Global stock markets have hit reverse again while the pound is at its lowest level against the dollar in 35 years, raising doubts about governments' ability to contain the economic damage inflicted by the coronavirus outbreak.
The US oil benchmark WTI crude closed Wednesday with a 24% drop to $20 a barrel, the third worst day on record. Brent, the international benchmark, dropped about 9% to a 17-year low of $26 a barrel.
The FTSE 100 plunged by just over 4% on Wednesday to 5,080 points - wiping out strong gains seen the day before - despite "unprecedented" measures announced by chancellor Rishi Sunak to help businesses and households weather the storm.
''We went to bed early last evening, which appears to have been a mistake"
Stock markets are somewhat stabilising this Thursday but that does not mean that the turmoil is over.
Stocks in Asia sunk while European indexes and US futures posted only tepid gains. The pan-European STOXX 600 index, which fell by more than 3.9% on Wednesday, rose by 1.1%.
London's FTSE 100 climbed by around 0.7%, while Germany's DAX was up by around 1.6%. France's CAC 40, meanwhile, was around 3.2% in the green.
The only clear winner was the US dollar, which has surged as investors scramble for cash.
The pound has lost 1% against the US dollar so far today, with a global scramble by companies to free up cash dollars underway. Its lowest point was $1.1471.
Below $1.1459 and it will be the lowest since 1985 - a mark set only yesterday before a slight rebound.
European government bonds rallied and stocks rose after a late-night intervention from the European Central Bank aimed at easing strains exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
The ECB unveiled a temporary program of asset purchases worth €750bn to fight the impact of the pandemic, following the launch of a program to support money-market mutual funds by the Fed. Still, US shares suffered another plunge on Wednesday as investor focus turned to assessing the length of the economic downturn.
"It's a good start and a step in the right direction with the tools that they have available, but they can still do more," Sue Trinh, global macro strategist at Manulife Asset Management in Hong Kong, told Bloomberg TV. "There's much more need for US dollar liquidity to get to where it's needed the most," she said. "At the moment the markets are screaming it's not enough -- we need to see more of that."
"We went to bed early last evening, which appears to have been a mistake," said Claus Vistesen, chief Eurozone economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.