WASHINGTON - Stock markets plummeted across the world Monday, plunging on dual concerns over oil prices and the economic effects of the coronavirus that has spread to more than 100 countries.
Key exchanges in New York fell more than 7% Monday, following a 5% drop in some Asian markets, while European markets closed down about 8%.
The widely watched Dow Jones Industrial Average of 30 key U.S. stocks closed down more than 2,000 points Monday for a loss of 7.9% while the S&P 500 fell 7.6%.
The steep decline at the New York Stock Exchange triggered an automatic 15-minute halt in trading to temporarily limit losses to 7%, a provision last employed in December 2008 in the depths of the recession.
Investors were spooked by plunging oil prices, with Brent crude, the world benchmark, falling more than 24% to $34.36 a barrel, on top of the coronavirus fears sweeping the globe. U.S. oil prices for West Texas Intermediate, a Texas light sweet crude, dropped nearly 25% to $31.13 a barrel.
The world oil prices fell on fears that Saudi Arabia, launching a price war with one-time ally Russia, would flood the world market with oil in a bid to regain market share.
The plunge in oil prices was the worst since the Gulf War in 1991. Strategists at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. warned oil prices could fall into the $20s.
Volatility has consumed markets around the world amid the coronavirus outbreak that has infected more than 108,000 people and killed more than 3,800 people. At least 10 billion shares have traded on U.S. exchanges each day for two weeks.
U.S. stocks are now down 19% from a peak they reached last month.
U.S. President Donald Trump offered his rosy assessment of the stock market plunge and dropping oil prices, saying on Twitter, "Good for the consumer, gasoline prices coming down!"
Good for the consumer, gasoline prices coming down!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 9, 2020
More broadly, he laid the blame for falling stock prices: "Saudi Arabia and Russia are arguing over the price and flow of oil. That, and the Fake News, is the reason for the market drop!"
Saudi Arabia and Russia are arguing over the price and flow of oil. That, and the Fake News, is the reason for the market drop!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 9, 2020