March 16, 2020 / 8:38 PM / 17 days ago

US STOCKS-Wall St sinks as virus spread escalates worries

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* Financial sector slumps on Fed’s surprise rate cut

* Deepest drop of the current crisis; S&P at 2018 low

* Impact of coronavirus pandemic still a question mark

* Indexes down: Dow 12.9%, S&P 500 12%, Nasdaq 12.3% (Updates to close)

By Caroline Valetkevitch

NEW YORK, March 16 (Reuters) - Wall Street suffered its biggest drop since the coronavirus crisis began, with the S&P 500 closing at the lowest level since December 2018 as investors fear the coronavirus pandemic is proving a tougher opponent than central banks, lawmakers or the White House are capable of battling.

The S&P 500 fell about 12% despite the Federal Reserve’s surprise move late Sunday to cut interest rates to near zero, which added to the alarm about the rapid spread of the pandemic and how it has paralyzed parts of the global economy and squeezed company revenue.

“It’s a market adrift with nothing to hold on to. There’s nothing that can really give us a sense of when the full extent of the virus’ impact will be known,” said Jeffrey Kleintop, chief global investment strategist at Charles Schwab.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 2,997.1 points, or 12.93%, to 20,188.52, the S&P 500 lost 324.89 points, or 11.98%, to 2,386.13 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 970.28 points, or 12.32%, to 6,904.59. (Additional reporting by Sanjana Shivdas in Bengaluru and Thyagaraju Adinarayan; Editing by Dan Grebler and Nick Zieminski)

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