Stocks fell on Wall Street on Thursday as more grim news piled up, revealing the grave economic damage being caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The S&P 500 index lost 0.9 percent, but still wound up 12.7 percent higher in April, its biggest monthly gain since 1987.

The monthlong rally came as the Federal Reserve and Congress announced aggressive measures to help the economy weather the fallout from the widespread business shutdowns and stay-at-home guidelines put in place to fight the pandemic.

Another 3.8 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week, and the European economy contracted by a record 3.8 percent in the first three months of the year.

The dour figures helped drive most U.S. stocks to losses. Treasury yields also sank, while European stocks fell more sharply, slamming the brakes on a strong rally that had circled the world a day earlier.

“This is the saddest day for the global economy we have ever seen” in the 50 years that economists at High Frequency Economics have been following economic data, they wrote in a report. “The statistical offices of the economies we watch pumped out 19 economic reports overnight. They revealed historic declines of activity and surging unemployment on a scale we have never seen before. We are sad.”


Even with Thursday’s losses, the S&P 500 still closed out its best months in decades. Stocks have surged since late March on the promise of massive amounts of aid from the Federal Reserve and Congress. More recently, some U.S. states and nations around the world have laid out plans to relax restrictions that were meant to slow the spread of the virus but also suffocated businesses and jobs.

Because of that, some investors have essentially written off a horrific few months of corporate profits and economic data, and they’re focusing instead on the prospect of growth returning later this year.

Some big tech titans reported results for the first quarter that weren’t as bad as investors had braced for, which helped limit the market’s losses. Facebook rose 5.3 percent after it reported trends in advertising revenue stabilized in April following a steep drop-off in March. Microsoft inched up 0.4 percent after reporting better-than-expected results for the first quarter. Those are two of the biggest stocks in the S&P 500, which give their movements outsized heft on the index.

Besides the jobless figures in the United States, which brought the total to 30 million in just six weeks, data released Thursday showed that consumer spending plunged a record 7.5 percent in March from the prior month. That’s crucial because consumer spending makes up 70 percent of the entire economy.

Among European countries that use the euro currency, the economy shrank by 3.8 percent in the first three months of the year from the quarter before. That’s the biggest contraction since records began in 1995.

The European Central Bank is promising to support the economy through the pain, and on Thursday it lowered the interest rate on long-term loans it provides to banks. It also offered a raft of new credit lines to banks at a quarter percentage point below its main interest benchmark, which is zero.


European stocks dropped. The French CAC 40 fell 2.1 percent, and the German DAX lost 2.2 percent. In London, the FTSE 100 dropped 3.5 percent.

Many professional investors have been skeptical of the stock market’s big rally over the last month. Even though some encouraging numbers have come out about the outbreak, it’s still uncertain how long this recession will last and whether new waves of infections could hit.

Other areas of the market, from bonds to commodities, have been showing more pessimism.

AP Business Writer Yuri Kageyama contributed.

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