Five hundred points in 45 minutes: Dow close runs street ragged

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Traders work during the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Feb. 24, 2020 at Wall Street in New York City. Markets have been plummeting over coronavirus fears.

Traders work during the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Feb. 24, 2020 at Wall Street in New York City. Markets have been plummeting over coronavirus fears. (Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images/TNS)

NEW YORK – A week that has served up more harrowing moments for traders than sometimes happen in a whole year turned terrifying into Thursday’s close. Stock indexes lurched to the biggest one-day loss in almost nine years as coronavirus anxiety started feeling like panic.

Forget the complacency of January: the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged 500 points in 45 minutes and the Cboe Volatility Index closed at its highest point since 2015. Here’s what traders said it was like at their firms.

Paul Nolte, a portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago:

How was my day today? We need a second bottle of wine. People are freaking out as if the bottom is falling out of stock market. That’s an overreaction. The last 40 minutes were nerve-wrecking, I kept staring at my screen in disbelief. I didn’t do anything. The economy will slow because of the virus, but the virus isn’t going to last forever. I had calls with people and they said, ‘This looks exactly like 2008. Get me out.’ It’s hard to find the right words to calm them down.

Joseph Saluzzi, Themis Trading LLC partner and co-head of equity trading:

We were trading for clients. We were executing. I was buying and selling. The sellers were very, very aggressive there. It was brutal. The bids were non-existent. I haven’t seen a close like that if ever – almost 30 points in the S&P in the last 15 minutes. Tomorrow, I think we see more of the same.

Larry Weiss, head of equity trading at Instinet LLC in New York:

We appeared to be leveling off midday, but the headline that California was monitoring 8,400 people for signs of exposure was startling. It really offset hopes that declining new diagnoses out of China, and possible Fed action to offset economic decline would alleviate market pressure.

Michael Antonelli, market strategist at Baird:

That’s almost the exact opposite of what you’d want to see if you expected a bounce anytime soon. That’s as ugly of a close as I’ve seen in years. Four-percent down days have only occurred 0.6% of all trading days in the stock market since 1928. That’s indiscriminate selling across the board.

Scott Bauer, chief executive officer at Prosper Trading Academy in Chicago:

I was trading at my desk, watching the headlines, watching the news and refreshing every news service out there to see what the next headline is. The straw that broke the camel’s back is the headline about the 8,400 people in California. That really is what set everything in motion again. Do I think that we’re going to recover 10% in the next two days let alone the next two weeks? I don’t.

Jeff Mills, chief investment officer at Bryn Mawr Trust:

It was pretty nasty. What we’re dealing with right now is just general uncertainty. When something like that happens, people are surprised to see the market move down that quickly. There was shock and staring at the screen. The swiftness of the move is not normal and unprecedented. Anyone would be surprised and they would be lying if they said they weren’t.

Kim Forrest, chief investment officer at Bokeh Capital Partners:

It just feels very 2008, 2009. But I don’t feel quite as hopeless as I did before. Because that we really didn’t know what was going on. And this we do. This is a human interruption due to human beings not being able to go to work. This isn’t like what is happening in the dark part of finance that we have no idea.

(With assistance from Elena Popina and Vildana Hajric.)

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