Too early to tell coronavirus' effect on KiwiSaver - economists

Global stock markets have taken a hit in recent days, with billions of dollars lost as a result of coronavirus.

Tuesday was the worst day for the world's economy since the 2008 global financial crisis. In New Zealand, the S&P NZX50 fell almost four percent on opening and closed 1.75 percent down. 

But experts say it's too early to tell the impact COVID-19 will have on KiwiSaver fundings.

Milford Asset portfolio manager Sam Trethewey how badly Kiwis' savings will be affected depends on a number of factors.

"They will be impacted by what is going on," Trethewey told Newshub. "The key question is how long is this likely to impact financial markets and how will they come out of it."

Conditions are very volatile, he said.

"The uncertainty that coronavirus has created and compounded by what's going on in the oil markets is impacting share prices in the short term. And the market is discounting them because of that volatility and uncertainty that is there."

Kiwis have around $65 billion invested in KiwiSaver. About $34 billion of that is invested locally, with more than half of that in the market.

Last year was the best yet for KiwiSaver, with returns ranging from 7.3 percent to 20 percent, depending what investment scheme people were signed up for. But that growth is closely pegged to the market.

On Tuesday, ANZ chief economist Sharon Zollner described the world's economy as being in a "very bad" situation. She predicted the economy will take a short, sharp hit.

But Ivan Diaz-Rainey, an associate professor at Otago University, says so far the NZX is holding up well compared to stock markets in other countries.

"I think it's the nature of our market," Diaz-Rainey told Newshub. "We have, in a sense, less risky stocks in our markets. So if you think of Australia, they've got all of these very cyclical stocks, in other words stocks that are very dependent on economic conditions." 

He believes the situation is very different from what happened in the global financial crisis. In that case, the cause of the crisis was economic, but with coronavirus the economic issues have been caused by fear.

"It's people stopping travelling, it's the decreased imports, it's the fear that's coming from this affecting stock markets," said Diaz-Rainey.