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Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, February 26, 2020. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

Dow suffers worst drop in history as stocks fall on virus angst

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, February 26, 2020. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

Global stocks plunged to four-month lows, government debt yields sunk to unprecedented levels and crude oil extended declines as anxiety over the spread of the coronavirus deepened.

Pedestrians stand in front of an illuminated American flag in the Times Square neighborhood of New York. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

The Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 4.4 per cent to close at 25,763.96. It lost 1,190.95 points, its biggest one-day point decline in history. The drop beat its previous decline, set this past Monday when it fell 1,031 points.

The S&P 500 tumbled 4.4 per cent to close at 2,978.48 as of 4:02PM New York time, the lowest levels of the day. It was the first time closing below 3,000 since October 2019. It whipsawed investors earlier, turning lower late after California’s governor said the state was monitoring 8,400 people for signs of the virus after they travelled to Asia. The decline of more than 10 per cent since last Friday has the benchmark on pace for its worse week since the 2008 global financial crisis and helped push the index into what is known as a correction. The MSCI All-Country World Index fell to the lowest since October, while the Stoxx Europe 600 also entered a correction.

“The way the market is going down, it’s happening pretty quickly, but it’s very difficult to say that it’s over.”

– Senior global market strategist for Wells Fargo Investment Institute, Sameer Samana

“Stocks and bonds say we’re doomed,” said Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist for MUFG Union Bank. “Anyone who has a better idea for what lies ahead please let us know because right now the direction ahead for the economy is straight down.”

The outbreak has the potential to become a pandemic and is at a decisive stage, the head of the World Health Organization said Thursday. The global economy is on course for its weakest year since the financial crisis as the virus damages demand in China and beyond, Bank of America predicted. Earlier, Goldman Sachs slashed its outlook for US companies’ profit growth to zero. Germany is examining potential stimulus measures to stem the economic impact. Saudi Arabia halted religious visits that draw millions.

A pedestrian carries and umbrella while walking in New York, US yesterday. US equities swung between gains and losses as investors digested fresh evidence of the widening coronavirus outbreak.

Haven assets continued to be in demand, and the yen strengthened as yields on 10-year US and Australian government bonds hit fresh record lows. Oil sank further. The pound reversed a gain after the UK told the European Union it could walk away from the negotiating table in June if progress isn’t being made toward a trade deal.

Investors are pricing in a Federal Reserve easing in April followed by another rate cut in July, swaps data show, while bets for easing from Japan to Australia have also increased after the International Monetary Fund cut global growth forecasts.

A visitor wearing a face mask, amid concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, visits the Japan Olympic Museum in Tokyo on Feb. 26.

Losses continue to mount as investors weigh each gloomy headline on the virus. US health authorities on Wednesday said they found the first case of the illness that does not have ties to a known outbreak. Microsoft Corp. joined an expanding list of companies warning over the impact of the virus on operations.

“The way the market is going down, it’s happening pretty quickly, but it’s very difficult to say that it’s over,” said Sameer Samana, senior global market strategist for Wells Fargo Investment Institute. “Bottoming is a multistep process and you’re probably still in step one.”