The Rescue Isn’t Coming Quickly Enough for Most CompaniesMarch 18, 2020
Europe’s stock markets tanked again on Wednesday amid fears that increasingly extravagant government support measures ($1.2 trillion from the U.S., $400 billion from the U.K., $220 billion from Spain announced in the space of the last 24 hours) still aren’t keeping pace with the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
Evidence of the near-total shutdown of non-essential work continued to flood out Wednesday, with German automaker BMW suspending car production for four weeks across Europe and predicting a sharp drop in profits this year. BMW stock fell 8.1%.
Airbus stock tumbled again, falling 13% amid fears that its biggest clients will end up bankrupt before they can take delivery of all the planes they’ve ordered in recent years. Suppliers Safran and Meggitt also fell sharply.
HSBC, Europe’s largest bank, decided that this was no time to be without a permanent chief executive officer, and confirmed Noel Quinn in the position. Quinn has been implementing ever-more radical restructuring plans as interim CEO since John Flint was pushed out last year.
Meanwhile, Barclays warned that it was “very, very unlikely” to hit this year’s profit target pushing its shares down by 3.6%, somewhat oddly given that the news can hardly have been unexpected. HSBC shares fell 3.7%.
Elsewhere in the banking sector, Germany’s regulators said they would release banks’ counter-cyclical capital buffer, following similar action from the Bank of England last week.
Deutsche Bank shares bounced 0.6% but Commerzbank shares fell another 2.5% to a new all-time low, as markets priced in a growing likelihood that the state, which still owns 18% of the bank after bailing it out in the last crisis, will have to pump in more funds to support it.
The promise of government support has, however, had a positive effect on some retailers. Marks and Spencer and Kingfisher rose 11.7% and 7.1% respectively after the U.K. government promised retailers a 12-month holiday on business rates. Supermarket chains J Sainsbury PLC and WM Morrison also bounced smartly on the same news.