Economic wounds triggering wild US stock swings

Business | 26 Mar 2020 11:22 am

With widening swaths of the economy shutting down and layoffs mounting, economists are sure a steep drop-off is coming. They are forecasting a report on Thursday will show a record number of Americans filed for unemployment benefits as layoffs sweep the country.

What is unsure is how long it will last.

That uncertainty has led to wild swings in the stock market over the last month. The S&P 500 surged by 9.4 percent Tuesday as expectations built that Washington was nearing a stimulus deal. That was a better performance than the index has turned in for 10 of the last 20 full years.

But the market has also had a couple days within the last few weeks that packed entire years’ worth of losses, including one drop of 12 percent and another of 9.5 percent. The last time the S&P 500 had a back-to-back gain was February 12, a week before the index set its record high.

The uncertainty has carried over even to trading within a certain day or a certain hour.

On Wednesday, for example, the S&P 500 was down by 1.6 percent before it turned decisively higher. It ended the day up 28.23 points to 2,475.56. The Dow Jones Industrial Average added 495.64 points, or 2.4 percent at 21,200.55. It had been up more than 1,300 points before the rally faded. The Nasdaq swung from a gain of 3.4 percent to a loss of 0.5 percent as it dropped 33.56 points to 7,384.30.

The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks gained by 13.79 points, or 1.3 percent, at 1,110.34.-AP


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