The crash in oil prices continues to ruin your portfolio.
U.S. stocks took another punch to the gut on Thursday as investors freak out over oil diving back below $27 a barrel.
With an hour remaining in the day, the Dow was down about 265 points after having plunged as many as 412 points earlier. The S&P 500 lost 1.3% after dropping 2% to new two-year lows.
The Nasdaq is faring better, down only 0.4%. But the tech-heavy index is still flirting with its first bear market since the Great Recession.
The latest market mayhem reflects how anxious investors remain over the slowdown in global growth and the health of large European banks.
“There’s a broad-based lack of confidence,” said Anthony Valeri, investment strategist at LPL Financial. “Everything suggests this market is heading lower in the short term. Psychology is too frail.”
But the main focus is oil, which plummeted 6% to as low as $26.05 a barrel on Thursday. That’s the lowest level since May 2003, crashing through the depths from last month.
Cheap oil is great for consumers — but it’s fueling lots of turmoil on Wall Street. Investors fear it’s a bad omen, signaling something wrong with the underlying economy. Yet many believe the oil crash has been driven by an epic supply glut, not an alarming decline in demand.
The oil collapse is also causing trouble for energy companies, with dozens filing for bankruptcy over the past year and many others slashing jobs and suffering from steep declines in profits.
“People are losing jobs in the oil patch. Will it create a domino effect to other parts of the economy? That’s the fear,” said Valeri.
Bank jitters grow
Fears are also on the rise about how much of a hit big banks that loaned money to energy companies will take from the spike in defaults.
That’s one reason why European banks have been plunging in recent weeks. Shares of Societe Generale, one of France’s largest banks, tumbled 13% on Thursday after reporting poor results. Other big banks like Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank also fell sharply.
“European banks are suffering from a crisis of confidence,” Michael Block, chief strategist at Rhino Trading Partners, wrote in a client note. “SocGen did little to alleviate concerns.”
U.S. banks are also getting crushed again, led by a 6% drops for Bank of America and Citigroup. The S&P 500’s financial sector is the worst performing group this year, down 17%.
But Boeing is having an even worse day. Boeing shares plunged 7% after Bloomberg News revealed the company faces a 747 accounting investigation from the SEC.
Gold spikes above $1,200
No matter the cause, signs of fear abound in financial markets.
Gold, which tends to rise when people are scared, surged 4.4% to a one-year high of $1,247.80 an ounce. It was the biggest buying binge for gold since 2013.
Investors are also fleeing to the safety of bonds backed by the U.S. government. The 10-year Treasury yield plummeted to 1.53% on Thursday, its lowest level since August 2012. The 10-year yield has since rebounded to 1.62%.
The Nasdaq is getting closer and closer to a bear market, which signals a 20% decline from a previous high. If the tech-heavy index sinks below 4,185.55, it’ll be in bear-market territory, based on its all-time high from last summer.