Stocks Sink, Yields Tumble As Virus Fears Rise

SMS
A trader works in his booth on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange
The S&P 500 was 1.9% lower in morning trading, after setting a record high just a week earlier.

Stocks are falling sharply Monday as worries sweep from Wall Street to Sydney that the worsening pandemic in hotspots around the world will derail what's been a strong economic recovery.

The S&P 500 was 1.9% lower in morning trading, after setting a record high just a week earlier. In another sign of worry, the yield on the 10-year Treasury dropped close to its lowest level in five months. It sank below 1.20% as investors scrambled for safer places to put their money.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 769 points, or 2.2%, at 33,918, as of 10:17 a.m. Eastern time. The Nasdaq composite was 1.7% lower.

Airlines, hotels and stocks of other companies that would get hurt the most by potential COVID-19 restrictions were taking some of the heaviest losses, similar to the early days of the pandemic in February and March 2020. Mall owner Simon Property Group tumbled 7.8%, and cruise operator Carnival lost 7.5%.

The drop also circled the world, with several European markets down nearly 3%, on worries new, more infectious variants of the virus are dragging particularly hard on economies where vaccination rates are low. The price of benchmark U.S. crude, meanwhile, sank more than 5% after OPEC and allied nations agreed on Sunday to eventually allow for higher oil production this year.

Experts are saying Indonesia has become a new epicenter for the pandemic as outbreaks worsen across Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, some athletes have tested positive for COVID at Tokyo’s Olympic Village, with the Games due to open Friday.

“The more transmissible delta variant is delaying the recovery for the ASEAN economies and pushing them further into the doldrums,” said Venkateswaran Lavanya, at Mizuho Bank in Singapore.

Even though vaccination rates are higher in the United States and some other developed economies, the tightly connected global economy means hits anywhere can quickly affect others on the other side of the world.

In Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, the vaccine rollout came later than in other developed nations and has stagnated lately. Japan is totally dependent so far on imported vaccines, and just one in five Japanese have been fully vaccinated.

Financial markets have been showing signs of increased concerns for a while, but the U.S. stock market had remained largely resilient. The S&P 500 has had just two down weeks in the last eight.

The bond market has been louder in its warnings, though. The yield on the 10-year Treasury tends to move with expectations for economic growth and for inflation, and it has been sinking from a perch of roughly 1.75% in March. It was at 1.19% Monday morning, down from 1.29% late Friday.

Analysts and professional investors say a long list of reasons is potentially behind the sharp moves in the bond market, which is seen as more rational and sober than the stock market. But at the heart is the risk the economy may be set to slow sharply from its current, extremely high growth.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.