Dow ends 3.6% lower as virus fears batter US stocks

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A person wearing a face mask walks down Wall Street in New York. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

NEW YORK (AFP) - Led by airlines and other travel-oriented shares, Wall Street stocks suffered another bruising rout on Thursday (March 5), resuming their downward trend amid fears the coronavirus will plunge the US into recession.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended down around 970 points, or 3.6 per cent, at 26,121.28.

The broad-based S&P 500 slumped 3.4 per cent to 3,024.94, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index slid 3.1 per cent to 8,738.60.

Although stocks scored big gains on Wednesday, Thursday's rough session marked a continuation of the broad retreat in recent days as the coronavirus has spread from China and emerged as a threat to global growth.

Among the announcements Thursday, Russia cancelled its main business showcase set for June, the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, because of coronavirus, while Italy said its sporting events will be held behind closed doors until April 3.

US economic data thus far has not shown much hit from the coronavirus, but the market fears what is coming down the road.

"The market can factor in bad news if we have the data, but it's difficult dealing with uncertainty," said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist for Prudential Financial.

"If customers are afraid to go out, shopping, to dinner, then you see consumer spending going back and then you start seeing layoffs from small and midsize business owners," Krosby said.

US airlines suffered an especially ugly session, with United Airlines, American Airlines and JetBlue all sinking more than 10 per cent after an airline trade group projected that the industry globally could lose US$113 billion (S$156 billion) in revenues in 2020 due to the outbreak.

Others with bad losses included planemaker Boeing, which shed 8 per cent and United Technologies, a maker of airplane engines, which shed 9.1 per cent.

Cruise company Carnival plunged 14.1 per cent, TripAdvisor shed 8.9 per cent and Marriott International dropped 6.9 per cent.

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