NEW YORK – Wall Street and markets around the world fell sharply Wednesday as the economic and physical toll caused by the coronavirus outbreak mounts – and as experts say they still can't predict when it will end.
The S&P 500 lost 4.4% after the White House said anywhere from 100,000 to 240,000 Americans could die from COVID-19, even if the country follows guidelines to avoid shopping trips, eating at restaurants and other activities through April. Florida's governor became the latest to issue a statewide stay-at-home order.
Such restrictions have already deeply gashed the economy, and Whiting Petroleum, one of the biggest drillers in the Bakken shale formation, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Wednesday, with the price of oil near $20 a barrel. Automakers also reported sharp drops in U.S. sales for March, including a 43% plunge for Hyundai. Mortgage applications tumbled 24% from year-ago levels as open houses are all but shut down.
“There is a lot of uncertainty,” said Megan Horneman, director of portfolio strategy at Verdence Capital Advisors. “The negative news is really taking over.”
The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 973,65, or 4.4%, to 20,943.51, and the Nasdaq composite fell 339.52, or 4.4%, to 7,360.58.
The negative news was also global. Japanese stocks took some of the world's heaviest losses, down 4.5%, after a survey of business sentiment there fell to its worst result in seven years. Britain's FTSE 100 fell 3.8% after big banks there scrapped dividend payments, part of a worldwide effort by companies and households alike to conserve cash.
+ Manufacturing report: The Institute for Supply Management, an association of purchasing managers, reported Wednesday that its U.S. manufacturing index fell to 49.1 in March after registering 50.1 in February. Any reading below 50 signals a contraction. The index had signaled growth in January and February.
+ Construction report: Spending on U.S. construction projects fell 1.3% in February with housing and nonresidential construction both showing weakness even before the coronavirus struck with force in the United States. The Commerce Department said Wednesday that the February decline followed a 2.8% rise in construction in January.
- Associated Press