Still, not everyone’s pessimistic. While a short downturn in global markets is possible, Bryan Goh, executive director and chief investment officer for Singapore at Bordier & Cie, says it probably won’t last. “As long as central banks have our back, there’s no serious problem,” Goh said. “The global slowdown isn’t a surprise, so markets are prepared,” he said.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.