The US ban on travel from Europe sent continental shares into freefall overnight. French and German indices dropped more than 12%, and Italy’s MIB index fell 17%. The stock panic continued into US trading, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average recorded its biggest drop since the Black Monday crash of 1987.

The greatest bull run in history has fathered the most ferocious bear market.

The concerns about the impact of the viral outbreak infected all markets. Oil slumped and base metals fell across the board. The Australian, New Zealand and Canadian dollars are plumbing decade lows, as commodities continue to tumble. However gold and bonds are also under pressure, suggesting investors now see cash as king. The cancellation of major sporting events rammed home to investors the widespread effect of the outbreak.

The opportunities for central banks and governments to avoid a rout has passed. Containment is now a focus in most countries. While this is a positive for the health of populations, the measures are an increasing drag on activity and sentiment. Traders spurned a liquidity offering from the US Federal Reserve, confirming what many investors now suspect. Low rates and cash injections will not stop the bear.

The global pressure will flow into Asia Pacific trading today. Futures indicate opening losses between 5% and 8% for major markets. The sheer speed, size and volume of the share market falls means there is currently no end in sight to the selling.

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