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Stocks Tank as Oil Price War, Coronavirus Fears Spread

The Dow Jones Industrial Average had its largest single-day point loss on Monday, dropping more than 2,000 points as investor concern over a potential crude oil price war and the global impact of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic gained momentum, with some cable stocks falling by double-digit percentages.

The Dow fell more than 7% at the open on Monday -- prompting a 15-minute halt to trading -- after Saudi Arabia announced a $6 to $8 per barrel discount for crude oil to customers in Asia, Europe and the U.S. That price reduction triggered fears of an all-out price war and sent investors out of stocks and toward the less risky bond market. At one point, the Dow was down more than 2,100 points to 23,706.07, and see-sawed throughout the day, closing at 23,851.02, down 2,013.76 points, or about 7.8%. Other indexes had a rough day as well, with the S&P 500 losing 7.6% and the NASDAQ Index off by 7.3%.

The Dow neared bear market territory Monday, ironically on the 11-year anniversary of the longest bull market in history.  

The Coronavirus also continued to fuel fears, with the number of cases worldwide rising to 111,000 and the death toll at more than 3,800. In the U.S., at last count the virus has infected about 564 people across the country and killed 22.

This is the third major drop in the index in the past month. The index fell 11% between Feb. 14 and Feb. 28, rebounding to a record single day gain on March 2. But as news of more cases and deaths from the coronavirus continued, the Dow fell into a tailspin. Since Feb. 13, the index has lost about 18% of its value.

Cable stocks were battered along with the rest of the market, with Dish Network taking the biggest hit among distributors, falling 14.7% ($4.28 each) to $24.93 per share, followed by Altice USA, down 12.3% ($3.18 each) to $22.65 per share. The rest of the distribution sector had a rough day, with Cable One down 7.7%; Charter Communications down 6.8%; AT&T down 6.3%; and Comcast down 6.2%. If there was a bright spot in the sector, it was Verizon, which managed to fall only 1.8% ($1.04 each) to close at $55.83 per share on Monday.

Programmers also took it on the chin, with Viacom declining 11.1% to $19.17 each, followed by Disney (down 9.5%), Discovery (down 7%), AMC Networks (down 4.8%.) and Fox (down 4.7%).