* Energy sector at lowest since 1997, marks record drop
* STOXX 600 marks worst day since global financial crisis
* Italy worst hit among regional indexes
* Norwegian stocks mark worse day since 1989 (Updates to close)
By Ambar Warrick and Sruthi Shankar
March 9 (Reuters) - European shares ended at an eight-month low on Monday, sinking into bear market territory after a crash in oil prices deepened concerns that a global recession could follow the coronavirus outbreak.
The oil and gas subindex bore the brunt of losses, plunging nearly 17% after oil prices lost a third of their value on worries over a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.
The pan-European STOXX 600 index closed down 7.4%, marking its worst day since the 2008-09 financial crisis. The drop called for a flip into a more negative “bear” environment, implying a more than 20% drop for the index from recent peaks.
European firms have now lost nearly $3 trillion in value since the rapid spread of the coronavirus sparked a worldwide selloff in February, as the outbreak seemed likely to disrupt economic activity across the globe.
“The shock to oil compounds what the coronavirus is doing to the global economy,” said Andrea Cicione, head of strategy at TS Lombard in London.
“In the short term, whoever feels the pain from the shock to prices - they act immediately, they cut their spending, cut their investment, and the winners, they react a lot more gradually.”
Trading on Wall Street was halted after steep losses in early trade.
Norwegian stocks exposed to crude oil plummeted 9.4%, their worst day in more than 30 years, while London’s commodity-heavy FTSE 100 shed 7.7%.
Oil majors BP and Royal Dutch Shell both lost almost 20%, while Norway’s Panoro Energy plummeted 39%.
Tullow Oil wallowed at the bottom of the STOXX 600 after a nearly 32% loss.
All European sub-sectors were deep in the red, with growth-sensitive miners, automakers and banks falling around 10%.
Bank stocks were pressured by yields on 10-year U.S. Treasuries, the benchmark for global borrowing costs, dropping to a record low, and German 10-year bond yields fell further into negative territory.
Only four stocks were trading positive on the STOXX 600. Dutch midstream oil and chemical firm Vopak rose 3.2%.
Italy’s blue-chip index shed 11.2%, underperforming its regional peers for the day after the government ordered a virtual lockdown across much of its wealthy north in a drastic attempt to try to contain Europe’s worst outbreak of the virus.
Budget airline Ryanair ended 1.9% lower after it said it would cut further flights to and from Italy because of to the outbreak.
Markets now expect the European Central Bank to trim interest rates at its policy meeting on Thursday, following rate cuts by central banks in the United States, Canada and Australia last week to soften the blow of the outbreak. (Reporting by Ambar Warrick and Sruthi Shankar in Bengaluru, Editing by Timothy Heritage)