In New York, stocks fell sharply on the first trading day of the New Year. This came as worries mounted about a surge in coronavirus cases. The upcoming runoff elections in Georgia added to the uncertainty.
The benchmark Dow Jones Industrial Average ended Monday at 30,223. That was down 382 points from last week. It was also the largest single-day drop since November 18.
Shortly after trading began the index rose to a record high. But it then went into free-fall. At one point it fell more than 700 points to below the 30,000 mark.
Sentiment turned cautious over the spread of the virus and the discovery of a new strain.
The runoff elections in Georgia on Tuesday added to the jitters. The outcome will decide which party controls the US Senate.
State Street Global Advisors' Chief Investment Strategist Michael Arone says there is a risk that stocks could fall in the first quarter.
Arone says " My concern is with valuations at high levels and markets near all-time highs, what happens if we have some disappointments? If we're not able to continue the momentum in 2021? You could see some disappointment. And I do think that that is a risk for a market."
Arone says he would not be surprised if the index declines by 5 or 10 percent in the first quarter.