Volatility gripped financial markets, spurring a stock sell-off amid concern that a surge in global coronavirus cases could crimp the nascent economic recovery. Traders were also jittery ahead of Tuesday's runoff elections in Georgia, which could determine whether Democrats have control of Congress to push President-elect Joe Biden's agenda.
All major U.S. equity benchmarks slumped more than 2% earlier Monday, and the S&P 500 was still on track for its biggest slide in almost 10 weeks. Apple and Amazon.com sank at least 2.4%, Boeing weighed on the Dow Jones Industrial Average after an analyst downgrade, while Tesla climbed after coming close to meeting its vehicle-deliveries goal. The Cboe Volatility index was poised for its biggest surge since September. The dollar was little changed after earlier falling toward its lowest level in almost three years.
Global coronavirus infections climbed above 85 million, fueling concern over more stringent restrictions. Daily cases in the U.S. soared to a record of nearly 300,000 following the New Year holiday, and an easier-to-spread variant detected for the first time last week could intensify the surge. Meanwhile, the non-stop political drama of 2020 is bleeding into the first week of 2021 — with a pivotal election in Georgia, promises of protests in the streets and President Donald Trump's dragged-out fight over the November vote threatening to tear apart the Republican Party.