NEW YORK, March 31 (Xinhua) -- A coronavirus-propelled free fall battered Wall Street during the first three months with the major indexes enduring their worst quarterly performances in years and the Dow booking its worst first-quarter drop ever.
The Dow has shed 23.2 percent for the year to date, its worst first-quarter performance on record and its worst quarterly loss since 1987.
The S&P 500 has declined about 20 percent over the period, marking the sharpest quarterly decline since the 2008 financial crisis for the broad-market index.
The tech-heavy Nasdaq has lost more than 14 percent for the quarter, which represents the worst quarterly decline since the last three months of 2018 for the benchmark, according to Dow Jones Market Data.
The equities market also saw steep losses for the month as panic selling on Wall Street accelerated with the rapid spread of COVID-19. In March, the 30-stock index and S&P 500 pulled back 13.7 percent and 12.5 percent, respectively, their worst one-month declines since 2008. The Nasdaq dropped more than 10 percent during the period.
Since the founding of the circuit breaker system in 1988, circuit breakers have been triggered five times in the U.S. stock market, with four trading halts occurring consecutively this March.
Investors feared possible economic recession, driven by the deepening coronavirus crisis, despite efforts by governments and central banks to mitigate the fallout.
The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States, the country with the most cases worldwide, topped 180,000 Tuesday afternoon, according to data from Johns Hopkins University's Center for Systems Science and Engineering.
U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday extended the national social distancing guidelines to April 30 amid warnings that the death toll from COVID-19 in the country might exceed 100,000.
The president on Friday signed a 2-trillion-U.S.-dollar stimulus bill, the largest stimulus package in U.S. history, in an attempt to rescue the economy devastated by COVID-19.
The economic aid came after claims for unemployment jumped to record highs in the country.
U.S. initial jobless claims, a rough way to measure layoffs, were registered at 3,283,000 in the week ending March 21, an increase of 3,001,000 from the previous week's revised level, the Department of Labor reported Thursday. The reading easily crushed the previous record rise of 695,000 in October 1982.
Analysts at Goldman Sachs on Tuesday predicted the U.S. economy will shrink at a 34 percent annualized rate in the second quarter as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, triggering mass unemployment. At the same time, the team upgraded expectations for the recovery after midyear.
Last week, the Federal Reserve announced that it will purchase U.S. treasuries and agency mortgage-backed securities with no limit to help markets function more efficiently amid coronavirus uncertainty.
"Market developments will be determined by the answers to two key questions, including how quickly economic activity can normalize and how much policy responses can limit corporate bankruptcies and job losses," said analysts at UBS.