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Dow plummets 10%, the biggest one-day drop since 1987’s Black Monday

March 12, 2020, 8:17 PM UTC

It’s a bear market out there.

Both the Dow and the S&P 500 accelerated losses on Thursday, closing down roughly 10% and 9% respectively. The S&P 500 joined the Dow in bear market territory, after the latter finally broke the 11-year bull run on Wednesday. For the Dow, it was the biggest one-day drop since March 1987.

To Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial, “It is a market … that is screaming out for help.”

Markets anxiously awaited news of new fiscal stimulus to be announced during President Trump’s speech on coronavirus on Wednesday night, but were disappointed with a lack of detail—sending futures (and, the next day, stocks) plunging. “The market wanted—it needed—more specifics,” says Krosby.

Although President Trump has hinted at wanting to implement a 0% payroll tax to help soothe worries, no sweeping fiscal measures have been announced as of Thursday. And despite an announcement from the Fed midday on Thursday that it would increase its overnight funding operations to over $500 billion, markets were only briefly optimistic.

In fact, until markets have evidence of “more viable, targeted help” in the form of both fiscal and monetary policy, Krosby contends, we’re going to continue to see sell-offs.

That sell-off could easily extend to 30%, says Mark Hamrick, Bankrate.com’s senior economic analyst. He still isn’t suggesting a recession is likely, but notes that “we still haven’t seen every aspect of this Pandora’s Box unloaded.”

In Europe, markets nearly hit record sell-offs, as the FTSE 100 dropped nearly 10.9%, its second-largest decline, behind October 20, 1987. The STOXX 50 plunged a record 11.5% on Thursday, and the STOXX 600 followed suit with a record 11%.

Many companies have been quick to announce how coronavirus might impact earnings, but the bigger question on analysts’ minds are if we are going to start seeing layoffs.

Norwegian Air announced Thursday that on top of suspending over 4,000 flights, the company will lay off employees—up to 50% of its workforce temporarily—the airline said in a statement.

Another central worry is if and when the economic fallout hits the consumer.

“Consumers sitting at home and not out spending money because they fear catching the coronavirus is the ultimate negative outcome,” writes Scott Wren, senior global market strategist at Wells Fargo Investment Institute. And as the support-system of the economy currently, the consumer problem is a big one.

That could trickle into the housing market too, Krosby suggests, as fear over having a job or not may make some would-be homeowners rethink buying now.

As things stand, GDP is expected to decline by 4% annualized in the 2nd quarter, writes Andrew Hunter, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics. To wit, per a Fortune Analytics poll Thursday, 75% of Americans are worried coronavirus will hurt the economy.

“It is positive that we came in, in essence, with our economic immune system strong, and that’s what’s holding us right now,” Prudential’s Krosby suggests.

On the bear market front, there have only been two bear markets without a recession, in 1962 and 1987, and in both cases, the drop was dramatic but short, Brad McMillan, chief investment officer at Commonwealth Financial Network, wrote in a note. A “reason for cautious optimism is that, so far, the fear we see in the markets has not translated to the economy itself,” highlighting good hiring and confidence numbers last month, McMillan notes.

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