Topline: The U.S. stock market has officially plunged into correction territory—at the fastest rate ever recorded, suffering its worst losses since the 2008 financial crisis this week amid ongoing panic over the spreading coronavirus and its impact on the global economy.
- This week alone, the Dow Jones industrial average fell a total of 14%, the S&P 500 by 13% and the Nasdaq Composite by 12.3%.
- The Dow plummeted nearly 1,200 points on Thursday—its biggest one-day drop ever, thanks to the coronavirus, which has now spread to at least 49 countries in a matter of weeks. Those losses continued on Friday, though the drop was somewhat less severe: The Dow fell 1.4%, while the S&P 500 sank 0.8%.
- In a statement to reassure anxious investors, the Federal Reserve said on Friday that it was monitoring the “evolving risks to economic activity” posed by the coronavirus and further pledged to “act as appropriate” to keep the U.S. economy stable.
- Some experts are skeptical any action from the central bank can stem market fallout from the coronavirus; Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic advisor for Allianz, told CNBC on Thursday that “markets will start freezing up even if the Fed cuts rates, which I think they will.”
- National Economic Council director Larry Kudlow on Tuesday told CNBC that the virus is unlikely to become a full-fledged economic crisis, and described this week’s sell-off as a good buying opportunity. That same day, however, the CDC warned that the American public should brace for major disruptions from the coronavirus.
- Among the stocks that have been hard hit this week are Apple (which is now flirting with bear market territory after falling 20% off its record highs) and American Airlines, which fell more than 25% this week.
Tangent: Hundreds of companies, from Apple and Nike to Starbucks and Microsoft, have issued warnings that the coronavirus will impact financial results for the first quarter and beyond. In a note on Wednesday, investment banking giant Goldman Sachs revised down its estimate for U.S. corporate earnings in 2020, forecasting 0% earnings growth for 2020 as a result of the outbreak.
Chief critic: “Markets are much too negative on the coronavirus. . . . The market was too expensive earlier in the year, but the coronavirus panic is overdone,” says Vital Knowledge founder Adam Crisfaulli. He points out that though the economic and corporate earnings fallout from the coronavirus will be severe, economic activity in China is normalizing, and that should help the bulk of the fallout remain confined to the first quarter.
Crucial quotes: “The global stock sell-off is showing no signs of slowing down,” says Edward Moya, senior market analyst at Oanda. He predicts the major indexes could “easily” enter bear market territory, though “expectations are still pretty high that the market will eventually snap back.”
“It has been a brutal week,” says Mark Freeman, chief investment officer at Socorro Asset Management. He expects a further sell-off next week, as investors wait to see how the situation evolves and how the Fed will respond, but says that “it is too early for the Covid-19 crisis to have a material impact on [U.S. economic] data.”
“This week reminded many investors of 2008, which isn’t a happy memory,” says Ryan Detrick, senior market strategist for LPL Financial. “Nonetheless, remember that the overall economic backdrop is still healthy in the U.S., but when fear grips, that doesn’t matter.”
“The impact to the economy will be severe, but not enough to create a recession (e.g., two consecutive quarters of negative growth),” says Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer for Independent Advisor Alliance. “It is the uncertainty that is most difficult to price in, so people are selling in the advance of concrete information.”
Crucial statistic: The benchmark U.S. ten-year Treasury yield hit a new bottom on Friday, falling below 1.12%.
Key background: Stock market losses accelerated after the CDC confirmed the first case of “community transmission” of the coronavirus in Sacramento, California. Globally, more than 83,700 people have been infected as of Friday, with more than 2,800 dead. Earlier this week, Italy, South Korea and Iran emerged as new coronavirus hot spots outside of China, causing further concern that the outbreak will spread to other major economies. The World Health Organization said on Friday that the virus now poses a “very high” risk at a global level.
I am a New York—based reporter for Forbes covering breaking news, with a focus on financial topics. Previously, I wrote about investing for Money Magazine and was an intern at Forbes in 2015 and 2016. I graduated from the University of St Andrews in 2018, majoring in International Relations and Modern History. Follow me on Twitter @skleb1234 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org