Market Extra: Dow and S&P 500 at risk of worst start to a quarter in history as investors brace for ‘very, very painful’ weeks of coronavirus

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The stock market is on track to start the second quarter nearly the same way it ended March, with bruising losses.

A resumption of declines to start the first trading day in April, or the second quarter, for already-battered equity gauges, could result in the worst start to a quarter for stock-market bulls in decades.

For the broad-market S&P 500 index, a decline of at least 3.69% would represent the index’s worst first day of any quarter on record, according to Dow Jones Market Data. The index was created in 1957, to put things into perspective.

Rank/Worst S&P 500 % change Date
1 -3.69 Jan. 2, 1932
2 -3.01 Oct. 1, 1998
3 -2,97 Oct. 1, 1934
4 -2.85% Oct. 3, 2011
5 -2.80 Jan. 2, 2001
Source: Dow Jones Market Data

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, meanwhile, was on pace for its worst start to the first three months in a calendar year in its 124-year history if it manages to exceed a 4.32% decline put in to start the third quarter of 1896.

Rank/Worst DJIA % change Dates
1 -4.32 July 1, 1896
2 -4.21 Jan. 2, 1932
3 -3.52 Jan. 2, 1904
4 -2.82 April 1, 1898
5 -2.74 April 1, 1929
Source: Dow Jones Market Data

At last check, the Dow DJIA, -4.44%  on Wednesday was trading 1,008 points, or 4.6%, lower to 20,904, the S&P 500 SPX, -4.41%  was sliding 125 points, or 4.8%, to 2,460, while The Nasdaq Composite COMP, -4.41%   headed 362 points, or 4.7%, lower to 7,338.

Stocks ended lower on Tuesday, capping a quarter that saw stocks tumble from February records into a bear market at record speed.

The first quarter marked the worst quarterly loss for the Dow since the fourth quarter of 1987, and the three-month skid also represented the steepest first-quarter drop, from January through the end of March, in the index’s history, according to Dow Jones Market Data.

Read: Here’s how the stock market tends to perform after brutal quarters

Wednesday’s action comes as U.S. investors are coming to grips with the prospect of a long haul for the economy and the markets amid a pandemic that has been contracted by more than 800,000 people world-wide. On Tuesday, President Donald Trump warned that a “very, very painful” two weeks lie ahead for the country in face of a rapidly spreading COVID-19 epidemic, which originated in December in Wuhan, China and has brought much of the world to a screeching halt to slow the spread of the deadly pathogen.

See: Dow faces crucial April test as coronavirus pandemic brings ‘blizzard of bad news’

Michael Destefano contributed to this article

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