U.S. equities post steep weekly losses amid virus fears, oil shock

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U.S. stocks tumbled in volatile trading during the week when coronavirus fears coupled with a slump in oil market whacked Wall Street.

For the week ending March 13, the Dow cratered 10.4%, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq declined 8.8% and 8.2%, respectively.

Featuring spectacular rallies and brutal nosedives, the week was one of the most turbulent periods for Wall Street.

On Friday, U.S. equities soared with all the three major indexes closing up more than 9%, booking their best one-day gains since 2008. The massive surge came after a historic fall in the previous session.

The Dow slumped more than 2,300 points, or 10%, at Thursday's close, notching its biggest one-day percentage drop since the 1987 Black Monday market crash, when it collapsed by more than 22%.

Both the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq shed more than 9% on Thursday to join the Dow in entering bear market territory, ending the record-setting bull-market run of nearly 11 years.

Trading was halted for 15 minutes shortly after Thursday's opening, in the wake of the benchmark S&P 500 stock index tumbling more than 7%. It was Wall Street's second 15-minute halt this week, following Monday's circuit breaker.

The so-called circuit breakers, or trading halts, were first introduced after the Black Monday crash of October 1987, and until this week had not been tripped since 1997.

Investors paid close attention to all efforts and stimulus measures to counter the coronavirus outbreak.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday declared a national emergency to open up 50 billion U.S. dollars in federal aid to help combat the spread of COVID-19 across the country.

On Wednesday night, Trump said his country will suspend all travel from 26 European countries for 30 days in a bid to fight the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. Then on Saturday, the White House announced that the United States is extending Europe travel restrictions to Britain and Ireland, which will be effective Monday midnight eastern standard time.

The U.S. central bank unveiled dramatic measures to ease market strain from the virus.

The New York Fed, which conducts market operations for the central bank, on Thursday announced plans to inject 1.5 trillion dollars into the financial system to expand liquidity.

Vicious market swing has become a norm for U.S. equities these days amid the coronavirus crisis.

The United States reported 2,488 COVID-19 cases as of Saturday noon with at least 51 deaths, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

The World Health Organization on Wednesday labeled the COVID-19 outbreak a "pandemic" as the virus spreads increasingly worldwide.

"Currently, the virus remains uncontained in Europe and the United States, and, although we have seen some stimulus measures from policymakers, it is unclear if it will prove comprehensive enough to mitigate the economic damage arising from coronavirus containment measures," said analysts at UBS in a note.

The equities were also pressured by oil price plunges.

As one of the most powerful commodities, oil is a big factor for markets, said Peter Tuchman, a veteran trader who works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

For the week, West Texas Intermediate fell 23%, while Brent lost 25%. Both crude benchmarks notched their biggest weekly percentage declines, based on the front-month contracts, since December 2008, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

Failure to strike a deal on oil production cuts between the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, led by Russia, had sent oil prices into a nosedive and sparked fears of a possible price war.

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