The bad news just got worse on Wall Street Thursday.
Propelled by fears of the coronavirus, stock losses steepened. The Standard & Poor’s 500 entered a bear market for the first time since the financial crisis and the Dow endured its biggest one-day percentage drop since the 1987 crash.
Adding to the sense of anxiety was the Fed, which only briefly slowed the market’s slide when it injected trillions of dollars into the financial system.
The S&P 500 dropped 9.5% to close at 2,480.64, the day after President Donald Trump banned travel from Europe to stem the economic fallout from the virus. A series of distressing headlines followed late Wednesday and Thursday. The NBA and NHL suspended their seasons. The MLB delayed opening day. New York state, meanwhile, will ban events of 500 people or more and impose restrictions on other gathering venues.
The U.S. death toll was at 39 Thursday afternoon; there are more than 1,323 confirmed cases.
The S&P 500, which professional investors watch closely as a gauge for the health of the markets, fell into a bear market, or a drop of 20% from its peak, ending the longest bull market in Wall Street history. It took just 16 trading days for the broader stock market to drop from records into a bear market, the fastest decline ever and nearly twice as fast as the stock market crash in 1929, according to LPL Financial.
The Dow Jones industrial average, which fell into bear market territory Wednesday, plunged 2,352.60 points, or 10%, to end at 21,200.62 — its biggest one-day percentage drop since “Black Monday” in 1987.
Amid the market tumult, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York announced plans to inject $1.5 trillion into short-term funding markets in a move widely viewed as an attempt to help boost investor confidence.
Stocks briefly and sharply pared their losses. But they erased those gains as volatility continued.
“I feel like the last few weeks have taken years off my life and added years until retirement,” says Justin Wiggs, managing director of equity trading at Stifel Nicolaus. “The Fed’s move sparked a new wave of angst among investors that are worried that this is worse than initially thought.”
The day’s declines came amid fear that efforts to contain the coronavirus are not enough to prevent widespread economic damages. The S&P 500 briefly fell 7% shortly after the opening bell, triggering an automatic shock absorber for the second time this week.
The plunge came after Trump announced in an address late Wednesday that all travel from Europe to the U.S. is banned for 30 days to limit the spread of the deadly virus.
Stocks are likely to remain volatile until there’s some combination of “evidence of successful virus containment, “clarity on the net economic impact” and “a concerted global policy response,” said Mark Haefele, chief investment officer for global wealth management at UBS.
“Currently, the virus remains uncontained in Europe and the US, and, although we have seen some stimulus measures from policymakers, it is unclear if it will prove comprehensive enough to mitigate the economic damage arising from coronavirus containment measures,” Haefele wrote in a note to investors.
Stocks are suffering badly across the board.
Investors are fearful that the economy will suffer from a global slowdown in travel, shopping and other consumer spending.
In the airline business, Delta, Southwest, United and American stocks fell double digits. In the automotive industry, General Motors, Ford, Fiat Chrysler and Tesla shed double digits. In the retail sector, Target, Macy’s and J.C. Penney dropped double digits.
Trump’s announcement of travel restrictions for most European countries added to concerns over disruptions to travel and trade, while the World Health Organization’s warning over “alarming levels of inaction” by governments in corralling the virus further raised the alarm.
“Markets reacted negatively to what was perceived as a solemn but confused speech that placed blame on other nations, omitted to focus on immediate actions to relieve the most affected individuals, and lacked in concrete fiscal and health measures to address the economic and financial impact of the virus,” Gregory Daco, chief U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, said in a note.
European markets sunk 11%, even after the European Central Bank announced more stimulus measures. World markets are enduring violent swings amid uncertainty about how badly the outbreak will hit the economy.
Some economists questioned whether interest rate cuts from the Federal Reserve will be enough to ward off the economic impact from the virus that threatens to disrupt global supply chains.
The central bank made an emergency rate cut last week, the first outside of a regularly scheduled meeting since the global financial crisis. But it did little to calm jittery investors, who are debating whether those methods can still prod Americans that are fearful of contracting the virus to visit malls and restaurants.
“Investors want to see real evidence that these measures are working,” says Hollis Brewer, Founder & CEO at Hollistic Capital Management. “Based on standard economic theory, this should be helping, but it’s not. The fact that these standard measures don’t appear to be working is driving investor fear.”
Industry trade group Airlines for America warned Trump’s travel measure would hit the U.S. airline industry “extremely hard.” Airlines for America had previously forecast the virus could threaten to wipe out between $63 billion and $113 billion in global airline revenues this year.
“The ban will undoubtedly further impact demand for oil,” Jack Allardyce, oil and gas analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald Europe, said in a note. “The most direct effect will be on jet fuel demand.”
A plunge in crude prices is hurting profits for energy companies.
Benchmark U.S. crude lost 4.5% to $31.50 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Brent crude, the standard for international pricing, gave up 7.2% to $33.22 a barrel.
Global shares plunged Thursday after the World Health Organization declared a coronavirus pandemic and indexes sank on Wall Street.
In Europe, France’s CAC 40 dropped 12%, while Germany’s DAX lost 12%. Britain’s FTSE 100 plunged 11%. Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 dived 4.4% and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 dropped 7.4%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 3.7%.
Contributing: The Associated Press