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Coronavirus: Stocks down 4 per cent on Wall Street as stakes rise in pandemic

Stocks fell from the opening of trading in New York, including a 4.5 per cent loss for the S&P 500. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down more than 1,200 points.

By: AP | New York |
March 11, 2020 11:21:23 pm
coronavirus, US stocks market, Dow Jones, coronavirus a pandemic, coronavirus WHO, wall street, indian express The losses deepened after global authorities declared the coronavrius crisis a pandemic. (Photo: AP)

Stocks are falling sharply again Wednesday, wiping out virtually all of a huge rally from a day earlier as Wall Street continues to reel from worries about the coronavirus.

The losses deepened after global authorities declared the coronavrius crisis a pandemic.

Another big central bank made an emergency cut to interest rates in hopes of blunting the economic pain caused by COVID-19, which economists call the global economy’s biggest threat.

But investors are still waiting for details promised earlier by President Donald Trump on potential aid for the economy through tax breaks and other relief.

Stocks fell from the opening of trading in New York, including a 4.5 per cent loss for the S&P 500. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down more than 1,200 points.

“The government probably should have been thinking about stimulus last month,” said Kristina Hooper, Invesco’s chief global market strategist. “Every day that passes makes the economic impact of coronavirus that much worse.”

Many investors are worried that a divided Congress will have trouble agreeing to any plan, she said.

The speed of the market’s declines and the degree of its swings the last few weeks have been breathtaking.

It was only three weeks ago that the S&P 500 set a record high. Since then, it’s lost 18.6 per cent, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average has had six days where it swung by 1,000 points, not including Wednesday. The Dow has done that only three other times in history.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus, but the fear is that COVID-19 could drag the global economy into a recession by hitting it from two ends.

On the supply side, the worst-case scenario has companies with less things to sell as factories shut down and arenas dim the lights because workers are out on quarantine.

On the demand side, companies see fewer customers because people are huddling at home instead of taking trips or going to restaurants.

That’s why many analysts say markets will continue to swing sharply until the number of new infections stops accelerating.

In the United States, the number of cases has topped 1,000. Worldwide, more than 119,000 people have been infected, and over 4,200 have died.

Neither lower interest rates nor stimulus plans by governments will stop this crisis and worries about its effect on the economy.

Only the containment of the virus can do that. But they can provide support to the economy in the meantime, and investors fear things would be much worse without them.

The Bank of England’s emergency rate cut on Wednesday follows an earlier one by the Federal Reserve, and economists expect the European Central Bank to be the next to act. It has a meeting Thursday on monetary policy.

Italy’s government announced USD 28 billion in financial support for health care, the labor market and families and businesses that face a cash crunch due to the country’s nationwide lockdown on travel.

Trump hinted at plans for tax cuts and other economic relief late Monday, but he has yet to unveil any details. His proposal for a cut to payroll taxes has met resistance on Capitol Hill.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 1,244 points, or 4.9 per cent, to 23,769, and the Nasdaq was down 4 per cent, as of 1 p.m Eastern time.

Even a climb in Treasury yields, which has been one of the loudest warning bells on Wall Street about the economic risks of the crisis, wasn’t enough to turn stocks higher.

The yield on the 10-year Treasury rose to 0.82 per cent from 0.75 per cent late Tuesday. That’s a sign of less demand for ultra-safe US government bonds.

Asian markets also fell, while European markets lost earlier gains following the rate cut by the Bank of England and turned lower.

For all the fear in the market and selling by huge institutions, many regular investors have been holding relatively steady.

“People, by and large, are keeping their heads right now,”said JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade.
Clients are mostly sticking to their long-term investment plans, he said, though some may want to adjust their portfolios if they feel too uncomfortable with all the volatility. Still, the standard advice from most advisers is too focus more on long-term goals and pay less attention to short-term swings, which will likely dominate markets for some time.

“We’re looking at a month of volatility as the coronavirus plays out,” Kinahan said

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