March 16, 2020 / 11:03 AM / 16 days ago

US STOCKS-Futures pounded as Fed's aggressive rate cut fans recession fears

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* Futures down: Dow 4.53%, S&P 4.77%, Nasdaq 4.54% (Adds details; Updates prices)

By Sanjana Shivdas

March 16 (Reuters) - Wall Street looked set to crater on Monday after the Federal Reserve's aggressive move to cut interest rates to nearly zero heightened fears of the economy tipping into a coronavirus-driven recession.

S&P 500 ETFs plunged 9% after the Fed slashed short-term rates by 100 basis points and pledged sweeping asset purchases in coming weeks.

S&P 500 futures fell 4.77% to hit a daily down trading limit overnight, suggesting heavy losses for the benchmark at the open and a possible 15-minute cutout put in place to prevent another 1987 "Black Monday"-style crash.

Central banks in Japan, Australia and New Zealand joined the Fed in announcing dramatic monetary easing in a co-ordinated effort not seen since the 2008 financial crisis, but failed to shore up global investor sentiment.

World stocks tumbled nearly 2%, oil prices slumped and even safe-haven gold took a hit as France and Spain joined Italy in entering virtual lockdowns and the global death toll from the outbreak topped 6,500.

The extent of the Fed's action, taken ahead of its scheduled meeting set for Tuesday and Wednesday, spooked investors following Wall Street's attempt at a rebound on Friday as President Donald Trump declared a national emergency and earmarked $50 billion in fiscal aid.

"We're facing the loss of credibility of the central bank from a market perspective," said Michael O'Rourke, chief market strategist, Jonestrading, Stamford, Connecticut.

"When the investor community loses faith in the Fed, that's when the market gets very dangerous."

At 6:44 a.m. ET, Dow e-minis were down 1,041 points, or 4.53%. S&P 500 e-minis were down 128.5 points, or 4.77% and Nasdaq 100 e-minis were down 359.75 points, or 4.54%.

S&P 500 ETFs were down 9.6% at their lowest since January 2019.

Shares of big lenders including Bank of America Corp , JPMorgan Chase & Co, Goldman Sachs Group Inc and Citigroup tumbled between 14% and 17% in premarket trading as many analysts feared lending to business with mounting losses would fuel distrust among banks.

Eye-popping falls were also seen in tech heavyweights such Apple Inc, Microsoft Corp, Inc .

Delta Air Lines Inc, United Airlines Holdings Inc , American Airlines Group Inc fell between 15% and 19% after United Airlines booked $1.5 billion less revenue in March compared with a year earlier and warned employees that planes could be flying nearly empty into the summer, even after drastic flight capacity cuts.

Shares in oil majors Exxon Mobil and Chevron Corp dropped more than 10% as U.S. crude fell below $30. (Reporting by Supriya Kurane and Sanjana Shivdas in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)

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