Wall Street just had one of its worst quarters in history

Wall Street just ended one of the worst quarters in stock market history, with all three major averages reflecting the devastating economic impact of the pandemic that has ground global activity almost to a halt.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down by just over 400 points by the closing bell on Tuesday, a quarterly loss of 22 percent for the blue-chip index and its worst Q1 performance ever.

The S&P 500 ended the day lower by around 1.85 percent, its worst first quarter since 1938, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq closed down by just under 1 percent.

The quarterly losses come despite a series of emergency actions from the Federal Reserve to bolster the economy and backstop credit flow for businesses and individuals, and a $2 trillion fiscal stimulus package meant to prop up small businesses and support big corporations in the fight against the large-scale damage inflicted by the coronavirus outbreak.

Investor sentiment was further dampened Tuesday by newly released consumer confidence data that reflected the nosedive in spending, but economists said the worst was yet to come.

“The consumer confidence survey was just before we got the really massive layoffs,” said Dan North, chief economist for North America at Euler Hermes. “Next month, it’s going to plummet.”

Traders remain nervous about additional incoming economic data, including this week’s jobless claims, after last week’s ADP payrolls report showed a staggering gains total that surpassed 3 million, the highest on record. Friday’s monthly jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is also expected to disappoint, though that data was collected prior to the heaviest impact from the viral outbreak.

Adding to investor woes is the collapse in oil prices brought on by the biggest plunge in demand in history, with flights slashed and lockdowns implemented in the majority of states. A price war between mega-producers Saudi Arabia and Russia pushed the price of a barrel of crude down to a level not seen since the Gulf War, in 1991. Oil was trading at just under $20 on Tuesday, closing out the quarter with its worst percentage decline in history, as crude inventory piles up.

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