Ray Dalio, the billionaire who founded the world’s biggest hedge fund firm, had a message for the billionaires and CEOs who met at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January this year. “Cash is trash. Get out of cash. There’s still a lot of money in cash.”
Two months later, cash has become king across global markets and the economy. Dalio’s big Bridgewater Associates macro hedge fund, meanwhile, has plunged by 20% in 2020.
Businesses and investors have rushed to cash as known cases of Covid-19 passed 140,000 globally and the World Health Organization has declared the virus is now a global pandemic.
With global stock markets plunging, investors have sought the safety of cash. U.S. money market funds experienced $87.6 billion of inflows in the seven days before Wednesday, according to the Lipper Financial analysis company. Bank of America reported that last week investors plowed a total of $136.9 billion into cash.
The U.S. banking system entered the coronavirus pandemic in strong shape and is much more resilient than it was during the financial crisis. The Federal Reserve moved on Sunday to further safeguard the financial system by launching a $700 billion quantitative easing program.
Last Thursday, as stock was plummeting, yields on 30-Year U.S. Treasuries were rising and gold fell. Bitcoin, which its proponents have advertised as a safe haven, crashed. Cash was where nervous investors wanted to be. However, it isn’t just any currency that is king. U.S. dollars are in particular demand as borrowers around the world start to pay a premium to obtain U.S. dollars.
Corporations also moved to make sure they had sufficient cash on hand. Boeing, already dealing with the grounding of its 737 Max aircraft, moved last week to tap a $13.8 billion credit line it had secured about a month ago. Other companies like Hilton, Wynn Resorts and Seaworld Entertainment, which are dealing with a swift deterioration in their business related to Covid-19, also drew on credit lines last week. There have been reports that private equity firms are looking to push their portfolio companies into considering tapping their credit lines as well.