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story.lead_photo.caption Traders John Romolo (left) and Leon Montana work Friday on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, where stocks again turned lower. (AP/Nicole Pereira)

Wall Street ended the week the same way it began: In full retreat from the coronavirus.

Stocks fell sharply and the price of oil sank Friday as federal and state governments moved to shut down bigger and bigger swaths of the nation's economy in the hope of limiting the spread of the outbreak.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid more than 900 points, ending the week with a 17.3% loss. The index has declined in four of the past five weeks.

The latest sell-off wiped out the market's gains from a day earlier and capped the market's worst week since the financial crisis of 2008.

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On Friday, the S&P 500 index fell 104.47 points, or 4.3%, to 2,304.92, while the Dow dropped 913.21 points, or 4.6%, to 19,173.98. The Nasdaq slipped 271.06 points, or 3.8%, to 6,879.52; the Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks fell 44.7 points, or 4.2%, to 1,014.05.

Investors continued to seek safety in U.S. government bonds, driving their yields broadly lower. The 10-year Treasury yield, which influences interest rates on mortgages and other consumer loans, slid to 0.88% from 1.12% late Thursday.

Investors are worried that the coronavirus will plunge the U.S. and other major economies into deep recessions. Steps to contain the spread of the outbreak are causing extensive disruptions and layoffs.

"The coronavirus is shutting the economy down," said Lindsey Bell, chief investment strategist at Ally Invest.

At the same time, oil prices are being pulled lower by increased supplies at a time when demand is declining. The government measures also mean less demand for oil. U.S. crude dropped about 21% and moved below $20 a barrel for first time since February 2002.

"This is kind of a double-whammy for the economy," she said.

Friday's selling accelerated after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered that most workers stay home. The declaration came a day after California announced similar measures. The move leaves restaurants, retailers and other businesses that are dependent on consumer traffic in economic limbo as they're forced to close doors and furlough or lay off workers.

Ultimately, investors say they need to see the number of new infections stop accelerating for the market's volatile skid to ease.

"We just don't know what the next two weeks will bring," said Paul Christopher, global market strategist at the Wells Fargo Investment Institute. "Are we going to follow the same infection curve as other countries and the number infections will drastically accelerate? That's when the storm is going to come."

The S&P 500, the benchmark for many index funds held in retirement accounts and the measure preferred by professional investors, is down 31.9% since reaching a record high a month ago.

Oil has been plunging recent weeks as investors anticipate a sharp drop in demand for energy as manufacturing, travel and commerce grind nearly to a halt. It's down from $45 a barrel earlier this month. A price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia has also pushed oil lower.

"People feel like a battered boxer, unsure of how to respond to a flurry economic punches," said Sam Stovall of CFRA Research.

European and Asian markets closed broadly higher Friday.

Despite the latest bout of selling, hopes remain that there will be progress in finding virus treatments and that "a boatload of stimulus by both central banks and governments will put the global economy in position for a U-shaped recovery," said Edward Moya of Oanda in a report.

Even with the market's broad slide, airlines, hotels and cruise line operators climbed as Congress worked on the economic stimulus bill that would include billions to bail out those industries. United Airlines surged 15.1% and MGM Resorts International jumped 18.3%. Carnival rose 20%. Despite the big gains, the stocks are still down sharply for the year.

Governments and central banks around the globe offered a torrent of support to relieve the economic stranglehold of the coronavirus.

The Federal Reserve has rolled out nine emergency actions this week, establishing a special backstop for money market mutual funds (typically a risk-free place for investors to store cash), slashing interest rates to zero, and restarting the crisis-era bond-buying program known as quantitative easing.

On Thursday, the European Central Bank launched a program to inject money into credit markets by purchasing up to $820 billions in bonds. The Bank of England cut its key interest rate to a record low of 0.1% and restarted its own program of money injections into the financial system. Australia's central bank cut its benchmark lending rate to 0.25%. Central banks in Taiwan, Indonesia and the Philippines also cut rates.

Markets are likely in for more turbulence next week as investors get a better look at the economic fallout from businesses' closures and layoffs. Goldman Sachs Group analysts project that this week's U.S. unemployment aid applications increased more than 2 million, a record.

"We are going to start to see really scary economic numbers," said Lindsey Bell, chief investment strategist at Ally Invest.

Information for this article was contributed by Alex Veiga, Ken Sweet and Christopher Rugaber of The Associated Press and by Thomas Heath and Taylor Telford of The Washington Post.

Business on 03/21/2020


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