US stocks post worst ever Christmas Eve drop, sending S&P 500 to its biggest annual fall since 2008

Published 24.12.2018 18:44
Updated 24.12.2018 21:29
A picture of President Donald Trump is displayed on a computer on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York, Monday, Dec. 24, 2018. (AP Photo)
A picture of President Donald Trump is displayed on a computer on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York, Monday, Dec. 24, 2018. (AP Photo)

Wall Street stocks plunged for a fourth straight session Monday amid rising doubts over the US economy after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin's efforts to reassure investors fell flat.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slumped more than 650 points, or 2.9 percent, to 21,792.20.

The broad-based S&P 500 fell 2.7 percent to 2,351.11, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index slid 2.2 percent to 6,192.92.

Alarmed traders are now sending the S&P 500 to its largest annual drop since 2008 as Mnuchin's efforts to reassure them seemed to have backfired.

CNBC reported the losses were the worst ever for Wall Street on Christmas Eve, a holiday shortened session ahead of Tuesday's holiday, when markets will be closed.

The Wall Street dive was helped by U.S. President Donald Trump's tweet criticizing Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.

"The only problem our economy has is the Fed. They don't have a feel for the Market, they don't understand necessary Trade Wars or Strong Dollars or even Democrat Shutdowns over Borders. The Fed is like a powerful golfer who can't score because he has no touch - he can't putt!" Trump tweeted.

The major indexes are down 16 to 26 percent from their autumn highs. Barring huge gains during the upcoming holiday period, this will be the worst December for stocks since 1931.

In Christmas holiday-thinned half-day trading in Europe, France's CAC 40 fell 1.5 percent, while the FTSE 100 index of leading British shares slid 0.5 percent. Germany's DAX was closed.

Investors have grown jittery in recent weeks amid concern that U.S. economic growth will slow and hurt corporate profits. Stoking those concerns are rising interest rates, the U.S.-China trade dispute and signs that economies in Europe and China are slowing.

Coming off a turbulent week of trading on Wall Street, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Sunday disclosed calls with the heads of Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo. Mnuchin said the CEOs all assured him they have ample money to finance their normal operations, even though there haven't been any serious liquidity concerns rattling the market. But the calls added to the underlying worries that have gripped markets of late.

Bank stocks were among then biggest decliners Monday. Citigroup slid 2.6 percent to $48.97.

Technology and health care stocks accounted for much of the selling. Microsoft fell 3.1 percent to $95.18. Cigna lost 2.5 percent to $176.80.

Oil prices, which have sunk on concerns about the state of the global economy and also oversupply in the market, continued to slide. Benchmark U.S. crude was down 4.5 percent to $43.53 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, declined 4.4 percent to $51.43 a barrel in London.

The decline in oil prices weighed on energy stocks. Hess slumped 6.9 percent to $38.61.

Bond prices rose. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.76 percent from 2.79 percent late Friday.

The dollar fell to 110.39 yen from 111.31 yen on Friday. The euro strengthened to $1.1429 from $1.1370.

Major indexes in Asia finished mixed. South Korea's Kospi dropped 0.3 percent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 0.4 percent on a short trading day. Australia's S&P ASX 200 added 0.5 percent. Markets in Japan and Indonesia, which is reeling from a weekend tsunami that has killed at least 373 people, were closed.

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