Stocks fell sharply on Tuesday in the biggest decline since the October rout as investors worried about a bond-market phenomenon signaling a possible economic slowdown. Lingering worries around U.S.-China trade also added to jitters on Wall Street.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 799.36 points, or 3.1 percent, to close at 25,027.07 and posted its worst day since Oct. 10. At its low of the day, the Dow had fallen more than 800 points.
The S&P 500 declined 3.2 percent to close at 2,700.06. The benchmark fell below its 200-day moving average, which triggered more selling from algorithmic funds. Financials were the worst performers in the S&P 500, plunging 4.4 percent. Utilities was the only positive sector in the S&P 500, rising 0.16 percent.
The Nasdaq Composite dropped 3.8 percent to close back in correction territory at 7,158.43. The Russell 2000, which tracks small-cap stocks, dropped 4.4 percent to 1,480.75, marking its worst day since 2011. Trading volume in U.S. stocks was also higher than usual on Wall Street.
The yield on the three-year Treasury note surpassed its five-year counterpart on Monday. When a so-called yield curve inversion happens — short-term yields trading above longer-term rates — a recession could follow, though it is often years away after the signal triggers. Still, many traders believe the inversion won’t be official until the 2-year yield rises above the 10-year yield, which has not happened yet.
Stocks began falling to their lows of the day after Jeffrey Gundlach, CEO of Doubleline Capital, told Reuters this inversion signals that the economy “is poised to weaken.”
The flattening yield curve caused investors to bail on bank stocks on concern the phenomenon may hurt their lending margins. The SPDR S&P Bank ETF (KBE) dropped 5.3 percent. Shares of J.P. Morgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America all declined more than 4 percent. Citigroup and Morgan Stanley both reached 52-week lows along with Regionals Financial, Citizens Financial and Capital One.
The SPDR Regional Banking ETF dropped 5.5 percent and closed 20 percent below its 52-week high. It also notched its worst day since June 2016.
“No good deed goes unpunished,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at B. Riley FBR. “As we get headwinds from trade worries fading, you get an inverted yield curve and another brick added to the market’s wall of worry.”
Trading volume rose on Tuesday. More than 159 million shares of the SPDR S&P 500 ETF trust (SPY) exchanged hands. The SPY’s 30-day volume average is 110.5 million. These moves come as the U.S. stock market will be closed on Wednesday out of respect for former President George H.W. Bush’s funeral.
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