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* Trump’s Europe travel curbs slam world markets
* VIX touches highest level since financial crisis
* Boeing set for worst week in history
* Indexes sink: Dow 7.87%, S&P 7.34%, Nasdaq 7.11% (Updates to afternoon, changes dateline, byline)
By Stephen Culp
NEW YORK, March 12 (Reuters) - Crashing U.S. stocks on Thursday confirmed Wall Street is in a bear market after new travel restrictions to curb the coronavirus spread spooked investors and rattled world markets.
President Donald Trump’s Europe travel ban announced late Wednesday sent all three major U.S. stock indexes into a tailspin, slamming the book on the longest-running U.S. bull market on record.
The benchmark S&P 500 and the Nasdaq have lost about 24% of their value since reaching record closing highs just 16 sessions ago, as nations around the world grapple with how to contain the fast-moving coronavirus and its economic effects.
A bear market is confirmed when an index sinks 20% or more below its most recent closing high.
“It’s the fastest 20% decline ever,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago. “Every day there’s more selling and just when you think you’re at capitulation, you’re not there yet. People don’t know how long this is going to go on so they’re going to sell and walk away.”
Trump’s sweeping travel restrictions, limiting flights from continental Europe to the United States, sent European shares to a near four-year low and slammed airline stocks, already battered by the spread of COVID-19.
Airlines were down 15.7%.
Boeing Co fell another 12.5% as J.P.Morgan abandoned its long-term backing for the company’s shares, setting the planemaker on course for its worst week ever.
The U.S. Federal Reserve is expected to cut interest rates for the second time this month at the conclusion of its two-day monetary policy scheduled for next week.
U.S. Treasury yields tumbled as anticipation grew for aggressive easing on the part of the Fed.
The U.S. stock market briefly pared its losses - before resuming its decline - after the New York Federal Reserve announced it would introduce $1.5 trillion in new repo operations this week.
“Any government action that has dollars tied to it that’s actionable for the banking system would be viewed as a positive,” said Joseph Sroka, chief investment officer at NovaPoint in Atlanta. “But what the market is looking for is tangible evidence that the government is trying to stave off a recession.”
Interest rate-sensitive bank shares were down 10.0%.
Corporate credit worries hit bond fund prices as companies began to draw on credit lines.
The CBOE Volatility index, a gauge of investor anxiety, shot up to levels not seen since November 2008, the height of the financial crisis.
The Trump travel ban also hit oil prices, sending front-month Brent crude down 7.4%. Oil prices were already under pressure after Saudi Arabia and Russia vowed to boost production, flooding the market with supply despite plummeting demand.
The S&P 500 Energy index was down 10.3%
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 2,005.08 points, or 8.51%, to 21,548.14, the S&P 500 lost 216.55 points, or 7.90%, to 2,524.83 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 613.95 points, or 7.72%, to 7,338.10.
All 11 major sectors of the S&P 500 were trading sharply lower.
Declining issues outnumbered advancing ones on the NYSE by a 22.16-to-1 ratio; on Nasdaq, a 15.18-to-1 ratio favored decliners.
The S&P 500 posted no new 52-week highs and 327 new lows; the Nasdaq Composite recorded 3 new highs and 1,485 new lows. (Reporting by Stephen Culp; Editing by Dan Grebler)