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Coronavirus pandemic, US recession not yet priced into markets

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Via CNBC

A worker is seen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., February 28, 2020.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Despite taking a beating last week as cases of the new coronavirus spread rapidly around the world, U.S. markets have yet to price in a full-scale pandemic and subsequent recession, a U.S. equity manager told CNBC Tuesday.

The Dow was resurgent on Monday, soaring 5.1% to post its largest daily percentage gain since March 2009, on the back of investor hopes for policy action by the U.S. Federal Reserve and other central banks around the world.

Speaking to CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe,” Columbia Threadneedle EMEA Head of U.S. Equities Nadia Grant said that despite the volatility, her team had not yet seen enough to make any strategic plays on cheaper stocks.

She said the market is pricing in 0% earnings growth for 2020, “rightly so”, with a return to around 8% in 2021.

“That’s what the market is pricing in, that’s what our base case scenario also is. But I do not think the markets are washed; I do not think markets have panicked, and so in terms of finding great ideas, we haven’t had enough of a sell-off for that,” Grant said.

She added that the worst-case scenario of the virus becoming a pandemic with a recessionary impact on the U.S. economy was “not priced in at all by the market right now.”

Grant hypothesized that containment measures similar to those exercised in China, involving the widespread shutdown of manufacturing facilities, schools and businesses, could see Columbia Threadneedle analysts’ worst-case scenario play out.

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“You could see a proper contraction of activity and that would be consistent with an average earnings downgrade of about 13% during recession time; that would be consistent with an S&P 500 some 20% lower than where we are today,” Grant said, adding that this would be the “outlier scenario.”

In the event of a resumption of activity within 12 to 18 months, however, she suggested that this would provide a “pretty nice entry point” and that current investors with a long-term horizon would be better off riding out the market volatility and remaining invested.


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