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Stocks Tumble Toward Worst Day in a Month Amid Virus Woes

(Associated Press) Stocks are slumping sharply in midday trading on Wall Street Monday and deepening last week’s losses, as a troubling climb in coronavirus counts threatens the global economy.

The S&P 500 was 2.1% lower and on track for its worst day in more than a month. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 717 points, or 2.5%, at 27,618, as of 11:18 a.m. Eastern time, and the Nasdaq composite was down 1.7%.

Stocks also weakened across much of Europe and Asia. In another sign of caution, Treasury yields were pulling back after touching their highest level since June last week.

Coronavirus counts are spiking in much of the United States and Europe, raising concerns about more damage to the still-weakened economy. The U.S. came very close to setting back-to-back record daily infection rates on Friday and Saturday. In Europe, Spain’s government declared a national state of emergency on Sunday that includes an overnight curfew, while Italy ordered restaurants and bars to close each day by 6 p.m. and shut down gyms, pools and movie theaters.

Hopes are fading, meanwhile, that Washington will be able to deliver more support for the economy anytime soon. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin spoke several times last week on a potential deal to send cash to most Americans, restart supplemental benefits for laid-off workers and provide aid to schools, among other things.

But deep partisan difference remains on Capitol Hill, and time is running out for anything to happen before Election Day on Nov. 3. Any compromise reached between House Democrats and the White House would also likely face stiff resistance from Republicans in control of the Senate.

Worries about the diminishing prospect for more stimulus in the short term helped drive the S&P 500 to a 0.5% drop last week, its first weekly loss in the last four.

“While we are seeing nations attempt to stifle the spread of the virus through more localised and tentative restrictions, it seems highly likely that we will eventually see a swathe of nationwide lockdowns if the trajectory cannot be reversed,” said Joshua Mahony, senior market analyst at IG in London.

“Traders remain torn as they weigh up the potential impending benefits of a U.S. stimulus package and potential vaccine,” he added.

The U.S. economy has recovered a bit since the stay-at-home restrictions that swept the country early this year eased, and economists expect a report on Thursday to show it grew at an annual rate of 30.2% during the summer quarter after shrinking 31.4% during the second quarter.

But momentum has slowed recently after a prior round of supplemental unemployment benefits and other stimulus that Congress approved earlier this year expired.

Stocks of companies that need the virus to abate and the economy to return to normal were logging some of the sharpest losses in morning trading.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings fell 9.3%, Marathon Oil dropped 6.1% and United Airlines lost 6.2%.

Energy stocks dropped to the largest loss among the 11 sectors that make up the S&P 500, falling in concert with oil prices. Nearly 99% of the stocks in the index were lower.

Among the market’s few gainers in early trading were companies that can succeed even in a stay-at-home economy. Zoom Video Communications gained 3.1%.

Amazon inched up 0.1% for what was actually one of the biggest gains in the S&P 500, while Apple lost an early gain to fall 0.6%. Expectations are high for them, and analysts say they’ll report strong results for their latest quarter this week. They and other Big Tech stocks have soared through the pandemic on hopes their growth will only continue as work-from-home and other trends that benefit them accelerate.

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