People gathering on Wall Street in front of the New York Stock Exchange, October 25, 1929.
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Financial markets are facing their worst crisis since 1929, a veteran analyst has told CNBC, as top economists downgrade their forecasts to point to an impending global recession.
Fears over the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic have sent global markets into a tailspin, and though stocks across Europe, the U.S. and Asia looked to be heading for some welcome reprieve on Friday, Stephen Isaacs, chairman of the investment committee at Alvine Capital Management, told CNBC that having entered the crisis with “record levels of leverage” and record levels of overbought stocks, the situation was “unprecedented.”
“We came into this with all sorts of problems hiding within the momentum of a massive bull market, which again leads me to feel extremely concerned that the selling is only abating temporarily, and that we are still looking, unfortunately at a very, very difficult situation,” Isaacs told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe.”
Isaacs claimed that the 1929 Great Depression was the closest bear market comparison. The S&P 500 has plunged by around 30% since its all-time high on February 19, but he suggested that there could be another 20% to go below 2,000 before the market could be considered “oversold.”
After the stock market crash of October 29, 1929, the S&P 500 fell 86% in less than three years and did not regain its previous peak until 1954.
“That might coincide in mid-to-late April with some abating of the extreme lockdown in Europe, and we should from there get something like a short-covering rally,” he said.
“This is an unprecedented situation, this is worse than 2008, this is worse than 1987, this is the worst crisis to hit financial markets since the Great Depression.”
Headed for recession
IHS Markit on Wednesday revised down its forecast for world real GDP (gross domestic product) growth in 2020 to 0.7%, as the full economic impact of the crisis becomes more apparent. Growth below 2.0% is classified as a global recession.
In their March Global Economic Forecast Flash, IHS Markit Chief Economist Nariman Behravesh and Executive Director of Global Economics Sara Johnson projected that Japan is already in recession, while the U.S. and Europe will follow in the second-quarter.
U.S. real GDP is now expected to fall by 0.2%, the euro area by 1.5% and Japan by 0.8%, while China, where the virus originated, is projected to see a slowdown in growth from 6.1% to 3.9%.
Goldman Sachs Chief Economist Jan Hatzius, in a note Wednesday, sharply downgraded the Wall Street giant’s 2020 growth forecasts to 1.25% on the back of a rise in cases in the U.S. and Europe and “exceptionally poor” data out of China.
“This would be less bad than the deep recessions of 1981-82 and 2008-09 but worse than the mild recessions of 1991 and 2001,” Hatzius added, projecting outright annual GDP contractions for the euro area, Japan and the U.K.
Global cases of the coronavirus on Friday passed the 245,000 mark, with over 10,000 deaths, but both IHS and Goldman expect the number of active cases globally to peak by the third quarter of 2020, with a recovery beginning in the second half of the year.
“Nevertheless, the result will be a U-shaped rather than V-shaped cycle, as a sharp reduction in near-term growth is followed by a slow recovery,” the IHS Markit report said.
“Forecast risks are overwhelmingly on the downside and depend crucially on how governments respond.”
Central banks and governments across major economies have deployed massive fiscal and monetary stimulus packages in recent weeks in the hope of cushioning the inevitable economic turmoil resulting from mass travel and industrial shutdowns in response to the pandemic.