UPDATE: Dow, S&P 500 fall for 7th straight day; stocks suffer biggest weekly fall since 2008
By Mark DeCambre, MarketWatch , Joy Wiltermuth
Nasdaq ekes out Friday gain
Stocks closed mostly lower Friday, but off session lows, while recording their worst weekly slide since October 2008 amid intensifying fears over the potential degree of damage the spread of COVID-19 will inflict on the global economy and supply chains.
How did major benchmarks fare?
The Dow Jones Industrial Average shed 357.28 points, or 1.4%, to settle at 25,409.36, while the S&P 500 dropped 24.54 points, or 0.8%, to end at 2,954.22. The Nasdaq Composite Index gained less than a point to finish at 8,567.37.
All three U.S. benchmark stock indexes closed in correction territory Thursday, defined as a decline of at least 10%, but not more than 20%, from a recent peak.
See:Are stocks headed for a bear market? Here's how far they would have to fall (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/how-far-away-is-the-coronavirus-fueled-stock-slump-from-entering-a-bear-market-2020-02-28)
For the week, the Dow fell 12.4%, the S&P 500 lost 11.5% and the Nasdaq shed 10.5%.
Also read:Stock market slammed by fears coronavirus will deliver a 'supply shock' that central bankers can't fix (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-a-supply-shock-is-biggest-stock-market-worry-as-viral-outbreak-continues-2020-02-25) (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-a-supply-shock-is-biggest-stock-market-worry-as-viral-outbreak-continues-2020-02-25)
What drove the market?
Stocks pared back session losses after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, in a brief statement on Friday afternoon, said the central bank was "closely monitoring" (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/powell-says-fed-closely-monitoring-coronavirus-2020-02-28) the coronavirus epidemic emanating from China and its potential to slow economic growth, sparking some optimism that the Fed will cut rates to help bolster the economy.
Still, the major benchmarks remained under pressure on fallout concerns of the epidemic, and as investors tried to put a floor under their monthly losses.
"Probably one of the biggest issues of this selloff is that it's coming at the end of the month," said Kent Engelke, chief economic strategist at Capitol Securities Management, in an interview. "I really think many people have not recognized the carnage that's taken place. The question is, what are people going to do when they look at their monthly statements on March 1?"
The Dow lost 10% in February, the S&P 500 shed 8.4% and the Nasdaq was off 6.4%.
Analysts at UniCredit Bank said a bottom for stocks would probably require a clear sign of a leveling off in the number of confirmed cases in China of COVID-19, the infectious disease that reportedly originated in Wuhan, China late last year. Based on the latest statistics, that looked unlikely to materialize in the next few days.
"Consequently, the rout in equity markets, and with it, the ongoing decline in U.S. Treasury and (German) bund yields, is most probably not over yet," they wrote. Treasurys and other core government bonds have rallied, pushing down yields, which move in the opposite direction of bond prices, as the stock-market rout has intensified.
Investors have endured days of increasingly grim updates on the spread of the coronavirus, as new infections continue to rise even as countries enact stronger and stronger measures (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/nations-take-drastic-measures-as-coronavirus-outbreak-spreads-2020-02-27). New Zealand and Nigeria were among the latest countries to report their cases.
Coronavirus update:83,861 cases, 2,867 deaths, global events in question (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/coronavirus-update-83809-cases-2867-deaths-global-events-in-question-2020-02-28)
Yet, there were signs some investors are dipping their toes back in the market.
"What I'm hearing is that a lot of institutional money isn't flowing, but that traders are buying for their own accounts," Diane Jaffee, senior portfolio manager at TCW told MarketWatch. She pointed to signs of stabilization of the outbreak in China and central banks standing at the ready as positives.
"I tell investors to hang in there, because this is the opportunity," she said.
St. Louis Fed President James Bullard on Friday, speaking in Fort Smith, Ark., said that further interest-rate cuts are a possibility (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/st-louis-feds-bullard-says-interest-rate-cuts-possible-if-global-pandemic-actually-develops-2020-02-28) if a global pandemic actually develops, but that the scenario wasn't the base case. Dallas Fed President Robert Kaplan said Friday he will be ready to make a judgment (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/dallas-feds-kaplan-says-hell-decide-about-need-for-rate-cut-by-march-17-18-meeting-2020-02-28) about the need for a possible rate cut when the Fed's interest rate committee meets again on March 17-18.
Read:5 reasons stocks are seeing their worst decline since 2008, and only one is the coronavirus (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/here-are-5-reasons-the-stock-market-is-having-its-worst-decline-since-2008-and-only-one-of-them-is-the-coronavirus-2020-02-27)
In economic news (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/consumer-spending-is-still-rising-steadily-but-coronavirus-looms-as-potential-brake-2020-02-28), consumer spending increased a mild 0.2% last month, the government said Friday, a tick below the MarketWatch forecast. Meanwhile, incomes shot up 0.6% -- the biggest gain in 11 months -- but the increase included annual cost-of-living increases in Social Security benefits as well as tax credits tied to the Affordable Care Act.
Separately, a measure of business conditions in the Chicago (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/chicago-manufacturing-index-edged-up-to-490-in-february-2020-02-28)region improved in February but remained in contraction territory. The Chicago PMI business barometer increased to 49.0 this month from 42.9 in January, MNI Indicators said Friday. Any reading below 50 indicates worsening conditions. A report on trading activity (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/advanced-trade-deficit-in-goods-narrows-46-in-january-2020-02-28)showed that the U.S.'s trade deficit in goods narrowed 4.6% in January, according to the Commerce Department's advanced estimate released Friday.
And a consumer sentiment index in February rose to 100.0 from a preliminary reading of 100.9 (http://www.sca.isr.umich.edu/).
Which companies were in focus?
William Watts contributed to this report
-Joy Wiltermuth; 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
February 28, 2020 16:57 ET (21:57 GMT)
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