NEW YORK: Wall Street stocks were deep in the red early Thursday (Mar 12), resuming after a 15-minute suspension as the economic pain from the coronavirus deepens and widens.
About 25 minutes into trading, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was at 21,505.07, down more than 2,000 points or 8.7 per cent.
The broad-based S&P 500 tumbled 8.1 per cent to 2,519.43, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index shed 7.9 per cent to 7,323.31.
Trading was suspended after losses hit 7 per cent on the S&P 500, a benchmark that triggers circuit breakers halting transactions to manage crises.
Anxiety was elevated a day after the Dow entered a bear market as the spread of the virus further crimped economic activity.
The NBA suspended its professional basketball season after a player tested positive, while Carnival announced that its Princess cruise line would suspend service for 60 days.
The European Central Bank on Thursday followed other major central banks with a flurry of measures to cushion the impact of the coronavirus, including increased bond purchases and cheap loans to banks, but surprised observers by leaving key interest rates unchanged.
Stock losses were widespread, but the impact on major airlines was especially acute after US President Donald Trump announced a 30-day travel ban on European travelers.
Both Delta Air Lines and United Airlines tumbled more than 10 per cent, adding to losses in a bruising period for the industry.
READ: Singapore stocks plunge amid global sell-off after COVID-19 pandemic declared
With the market panic having already wiped away more than US$11 trillion in global value, the head of the World Health Organization said the COVID-19 outbreak “is a controllable pandemic” if countries stepped up measures to tackle it.
“We are deeply concerned that some countries are not approaching this threat with the level of political commitment needed to control it,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told diplomats in Geneva, according to a statement.
Following an overnight slump, Sydney tumbled 7.4 per cent Thursday to suffer its worst session since the 2008 global financial crisis.
Tokyo closed down 4.4 per cent, putting it in a bear market after slumping more than 20 per cent from a recent high.
Hong Kong shed 3.7 per cent, though Shanghai was off 1.5 per cent as China continues to see infection rates slow.
READ: Philippines’ Duterte announces containment measures in Manila to fight COVID-19
Manila crashed nearly 10 per cent – sparking a brief trading halt – after it emerged Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte would undergo a precautionary test for the virus.
In the Gulf, Saudi dumped 3.0 per cent in value, Dubai tumbled 8.0 per cent and Qatar shed 4.5 per cent.
“Taking the view that the president’s travel ban has only further heightened the likelihood of a global recession … investors fled,” said Connor Campbell, market analyst at Spreadex trading group.
READ: US to suspend all travel from Europe for 30 days to fight COVID-19 outbreak
The carnage on stock markets spread to Europe, with losses accelerating in Paris and Frankfurt, which both fell more than 10 per cent after the ECB unveiled a series of measures to shore up the eurozone economy, but it did not lower interest rates like central banks elsewhere.
“The crux of the matter … is that all of the efforts being made to curtail the spread of the coronavirus are going to produce negative economic outcomes that will weigh far and wide on earnings prospects since they are also curtailing consumer and business spending,” said market analyst Patrick J. O’Hare at Briefing.com.
MASSIVE NEGATIVE SIGNAL
“Travel restrictions equal slower global economic activity, so if you need any more coaxing to sell … after a massively negative signal from trading in US markets it just fell in your lap,” said AxiCorp’s Stephen Innes.
The coronavirus outbreak has left virtually no sector untouched, though travel and tourism have been particularly hard-hit as countries institute travel bans and quarantine requirements, with Italy in a country-wide lockdown.
READ: COVID-19 outbreak ‘a pandemic’ – WHO chief
The coronavirus market crash has wiped off US$11.3 trillion from global valuations as of the end of Wednesday, according to Howard Silverblatt, a senior analyst at S&P Dow Jones Indices.
The number of coronavirus cases across the globe has risen to more than 126,000 with 4,600 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Elsewhere Thursday, oil prices were hammered, with benchmark Brent North Sea crude losing more than 7 per cent, as the travel restrictions will further dampen energy demand.
“We are now staring at the whole world going into a lockdown,” Vandana Hari, of Vanda Insights, said. “Oil demand can be expected to crash through the floor and all previous projections on oil consumption are now out the door.”
The oil market was already under pressure after Saudi Arabia and Gulf partner UAE stepped up a price war on Wednesday by unveiling plans to flood global markets.
The Saudi move was the latest escalation of a fight among oil producers after Russia balked at an OPEC-backed plan to cut production in response to lost demand because of the coronavirus.