U.S. stocks tumbled, with benchmark gauges posting their worst drop since 1987, as investors signaled the Federal Reserve’s extraordinary bond-buying measures and Donald Trump’s economic proposals won’t be enough to counter the economic impact from the coronavirus.

All three major U.S. equity gauges fell more than 9 per cent, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 losing the most since Black Monday more than three decades ago. Ten-year Treasury yields erased declines and inched higher as policy makers’ pledge of US$1.5 trillion in liquidity recalled the quantitative easing used during the financial crisis. Oil and precious metals fell, with palladium entering a bear market as it tumbled more than 20 per cent Thursday.

The stock rout was worldwide, with Europe’s benchmark index down 11 per cent in a record drop. Brazil’s Ibovespa tumbled as much as 20 per cent at one point, extending this year’s loss to almost 50 per cent in dollar terms. Canada’s main gauge was off more than 12 per cent.

With the S&P 500 wiping out all its gains since the end of 2018, investors are trying to guess at the effectiveness of policy makers’ measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus and limit its economic damage. Trump’s travel ban and tepid fiscal measures failed to impress most observers. Spirits were further damped by new bans on public gatherings in the U.S. and professional sports leagues’ move to suspend operations.

“Markets likely need more. More innovation from central banks, more targeted help for the most vulnerable parts of the economy -- and action from fiscal authorities to stop this transitory shock from developing into a more prolonged insolvency crisis,” said Seema Shah, a global investment strategist for Principal Global Investors. “Emotion is now driving markets.”

On another bruising day across markets:

  • The S&P 500, Nasdaq Composite and Nasdaq 100 indexes sank deeper into a bear market, with losses from February closing records extending well past 20 per cent.
  • The slump triggered the second 15-minute trading halt this week shortly after the U.S. open.
  • The MSCI All-Country World Index extended losses to enter bear-market territory.
  • The cost of insuring debt issued by Europe’s investment grade companies surged to the highest since 2013.
  • Japanese stocks closed more than 4 per cent lower even after another liquidity pledge from the country’s central bank. Australian shares sunk deeper into a bear market despite a stimulus plan there.
  • Oil extended losses toward 5 per cent. Bitcoin slumped. Gold fell below US$1,600 an ounce.

More bad news about the impact of the coronavirus further sapped investor spirits. The leading U.S. infectious-disease official said the testing system in the country is “a failing.” The European Union warned the sickness threatens to exceed health-care capacity across the region “in a few weeks or even days.” The National Hockey League followed the National Basketball Association’s lead and suspended its season, while Major League Baseball said opening day would be delayed.

“We need to see what is effectively a ‘declaration of war’ against the virus and full support to offset the economic damage that war will cost,” said Peter Tchir, head of macro strategy at Academy Securities LLC. “Whatever has gone on this week, it’s not a liquidity crunch.”

Meanwhile, signs that companies in the hardest-hit industries were drawing down credit lines to battle the effects of the virus on their businesses added to anxiety.

“The risks have definitely risen,” said Chris Gaffney, president of world markets at TIAA. “The question is how long will this last and I don’t think anybody can predict that at this point.”

These are the main moves in markets:


The S&P 500 Index declined 9.5 per cent at the close of trading in New York; the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 10 per cent.
The Stoxx Europe 600 Index fell 11 per cent.
The MSCI Asia Pacific Index dipped 5.3 per cent.
The MSCI Emerging Market Index sank 6.5 per cent.


The Bloomberg Dollar Spot Index gained 1 per cent.
The euro weakened 0.7 per cent US$1.1194.
The Japanese yen fell 0.9 per cent to 105.45 per dollar.


The yield on 10-year Treasuries rose three basis points to 0.9 per cent.
Germany’s 10-year yield fell one basis point to -0.75 per cent.
Britain’s 10-year yield declined three basis points to 0.26 per cent.


West Texas Intermediate crude declined 5.8 per cent to US$31.07 a barrel.
Gold weakened 4 per cent to US$1,569.79 an ounce.