Market Snapshot: Dow ends nearly 3% lower and 10-year bond falls below 1% as Fed delivers emergency interest-rate cut

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell speaks during a news conference after a Federal Open Market Committee meeting on January 29, 2020 in Washington, DC.

U.S. stocks finished sharply lower Tuesday, after a volatile trading session, and Treasury yields fell to historic lows, with Wall Street deeming a surprise inter-meeting interest-rate cut from the Federal Reserve insufficient to restore confidence in a market that has been rocked by worries about the spread of coronavirus world-wide.

How are major benchmarks faring?

The Dow Jones Industrial Average

DJIA, -2.94%

 finished 785.91 points, 2.9%, to 25,917.41, after being down by as many as 997.04 points. Meanwhile, the S&P 500

SPX, -2.81%

 fell 86.86 points, or 2.8%, to 3,003.37. The Nasdaq Composite Index

COMP, -2.99%

 retreated 268.07 points, or 3%, to end at 8,684.09.

On Monday, the Dow rose 1,293.96 points, or 5.1%, to end at 26,703.32—its largest one-day percentage rise since March 23, 2009. The S&P 500 rebounded 136.01 points, or 4.6%, to end at 3,090.23., while the Nasdaq Composite advanced 384.80 points, or 4.5%, to finish at 8,952.16—marking the biggest one-day percentage gain for both indexes since Dec. 26, 2018. Monday’s point gains were the largest on record for all three major indexes.

What’s driving the market?

The decline for markets came as the Fed announced a half-a-percentage-point rate cut a half-hour into the session, saying that while the economy’s fundamentals remain strong, the “coronavirus-poses evolving risks to economic activity.”

In a news conference, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said “we saw a risk to the outlook for the economy and chose to act.”

“I don’t think anybody knows how long it will be. I do know that the U.S. economy is strong,” he said. Powell also hinted at the possibility of more formal global coordination in the future but markets have not taken the emergency action as an upbeat development.

Earlier, Group of Seven finance ministers and central bank governors held a conference call Tuesday and issued a statement indicating their “commitment to use all appropriate policy tools to achieve strong, sustainable growth,” but signaled no concrete steps in the message.

Stocks initially popped sharply higher on the news of the monetary-policy moves but relinquished the gains before long.

“Monetary policy is an unlikely cure for the coronavirus,” said Mike LaBella, head of investment strategy at QS Investors, a Legg Mason affiliate, in a Tuesday statement. “Easing will have a positive impact on sentiment in the short term but until the contagion rates peak, expect uncertainty and volatility to continue,” LaBella wrote.

In another indication that the Fed’s rate cuts failed to spark buying enthusiasm for risky assets, the safe-haven 10-year U.S. Treasury note yield carved out a historic low below 1%.

The Fed’s actions come after worries about the economic harm from the epidemic resulted last week in the sharpest sell off in U.S. equities since the 2008 financial crisis. Hopes for responses from central banks and governments saw a significant partial recovery in global equities on Monday.

But many countries may be out of firepower, noted James McCormack, global head of sovereign ratings at Fitch Ratings. “The proper context for assessing any upcoming fiscal support pledges is the fact that G7 public finances are consistently among the weakest relative to their respective rated peers,” McCormack said in a statement.

“Since the global financial crisis, government expenditure reductions from lower interest rates have generally been exceeded by higher non-interest spending. There is precious little fiscal space across the G7.”

See: The Dow keeps getting slammed by fears coronavirus will deliver a ‘supply shock’ that central bankers can’t fix

In addition to the U.S., a number of countries have already acted independently, including the Reserve Bank of Australia and Malaysia’s central bank, which both reduced their benchmark interest rates Monday, citing coronavirus as the reason. The European Central Bank, meanwhile, is working on measures to provide liquidity to businesses harmed by the outbreak, according to Reuters.

Read: Buy the dip? Here’s how some analysts say investors should play it

How are other markets faring?

Asian markets were mixed overnight. The Hang Seng

HSI, -0.24%

closed virtually unchanged at about 26,285, but the Nikkei

NIK, +0.08%

 finished more than 1.2% lower. The China CSI 300

000300, +0.58%

rose 0.5%.

European markets were also mixed. The Stoxx Europe

SXXP, +0.87%

advanced 1.4%, but the FTSE 100

FTSE, +0.02%

 closed 1% higher.

The dollar

DXY, +0.08%

fell about 0.2% against a basket of currency trading partners.

The benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury note

TMUBMUSD10Y, -4.61%

slid about to a record below 1%, one day after touching the lowest on record. Yields rise as prices fall.

Gold for April delivery

GCJ20, -0.44%

jumped 2.5% to settle at $1,644.40 an ounce, while the price of a barrel of oil

CLJ20, +0.72%

gained 0.9%, to end at $47.18 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Which stocks are in focus?
  • Target Corp.

    TGT, -2.95%

     fell 3% after reporting fiscal fourth-quarter profit and same-store sales that topped expectations early Tuesday, while revenue came up a bit shy, and provided an in-line outlook.

  • Shares of Kohl’s Corp.

    KSS, -2.63%

    gave up 2.6% even after reporting earnings that beat expectations and announcing it would raise its dividend.

  • AutoZone Inc.

    AZO, -2.12%

    shares fell 2.1% after reporting profit that was better than expected, but sales that missed Wall Street expectations.

  • Shares of Qorvo Inc.

    QRVO, -2.13%

     finished 2.1% lower as the chip maker cut its outlook for revenue in the face of coronavirus-induced supply chain snarls.

  • General Electric Co.

    GE, -2.94%

    shares lost 2.9% Tuesday, one day after a J.P. Morgan analyst upgraded his outlook on the conglomerate, sending the stock more than 3% higher.

  • Match Group, Inc.

    MTCH, -3.43%

    shares declined 3.4% after an analyst’s warning that fears of coronavirus could keep people off dating apps.

Related: Wall Street is wondering if the Fed can heal a coronavirus-stricken stock market

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