March Was Wall Street’s Worst Month Since 2008: Live Updates

March was a month of head-snapping turns in financial markets: The S&P 500 suffered its worst one-day drop since 1987 before later recording its best three-day run since 1933, oil prices crashed, interest rates plunged and Wall Street’s more esoteric markets seized up.

The roller coaster came as investors found themselves overwhelmed by a shutdown of the world economy. Early in the month, the record-breaking, 11-year bull market ended, and trading was halted more than once to prevent a crash.

An enormous fiscal and policy response at the end of the month helped undo some of the worst of the damage. The S&P 500 recouped more than half of its losses in the final week of the month after lawmakers passed a $2 trillion spending package and the Federal Reserve said it would buy an unlimited amount of government-backed debt to keep markets functioning.

But even as stocks rebounded well off their lowest point, March was the worst month for the S&P 500 since October 2008, when investors feared a collapse of the economy in the wake of the global financial crisis. The S&P 500 fell 12.5 percent this month. The index is down 20 percent so far this year.

On Tuesday, stocks fell 1.6 percent.

Calmer markets do not mean the worst is over. As consumers stay home and factories shut down, millions of workers have lost their jobs. Economic data showing the scale of the damage has only just begun to roll in, and Wall Street analysts continue to downgrade expectations for the economy.

Goldman Sachs, for example, now expects U.S. economic output to plunge at an annualized rate of 34 percent in the second quarter. The unemployment rate will hit 15 percent, the bank said in a research note on Tuesday.

But the worst of the recent swings in asset prices seem to have ended, and investors are trying to find a footing.

“We appear to be seeing improved sentiment,” Yousef Abbasi, global market strategist at INTL FCStone, a financial services and brokerage firm, wrote in a note to clients on Tuesday. “When sentiment does start to improve around the virus and its ultimate economic impact — the market will find it difficult to ignore the size and scope of the fiscal and monetary stimulus that has been undertaken.”

With the coronavirus pandemic all but eliminating travel, demand for energy is tumbling, and oil companies from Algeria to West Texas are slashing budgets. Refineries are cutting production of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, and oil companies are dropping rigs, dismissing fracking crews and beginning to shutter wells.

As much as 20 percent, or 20 million barrels a day, of oil demand may be lost as the global economy slows, according to the International Energy Agency. That is roughly equivalent to eliminating all U.S. consumption. To make matters worse, Saudi Arabia and Russia are increasing oil production to regain market share from American oil companies that increased production and exports in recent years.

The Trump administration has been trying to convince Saudi Arabia and Russia that they should cut production to help stabilize the oil market; President Trump and President Vladimir Putin of Russia discussed energy markets in a call on Monday. But the energy demand destroyed by the virus now overshadows anything that Saudi Arabia or Russia could do to reduce exports.

Global oil benchmark prices hover around $20 a barrel — levels not seen in a generation — and regional prices in West Texas and North Dakota have fallen even further, to around $10 a barrel. That is about a quarter of the price that shale operators typically need to cover the costs of pulling oil out of the ground. If these prices persist, a big wave of bankruptcies is inevitable by the end of the year, experts say.

The economic recovery package that was signed by President Trump last week created a new inspector general to monitor how a $500 billion pot of relief money is being allocated. The law specified that the inspector general, who will be selected by Mr. Trump and placed in the Treasury Department, must alert Congress if requests for information are blocked.

Mr. Trump, however, suggested in a signing statement on Friday that he had the power to decide what information the inspector general could share with Congress.

In a letter, Senators Chuck Schumer of New York, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Ron Wyden of Oregon urged Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin not to allow the president to restrict the inspector general. Mr. Schumer is the minority leader and Mr. Brown and Mr. Wyden are the top Democrats on the Senate’s banking and finance committees.

The senators went on to remind Mr. Mnuchin that he personally negotiated with lawmakers the terms of the legislation that created the inspector general’s role and that lawmakers agreed to the $500 billion fund on the condition that there would be sufficient oversight.

The Treasury Department detailed a new loan program on Tuesday that is intended to help small businesses hit by the coronavirus pandemic apply — and receive approval — for loans in one day.

The program, which received $349 billion in funds through the economic relief package signed into law last week, is being run through the Small Business Administration with oversight from the Treasury. It is intended to help millions of businesses keep their workers on the payroll and cover some additional expenses as much of the economy is shuttered.

From Friday, business owners will be able to seek the loans at participating lenders, banks and credit unions. The loans will be forgiven if the employers do not lay off their workers. There are also no collateral requirements or S.B.A. fees associated with these loans, and any repayments can be deferred for up to six months.

To try and ensure lenders don’t just seek out bigger loans, the program will pay higher fees to banks that make smaller loans. Lenders will be paid a 5 percent fee for loans $350,000 and under. Loans greater than $350,000 to $2 million will qualify for a 3 percent fee, and those for more than $2 million will generate a 1 percent fee.

The maximum loan amount is $10 million. The loans are available to businesses with fewer than 500 employees.

“Speed is the operative word; applications for the emergency capital can begin as early as this week, with lenders using their own systems and processes to make these loans,” said Jovita Carranza, the S.B.A. administrator.

YouTube on Tuesday followed other social media companies in removing two videos shared by President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil for spreading coronavirus misinformation.

“Since early February, we have manually reviewed and removed thousands of videos related to dangerous or misleading coronavirus information,” said Farshad Shadloo, a YouTube spokesman. “It remains our top priority to provide information to users in a responsible way.”

The company declined to identify the two videos removed.

This week, Facebook and Twitter took down videos posted by Mr. Bolsonaro in which he called the anti-malaria prescription drug hydroxychloroquine a “cure everywhere” and encouraged the end of social distancing in Brazil. President Trump has also touted the drug in social media posts, saying it showed “tremendous promise,” but the tech companies said this did not violate their policies because there was not a clear call to action that would cause the public harm.

Reporting was contributed by Natalie Kitroeff, Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Michael M. Grynbaum, Clifford Krauss, Carlos Tejada, Ben Casselman, Alan Rappeport, Michael Corkery, John Koblin, Elizabeth Paton, Niraj Chokshi, Raymond Zhong, Peter Eavis, Davey Alba, Sheera Frenkel, Kevin McKenna, Mohammed Hadi, Geneva Abdul, Jonah Bromwich, Kate Conger, Ernesto Londono and Daniel Victor.

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