Stocks Wrap Up the First Quarter With Double-Digit Declines

All three major U.S. equity indices ended well into record-breaking negative territory.

To say that a lot has changed in the last month is a tremendous understatement. The markets are playing a weak supporting role to the worst healthcare challenge in our generation, as well as the worst economic problem since 2008. The good news is that policymakers are unleashing all the tools at their disposal in an unprecedented way to essentially “buy time” for the economy while we await medical solutions, explains Chief Investment Officer Larry Adam. The $2 trillion stimulus package includes programs, loans, funding and direct payments to help keep the recession shallow, and when the crisis passes, these could be the key components of very strong growth.

“The combination of aggressive monetary policy and substantial fiscal stimulus should deter the worst-case scenarios from occurring,” shares Adam.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen the Federal Reserve (the Fed) announce two cuts to the overnight lending rate target range, now between 0% and 0.25%, and we’ve seen the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, both intended to provide some economic relief during the global quarantine. With the number of new daily cases still spiking, the ultimate duration and magnitude of the outbreak remain highly uncertain, cautions Joey Madere, senior portfolio strategist, Equity Portfolio & Technical Strategy.

There are glimpses of optimism, though. Stocks, particularly healthcare names, rallied slightly as testing became more available and the stimulus package passed. However, it wasn’t enough to make up for the substantial losses seen throughout the month. The S&P 500 lost 12.5% for March, while the Dow Jones and Nasdaq delivered -13.7% and -10.1% respectively. For the quarter, all three domestic indices ended well into record-breaking negative territory.


12/31/19 Close

3/31/20 Close

Year to Date

% Gain/Loss
Year to Date











S&P 500










Russell 2000





Bloomberg Barclays
U.S. Aggregate Bond Index





Performance reflects price returns as of market close on March 31, 2020.

Here is a look at some key factors we are watching, both here and abroad: