All major indices take a hit as COVID-19 pandemic continues

Kirsten Korosec

All major indices fell sharply Monday as the COVID-19 pandemic continued its spread, prompting airlines to slash capacity and state and local officials to close schools and businesses like restaurants and bars.

Stocks accelerated their fall in the waning minutes before the markets closed Monday as Wall Street reacted to a White House press conference with President Donald Trump, National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases head Anthony Fauci, and Deborah Birx, the coronavirus response coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force.

The task force recommended people limit the size of gatherings to fewer than 10 people and that non-essential businesses close for at least the next 15 days, but hinted that this could last into July.

The Dow Jones and the S&P 500 suffered their worst percentage drop since 1987. The Nasdaq fell more than 12% and the Russell 2000 index of small caps fell 14.3%.

All industries were hit on Monday with double-digit percentage losses, including real estate, energy, financial, technology and travel.

At the close, markets were down:

  • The Dow Jones was down 2,998.97 or 12.93%, to 20,188.52
  • The Nasdaq was down 970.28 points, or 12.3%, to 6,904.59
  • The S&P 500 was down 324.95 points, or 11.98%, to 2,386.13

The markets had a rough start in the morning. After the Federal Reserve cut its interest rates to near zero at the urging of the president, all of the indexes posted major losses, and for the third time in the past two weeks, the Dow hit its emergency circuit breaker as the market opened; the S&P also halted trades.

Airlines

Even as equities fell, Trump tried to ease concerns, noting that the government was committed to backing industries like the airlines and that the stock market would eventually rebound.

"Once this virus is gone I think that you're going to have a stock market like nobody has ever seen before," Trump said in a press conference prior to the market close Monday.

Wall Street did provide a boost to airlines in response to the government's decision to support airlines. American Airlines saw shares close up 11% to $15.92.

"It's not their fault, in fact they were having a record season," Trump said when asked if the government should back the airlines industry. "We're going to be backing the airlines."