Stocks slide in US, Europe as virus worries dominate again

NEW YORK (AP) — And back down goes the U.S. stock market.

The S&P 500 sank more than 2% in early trading Thursday, and Treasury yields fell toward more record lows as the market swung back to fear about the effects of a fast-spreading virus in its latest yo-yo move. Just a day earlier, stocks had soared, in part on hopes that more aggressive moves by governments and central banks around the world could help contain the economic fallout.

Get used to such vicious swings, which will likely keep going as long as the number of new infections continues to accelerate, many analysts and professional investors say. The S&P 500 has had four straight days where it has lurched by at least 2% in either direction, something that hasn’t happened since 2011.

In China, where the number of new infections has been slowing drastically, Shanghai-traded stocks have rallied nearly 12% since hitting a bottom on Feb. 3. They’re just 1.6% away from wiping out the last of the losses they’ve sustained since the new virus began to spread late last year.

Factories in China are gradually reopening, and a return to a sense of normal life may even be on the horizon following swift and severe actions by the government to corral the virus.

But elsewhere in the world, the mood is much darker. There are about 17 times as many new infections outside China as in it, according to the World Health Organization. Widening outbreaks in South Korea, Italy and Iran are responsible for the majority of new infections.

The S&P 500 was down 2.3%, as of 10:35 a.m. Eastern time. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 684 points, or 2.5%, to 26,406, and the Nasdaq was down 1.8%.

Losses were widespread, and all but 15 of the 500 companies in the S&P 500 index are down. Financial stocks had the sharpest losses, and all 11 sectors in the S&P 500 were down at least 1.7%.

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