G-7 reiterates pledge to use policy tools to shore up markets but stops short of action

Policymakers indicate willingness to use fiscal and monetary tools to shield economies from coronavirus impact

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 12, 2020 US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin attends a hearing of the Senate Finance Committee on Capitol Hill,in Washington, DC. Finance ministers and central bank chiefs from G7 countries will hold talks Tuesday amid rising global uncertainty over the coronavirus epidemic, the US Treasury said March 2, 2020. US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell "will lead a call with their G7 counterparts tomorrow morning," the department confirmed in a statement.
 / AFP / Brendan Smialowski

Finance chiefs from the Group of Seven countries said they are ready to act to shelter their economies from the spreading coronavirus, though they stopped short of spelling out what specific measures they would put into place.

“We, G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors, are closely monitoring the spread of Covid-19 and its impact on markets and economic conditions,” the G7’s finance ministers and central bankers said in a statement on Tuesday following a rare conference call. “We reaffirm our commitment to use all appropriate policy tools to achieve strong, sustainable growth and safeguard against downside risks.”

Policymakers are under pressure to back up their recent pledges to shield markets and economies from the China-borne virus amid mounting warnings that its spread is propelling the world economy towards its worst year since the 2009 recession.

“G7 finance ministers are ready to take actions, including fiscal measures where appropriate, to aid in the response to the virus and support the economy during this phase,” the statement said.

US stock market futures retraced earlier gains on the news while US 10-year Treasury yields firmed slightly to around 1.13 per cent. Fed funds futures are pricing about 45 basis points of rate easing by the end of March.

While Australia and Malaysia cut interest rates on Tuesday, investors are looking to the Federal Reserve and major counterparts to do the same, perhaps outside of their normal meeting schedule and in a co-ordinated fashion.

Money markets predict a high chance of a 50 basis-point cut from the Fed at or before its next meeting on March 17-18. Fed chairman Jerome Powell on Friday promised to “act as appropriate” to support the US’s longest-ever expansion, a statement which helped cushion stocks after their worst week since 2008.

Traders are also betting on a 10 basis-point cut from the European Central Bank and 25 basis points at the Bank of England. They also reckon the Bank of Canada will ease monetary policy on Wednesday.