Dow, S&P 500 post worst March since the Great Depression

Jonathan Garber

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U.S. equity markets fell Tuesday, sending the major averages to their worst first-quarter on record as the as the COVID-19 pandemic rocked investor confidence.

For the month, it is the worst March since the Great Depression, with the Dow down over 13 percent and the S&P 500 lower by more than 12 percent.

On the day, the Dow fell over 410 points or 1.8 percent, wiping out earlier gains. The S&P 500 lost 1.6 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite slipped 0.95 percent.

Looking at stocks, cruise operator Carnival Corp. announced a $1.25 billion common stock offering and note offerings totaling $4.75 billion. Rival Norwegian Cruise Lines extended its suspension of cruises through May 10, a month longer than previously planned.

American Airlines said after Monday’s closing bell that it expects to receive $12 billion in federal aid. Last week, Congress said the industry would receive $50 billion in relief funds.

Elsewhere, retailers The Gap Inc. and Kohl’s Corp. announced late Monday that they will furlough the majority of their workforces. The announcements followed the disclosure by Macy’s earlier in the day that it would furlough most of its staff of 130,000.

On the earnings front, furniture retailer RH reported weaker-than-expected revenue for the holiday quarter and withdrew its financial guidance for fiscal year 2020.

Food producer Conagra reported disappointing top- and bottom-line results but said it expects to exceed its full-year guidance.

Looking at commodities, West Texas Intermediate crude oil rallied 1.9 percent to $20.48 a barrel but plunged more than 66 percent during the first three months of the year, making for the biggest quarterly decline on record.

Meanwhile, gold slid 2.4 percent to near $1,583.40 an ounce. The precious metal was up 4.2 percent during the first quarter.

U.S. Treasurys fell, running the yield on the 10-year note up 2.4 basis points to 0.691 percent.

In Europe, markets were higher across the board with France’s CAC up 0.4 percent, Germany’s DAX rising 1.4 percent and Britain’s FTSE adding 1.9 percent.

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Asian markets rose, too, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng adding 1.9 percent and China’s Shanghai Composite edging up 0.1 percent. Japan’s Nikkei was closed for a holiday.

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