Dow and S&P cap worst first quarter ever

Dow and S&P also had their worst months since 2008, as coronavirus economic fallout deepens.

Wall Street
An empty street near Wall Street during the coronavirus outbreak in Manhattan, NY, US, where both the Dow and S&P 500 closed their worst first quarters on Tuesday as investors struggle to gain clarity on the pandemic's economic impact [File: Jeenah Moon/Reuters]

United States stock markets finished in the red on Tuesday, closing out a dismal first quarter that brought an 11-year bull run on Wall Street to a screeching halt as evidence mounts of large-scale economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished Tuesday’s session down 410.32 points, or 1.84 percent, to 21,917.16. The S&P 500 Index – a proxy for US retirement and college savings accounts – finished down 1.60 percent.

Both indexes leave behind their worst first-quarter performance ever and their worst month since 2008.


The tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index dropped 74.05 points, or 0.95 percent, to 7,700.10.

The real estate and utilities sectors were among the biggest decliners on Tuesday, following a recent rally driven by investors seeking stocks likely to weather an economic slump. Real estate was down 4 percent, utilities, down almost 3 percent and financials, down around 2 percent.

An unprecedented round of fiscal and monetary stimulus had helped equity markets stabilise somewhat in recent sessions following wild swings that saw the benchmark S&P 500 rise 9 percent and slump 12 percent in two consecutive sessions.

All three major US indexes skyrocketed last week after legislators in Washington approved a $2.2 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package to help individuals, industries and businesses hit hard by coronavirus containment measures.

Over the weekend, US President Donald Trump scrapped his initial plan to get the economy back up and running in April and extended stay-at-home guidelines through the end of next month.

As economists continue to 2020 growth expectations for the US and global economies, investors fear corporate debt defaults and more mass layoffs could trigger a deep and lasting recession.

Data on initial jobless claims are expected to be released on Thursday followed by March’s monthly job report on Friday.

Goldman Sachs analysts on Wednesday adjusted their estimates for US economic growth and unemployment. Goldman now sees the US economy contracting 9 percent in the first quarter and 34 percent in the second quarter on an annualised basis and the unemployment rate spiking to 15 percent by midyear.

“While the uncertainty is substantial, we expect the lockdowns and social distancing to result in sharply lower new infections over the next month, and our baseline is that slower virus spread and adaptation by businesses and individuals should set the stage for a gradual recovery in output starting in May/June,” Goldman said in a note to clients.

The energy index rose nearly 2 percent, boosted by a rebound in oil prices from Monday’s 18-year lows after the US and Russia agreed to discuss stabilising energy markets.

The sector has lost about half its value this year from the double whammy of the coronavirus demand hit and the Saudi Arabia-Russia oil price war that erupted this month.

Investors continue to struggle through to gain clarity on the extent of the longer term and lasting economic damage wrought by the pandemic.

Entire sectors of the global economy have shut down with a swiftness and severity that has drawn comparisons with the opening days of the Great Depression that started in 1929.

“There will be no pent-up demand at the end of this, and the process of restarting will take time. Even though people will have cabin fever, their desire to rush out to malls or jump on an airplane will likely be muted by lingering virus concerns and from altered behaviors,” Steven Ricchiuto, chief economist of Mizuho Securities USA, said in a note to investors.

“No matter what assurances people and companies are given from the government, the lingering uncertainty will remain for some time.”

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies