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Dow drops 1,500 points as oil price plunge shocks markets amid virus fears

Fear bludgeons financial markets around the world, and stocks, bond yields, and oil plunge on metastasizing worries about the effects of the new coronavirus.

The most violent drops have come from the oil markets, where prices cratered more than 20%. But moves in stocks and bond yields were nearly as breathtaking. In the United States, the S&P 500 plunged as much as 7.4% in the first few minutes of trading, and losses were so sharp that trading was temporarily halted. Stocks trimmed their losses following the halt, and the index was down 5.5%, as of 10:25 a.m. Eastern time.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 1,442 points, or 5.5% to 24,434 after briefly being down more than 2,000. The Nasdaq gave up 5.3%.

Trader Gregory Rowe prepares for the day’s activity on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, March 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

The carnage in the energy sector was particularly arresting. Occidental Petroleum, Marathon Oil, Apache Corp. and Diamondback Energy each sank more than 40%. Exxon Mobil and Chevron were on track for their worst days since 2008.

All the selling is the result of fear of the unknown. As COVID-19 spreads around the world, many investors feel helpless in trying to estimate how much it will hurt the economy and corporate profits, and the easiest response to such uncertainty may be to get out.

— AP

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