NEW YORK (Reuters) – Asian stocks look set to tumble on Thursday, as fears that the world is in its worst recession since the 1930s were heightened by data showing U.S. retailers suffered a record sales collapse in March due to the coronavirus outbreak.

FILE PHOTO: Pedestrians wearing face masks walk near an overpass with an electronic board showing stock information, following an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Lujiazui financial district in Shanghai, China March 17, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song

E-Mini future for the S&P 500 ESc1 fell 0.76% while Nikkei futures NKc1 pointed to a loss of 70 points, mirroring a 2.2% decline in the S&P 500 .SPX overnight. [.N]

The flight from risk helped the dollar rebound against major currencies and nudged gold off a 7-1/2-year high, while expectations that a recession will depress demand for oil pushed crude prices to 18-year lows overnight.

“The U.S. (and global) economy is in a deep recession,” Kim Mundy, an analyst at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, wrote in a note, adding that a downturn will support the dollar.

“The unemployment rate in the United States will almost certainly lift above 10% shortly.”

Data showed on Wednesday that U.S. retail sales had plunged 8.7% in March, the biggest drop since the government started tracking the series in 1992. Output at factories was also shown to have declined by the most since 1946.

The United States is set to release its weekly jobless claims data on Thursday and the market expects a further 5.105 million claims, according to a Reuters poll.

The grim outlook was echoed by lenders with major U.S. banks Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) and Citigroup Inc (C.N) warning of future loan losses as they posted drops in profits.

The coronavirus, which triggers a respiratory illness, has caused two million infections worldwide and over 131,000 deaths, wreaking havoc on the global economy as governments shut schools and businesses and order people to stay home to slow its spread.

Though countries including Spain, Italy and Germany are re-opening some businesses, analysts say it is unclear when the global economy will recover to its pre-pandemic days. In the United States, President Donald Trump said he will announce “guidelines” for re-starting the economy on Thursday.

Evidence that the global downturn has slashed the demand for oil again drubbed U.S. crude prices. The United States had reported overnight its biggest weekly inventory build on record, following a warning from the International Energy Agency that oil demand will dive 29 million barrels a day in April to levels unseen in a quarter of a century. [O/R]

U.S. crude CLc1 was last up 1.7% at $20.23, recovering from an earlier low of $19.51, while Brent crude LCOc1 was down 5.4% at $28. [O/R]

Bracing for tough times ahead, investors piled into bonds. The yield on U.S. 30-year Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) hit a record low of -0.183%, while that of U.S. 10-year TIPs fell to a seven-year trough of -0.553%.

U.S. two-year yields US2YT=RR were at 0.201% after dropping below 0.2% for the first time in three years, and 10-year yields US10YT=RR were at a one-week low at 0.635%, more than 100 basis points off their January levels. [US/]

The demand for safety helped the dollar index =USD rise 0.7% to 99.564. It was steady against the Japanese yen JPY= after gaining as much as 0.25% overnight, while the euro EUR= recovered to $1.0909, from a low of $1.0859. The Australian dollar AUD=, which is leveraged to global growth, was down 0.1% at $0.631. [USD/]

A stronger dollar pulled gold prices XAU= back from a 7-1/2-year high struck this week, helped by recessionary fears and a tide of cheap money from central banks. It was last at $1,714 an ounce. [GOL/]

The International Monetary Fund warned on Tuesday that the world economy is set to shrink by 3% this year in the steepest downturn since the 1930s Great Depression.

Graphic: Asian stock markets here

Reporting by Koh Gui Qing; Editing by Sam Holmes

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