Investors flee Wall Street, seek shelter in bonds By Reuters

© Reuters. A trader works on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City

By Medha Singh and Sanjana Shivdas

(Reuters) – U.S. stock markets tumbled on Friday as fears of economic damage intensified with the global tally of coronavirus cases crossing 100,000, sending investors scurrying to the perceived safety of bonds.

The Dow Jones Industrials shed more than 500 points and the fell for the tenth time in the past 12 sessions as the virus crippled supply chains and prompted a sharp cut to global economic growth forecasts for 2020.

Shares of cruise line operators Carnival (NYSE:) Corp and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd fell more than 3% after a report the Trump administration was considering ways to discourage U.S. travelers from taking cruises.

The rest of the travel sector gained as bargain hunters picked up battered shares of airlines and hotel operators. The S&P 1500 airlines index was up 1.8%, but was still on course to end Friday with its third straight weekly decline.

“The sentiment is that we don’t have (the virus) under control and we don’t know or understand how much worse things can get,” said Keith Buchanan, senior portfolio manager at Globalt.

Yields on long-dated U.S. Treasury notes hit all-time lows as traders bet on further monetary easing by the Federal Reserve after a surprise interest rate cut on Tuesday. [US/]

That pressured rate-sensitive bank stocks, with the S&P financial index nursing some of the biggest losses among the major sub-sectors. The banking sub-index was down 4.7%, bringing its total decline for the week to over 7%.

Starbucks Corp (NASDAQ:) fell 1.9% after signaling a business hit due to fewer customers at its Chinese stores, while Costco Wholesale Corp (NASDAQ:) was off 3% as it said it was struggling to keep up with demand for essentials, including disinfectants.

“It’s proving very difficult right now for market participants to look through another year of poor global growth and flat-to-negative earnings,” said Peter Cecchini, chief market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald in New York.

On Friday, investors looked past data showing a robust pace of hiring in February, underscoring fears of a potential end to the longest U.S. economic expansion on record.

Wall Street’s fear gauge marked its sharpest ever increase this quarter and the benchmark S&P 500 looked set to close out the week over 13% below its record close on Feb. 19.

At 11:50 a.m. ET, the was down 588.90 points, or 2.25%, at 25,532.38, and the S&P 500 was down 82.56 points, or 2.73%, at 2,941.38. The was down 245.22 points, or 2.81%, at 8,493.38.

All 11 S&P sectors were trading lower, led by a 5.3% drop in energy stocks, which tracked a slump in oil prices. [O/R]

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 6.60-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and for a 4.20-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded two new 52-week highs and 138 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded nine new highs and 438 new lows.

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