Stocks are in free-fall mode once again on Tuesday, after the Federal Reserve announced an emergency 50 basis point rate cut to stave off coronavirus panic.
Last week stocks entered correction territory, down more than 10% from all-time highs. The S&P 500 was up almost 300 points off its Friday lows, before giving back more than half of those gains in a matter of hours, as markets are plummeting after the Federal Reserve rate cut.
The rate cut arrived two weeks before the Fed’s scheduled meeting as the central bank felt it was crucial to act quickly to combat the effect of the virus spreading worldwide. It’s the first such emergency action coming in between scheduled meetings since the financial crisis.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average tanked 860 points lower, or 3.3%, after climbing more than 300 points earlier in the day. The 30-stock average oscillated between sharp gains and solid losses after the decision was announced, before tumbling along with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite, which were both down more than 3.2% as of 2:15 pm EST.
Although it was widely anticipated by traders, this was the first such rate cut since December 2008, during the financial crisis. As fear grips the markets, and volatility is at an extreme for some time, investors and President Trump have been asking for lower rates to stay competitive with policy at other global central banks.
The Federal noted that it was keeping a watchful eye on markets, ready to take action if necessary.
“The coronavirus poses evolving risks to economic activity,” the Fed said in a statement. “In light of these risks and in support of achieving its maximum employment and price stability goals, the Federal Open Market Committee decided today to lower the target range for the federal funds rate.”
Since the move was widely expected however, with the CME FedWatch Tool showing a 100% reading in terms of rate cut probabilities come Mar. 18, perhaps investors and traders were looking for more from the Fed.
“Financial conditions only ease if market participants are confident enough to take risk,” said Peter Boockvar, chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group. “This type of panicky move, when the Fed has only 4 more rates to cut, I believe does the exact opposite.”
“The magnitude and persistence of the overall effect on the U.S. economy remain highly uncertain and the situation remains a fluid one,” Chairman Powell told reporters. “Against this background, the committee judged that the risks to the U.S. outlook have changed materially. In response, we have eased the stance of monetary policy to provide some more support to the economy.”