U.S. markets closed

Coronavirus: Stocks down again as Wall Street ends worst start to a year since 2008, falling 20% in first quarter

Oliver O'Connell
Trading on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange is now fully electronic to protect employees from spreading the coronavirus. The market had its worst first quarter since the 2008 global financial crisis: Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Stocks on Wall Street ended the first quarter of 2020 down 20 per cent, the market’s worst quarter since the dark days of the financial crisis.

The loss for the S&P 500 in March alone was 12.5 per cent, as the surging coronavirus pandemic pushed investors to flee the market.

Stocks did claw back some of those losses this week thanks to massive aid packages from the Federal Reserve and Congress to shore up the economy and markets, but the Dow Jones Industrial Average nevertheless closed down 400 points, or more than 1.5 per cent, on Tuesday at 21,927 points.

It was the worst first-quarter finish in the Dow’s 135-year history.

Earlier in the day, global markets initially rose following a stronger-than-expected report on China’s economy.

The surge of coronavirus cases around the world has sent markets into breathtaking drops since mid-February, undercutting what had been a good start to the year due to calming trade wars and low interest rates around the world.

The benchmark price of US crude oil, which has dropped by approximately two-thirds this quarter, hit its lowest level since 2002 on Monday on expectations of a dramatic drop in demand. It recovered slightly on Tuesday.

This coming Friday sees the release of the latest US jobs report — expected to show a sharp drop in payrolls. Companies’ first quarter earnings will also be reported in the coming weeks.

The numbers may get even worse, with Goldman Sachs economists saying on Tuesday that they expect the US economy to shrink by 34% in the second quarter. They expect growth to rebound in the third quarter.

With no sign of a peak in the number of cases of, or deaths from, coronavirus, and with much of the US and large parts of the world on lockdown, it is difficult to conceive what the overall impact on the economy, jobs and markets will be.

With reporting by the Associated Press

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