Wall Street ended the week the same way it began: In full retreat from the coronavirus.
Stocks fell sharply and the price of oil sank Friday as federal and state governments moved to shut down bigger and bigger swaths of the nation’s economy in the hope of limiting the spread of the outbreak.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid more than 900 points, ending the week with a 17.3% loss. The index has declined in four of the last five weeks.
The latest sell-off wiped out the market’s gains from a day earlier and capped the market’s worst week since the financial crisis of 2008.
Investors are worried that the coronavirus will plunge the U.S. and other major economies into deep recessions. Steps to contain the spread of the outbreak are causing massive disruptions and layoffs. Optimism that emergency actions by central banks and governments to ease the economic damage has waned as investors wait for the Trump administration to deliver on legislation that will pump billions of dollars into hurting households and industries.
“The coronavirus is shutting the economy down,” said Lindsey Bell, chief investment strategist at Ally Invest. At the same time, oil prices are being pulled lower by increased supplies at a time when demand is declining.
“This is kind of a double-whammy for the economy,” she said.
Friday’s selling accelerated after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered that most workers stay home. The declaration came a day after California announced similar measures. The move leaves restaurants, retailers and other businesses dependent on consumer traffic in economic limbo as they’re forced to close doors and furlough or lay off workers.
The measures also mean less demand for oil. U.S. crude dropped about 21% and moved below $20 a barrel for first time since February 2002.
Investors are weighing the likelihood that the global economy is entering a recession because of the massive shutdowns and layoffs caused by the outbreak against steps by central banks and governments to ease the economic pain.
Ultimately, investors say they need to see the number of new infections stop accelerating for the market’s volatile skid to ease.