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01:00 PM EDT, 03/16/2020 (MT Newswires) — US equities dropped sharply Monday, but the deep losses that triggered a trading halt managed to narrow as the International Monetary Fund pledged $1 trillion in lending to help economies fighting the spread of COVID-19.
Wall Street's major indexes were each down in the 7% range intraday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the Nasdaq Composite had lost nearly 12% when trading got under way after a 15-minute trading pause, and the Standard & Poor's 500 had lost about 10%.
Still, in afternoon trade, all 11 sectors tracked on the S&P 500 Index dropped. The real estate and financial groups each plunged 10% while the consumer staples sectors fell more than 4%. Banks were under heavy pressure after the Federal Reserve slashed interest rates to their lowest since the global financial crisis. Citigroup © lost 16%, Bank of America (BAC) slumped 13% and Wells Fargo (WFC) fell 9%.
But equities coming off session lows suggested investors responded to the IMF's announcement that it has $1 trillion in lending capacity to "help countries with urgent balance-of-payment needs," at a time that its members are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. The spread of the sometimes deadly illness prompted states across the US, France, Spain and other countries over the weekend to order the closure of bars and restaurants and to further limit public gatherings.
In early trading, investors were not soothed by the Federal Reserve's decision on Sunday to cut the target range on its benchmark lending rate to 0% to 0.25% or by its plan for $700 billion in purchases of Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities in moves to support liquidity in financial markets.
The "Fed now has fewer tools to further respond to financial stress in the future, if needed," Wells Fargo Investment Institute said in a note Monday. In terms of help from Washington lawmakers, a "second round of fiscal stimulus may be more along the lines of what investors are looking for — namely, broad support for consumers and businesses affected by the spending slowdown caused by the virus." It said more fiscal stimulus could be available in the next three to four weeks, depending on when lawmakers reach a deal.
Among some brighter spots, Clorox (CLX) shares gained 6% after JP Morgan raised its rating on the bleach and household cleaners maker to overweight from underweight.
Caterpillar (CAT) rose 1% following a ratings upgrade at Stifel Nicolaus to buy from hold.
In afternoon trade, the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite each fell 7.5% and the Dow gave up 8%.