How coronavirus almost brought down the global financial system

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In the third week of March 2020, while most of our minds were fixed on surging coronavirus death rates and the apocalyptic scenes in hospital wards, global financial markets came as close to a collapse as they have since September 2008. The price of shares in the major corporations of the world plunged. The movement of the markets was so erratic that major banks withdrew from trading.

Meanwhile, the value of the dollar surged against every currency in the world, squeezing debtors from Indonesia to Mexico. Whilst consumers hoarded toilet paper, those businesses that could scrambled to draw down every available credit line. Trillion-dollar markets for government debt, the basic foundation of the financial system, lurched up and down in terror-stricken cycles. On the terminal screens, interest rates danced. Traders hunched over improvised home workstations – known in the new slang of March 2020 as “‘Rona rigs” – screaming with frustration as sluggish home wifi systems dragged behind the movement of the markets. At the low point on 23 March, $26 trillion had been wiped off the value of global equity markets, inflicting massive losses both on the fortunate few who own shares and on the collective pools of savings held by pension and insurance funds.

Read the full article at The Guardian

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