U.S. stocks extended declines Thursday even as the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank both rolled out fresh measures to support financial markets as the coronavirus pandemic escalates.
The Dow Jones industrial average slumped 250 points, a day after it tumbled more than 1,300 points, nearly erasing all of its gains since President Donald Trump took office. The blue-chip average closed below 20,000 Wednesday for the first time since Feb. 2, 2017. On Thursday, the Standard & Poor’s 500 fell 1%.
Even prices for longer-term U.S. Treasurys, which are seen as some of the safest possible investments, fell as investors sold what they could to raise cash. That pushed the yield on the 10-year Treasury, which moves in the opposite direction of prices, sharply higher, to 1.19%. It had recently dropped below 1% for the first time ever.
The Federal Reserve on Thursday expanded the currency swaps it announced Sunday with major central banks such as Europe and England. The expansion includes central banks in Australia, Brazil, Denmark, South Korea, Singapore Norway, Sweden and New Zealand.
It can be difficult for foreign central banks to lend to their financial institutions in U.S. dollars, the world’s reserve currency, if they’re experiencing severe economic and financial stress. The swaps give them easier access to dollars. Some of the banks affected are emerging markets that are especially strained as investors shift money to other countries during the coronavirus outbreak.
Late Wednesday, the Fed said it will establish an emergency lending facility to help unclog a short-term credit market that has been disrupted by the virus’s spread. The European Central Bank, meanwhile, launched a new, expanded program to buy financial assets in a bid to calm markets.
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The economy has come to a standstill in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus. Investors have been clamoring for help from central banks and governments around the world to support the economy until it can begin to reopen.
“While there is little doubt that countries with quarantines and markets operating under duress will recover, the immediate question faced by central banks, governments and markets alike is whether lowering interest rates and cutting taxes will jump-start the economy and spur consumer demand,” Tom Stringfellow, president and chief investment officer at Frost Investment Advisors, said in a note.
The global death toll from the virus was nearing 9,000, with more than 218,800 confirmed cases. In the U.S., deaths jumped to 150 across 22 states — including the first reported fatalities in Connecticut, Michigan, Missouri and Pennsylvania. More than 9,400 confirmed cases existed in the U.S. early Thursday, up from about 1,600 a week earlier, when there were 40 reported deaths.
Investors have fretted over how badly the economy will get hit by the deadly pandemic and how many companies may go into bankruptcy due to a cash crunch. Wall Street is fearful that the virus will push the U.S. into recession.
“It seems clear that an 11-year plus bull market is now behind us and that the risks of a recession have increased considerably, given the economic slowdown progressing across the globe,” Stringfellow said.
Bank of America Global Research expects the U.S. economy to contract 12% in the second quarter following just 0.5% growth in the first three months of the year, analysts said in a note. Although the decline is severe, they believe it will be “fairly short-lived,” and project that the economy will return to growth in the third quarter. For 2020, they anticipate a contraction on 0.8%.
“We believe that the U.S. economy has fallen into recession, joining the rest of the world, and it is a deep plunge,” Bank of America analysts said. “Jobs will be lost, wealth will be destroyed and confidence depressed. The salvation will come if there is a targeted and aggressive policy response to offset the loss of economic activity and ensure a sound financial system.”
On Wednesday, President Donald Trump signed an aid package, approved earlier Wednesday by the Senate, to guarantee sick leave to workers who fall ill. Trump’s authority under the 70-year-old Defense Production Act gives the government more power to steer production by private companies and try to overcome shortages in masks, ventilators and other supplies.
In Europe, Germany’s DAX fell 0.8% while the CAC 40 in Paris dipped 0.2%. Britain’s FTSE 100 dropped 1.5%. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index gave up 1.0%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index lost 2.6%, and the Shanghai Composite index shed 1%.
Contributing: The Associated Press; Paul Davidson of USA TO