ANZ economist's stark warning after billions of dollars wiped off stock market

An ANZ economist says the world's economy is in a "very bad" situation following the damage to the stock market on Tuesday.

Billions of dollars were wiped off the stock market on what was the worst day since the 2008 global financial crisis, following damage inflicted by the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Sharon Zollner believes the economy is in a poor position.

"I'm not going to sugar coat this - we've not seen a shock like this in our lifetimes," the economist says.

In New Zealand, the NZX fell almost four percent on opening and closed at 1.75 percent down.

The "market mayhem" began after a week of panic-buying in stores, which led to panic selling on world stock markets.

The uncertainty around COVID-19 has triggered a crash in oil prices and that spooked investors who offloaded billions of dollars in shares.

When Wall Street opened on Monday (local time), trading fell so sharply it had to be suspended for 15 minutes in the hope calm would be restored.

"We're doing the best we can to fly this plane. Clearly we're hitting turbulence," Wall Street trader Peter Tuchman says.

In Australia, Qantas is preparing to ride out the storm as best it can by axing 25 percent of its flights and grounding all of its fuel-guzzling A380s. And CEO Alan Joyce has suspended his $25 million salary for six months.

COVID-19 is disrupting trade routes, slowing tourism and is putting pressure on public services. But major industries have been feeling the crunch for weeks.

Figures released on Tuesday show business confidence in New Zealand has tanked and fell to -53 in a month.

However, Zollner predicts it will be a short sharp hit.

"There will be an end to this. It's always difficult to see that in the throws of it, but really it's about the uncertainty of when that will be," she says.

While the economic turmoil spells cheaper fuel for motorists, that may not last for long.

Economic analyst at Salt Funds Management Matthew Goodson says the coronavirus will peak and oil prices will level out again, but they're currently a "giant tax cut" for consumers.