The U.S. benchmark S&P 500 stock index fell more than 4 per cent on Wednesday after a dire warning on the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus sent investors running from even the most defensive equities.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 973.65 points, or 4.44 per cent, to 20,943.51, the S&P 500 lost 114.09 points, or 4.41 per cent, to 2,470.5 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 339.52 points, or 4.41 per cent, to 7,360.58.
The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index closed down 3.8 per cent at 12,876.37, with shares of security software company BlackBerry Ltd falling nearly 18 per cent after dismal quarterly results.
Economic data showed U.S. manufacturing activity contracted less than expected in March, but disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic pushed new orders received by factories to an 11-year low, reinforcing economists’ views that the economy was in recession.
Also, business closures as authorities tried to contain the coronavirus pushed private payrolls down by 27,000 jobs last month, the first decline since September 2017, the ADP National Employment Report showed separately on Wednesday.
The blue-chip Dow Jones Industrial Average and benchmark S&P 500 indexes extended losses after suffering their worst first quarter as President Donald Trump warned Americans of a “painful” two weeks ahead and health officials highlighted research predictions of an enormous jump in virus-related deaths.
Roughly two weeks before the first-quarter earnings season is due to start in earnest, investors are “very sensitive to the latest headlines” about the virus due to a lack of fundamental information,” said John Augustine, chief investment officer at Huntington National Bank in Columbus, Ohio.
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“We don’t know all the economic and earnings impact yet and this is a sober thought for Americans with those projections of the death rate,” said Augustine.
S&P 500 firms are expected to enter an earnings recession in 2020, falling 4.3 per cent in the first quarter and 10.9 per cent in the second, according to the latest estimates gathered by Refinitiv.
© Thomson Reuters 2020
© Thomson Reuters 2020