Business & Economy

Dow plunges 2,300 points: Stocks in meltdown as panic selling continues

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on March 2.
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on March 2.
Spencer Platt | Getty Images file

Updated at 4:04 p.m. ET

The stock market has suffered a relentless, breathtaking drop — moving deeper into bear territory. Stocks fell so fast Thursday morning that it triggered a 15-minute halt in trading for the second time this week.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 2,352 points, or nearly 10 percent — the biggest one-day drop since 1987. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq were each down more than 9 percent.

The market tumble came after President Trump announced a 30-day ban on travel from European countries (but not the United Kingdom) to the United States.

Trump said it was an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus, but the move caused confusion on both sides of the Atlantic and drew skepticism from several health experts. And it was also another blow to airlines, hotels and tourist attractions that have already taken a beating.

In remarks to reporters, Trump tried to calm markets, predicting stocks would eventually bounce back.

The Federal Reserve moved aggressively to try to calm investors rattled by the global coronavirus pandemic, but then the market slide continued. The New York Fed said it would pump $1.5 trillion into short-term funding markets over the next two days.

"These changes are being made to address highly unusual disruptions in Treasury financing markets associated with the coronavirus outbreak," the New York Fed said.

Last week, the Fed cut interest rates by half a percentage point in an emergency move. Some analysts expect the central bank to cut rates again at its March 18 meeting, if not sooner. Those rates affect the cost of borrowing on everything from credit cards to auto loans.

Those indexes are now down at least 27 percent from record highs set just last month. The Dow is now down nearly 8,400 points from its peak on Feb. 12.

Thursday's stock market drop followed a nearly 6 percent plunge in the Dow on Wednesday, when the blue chip index entered a bear market, defined as falling 20 percent from its peak. The S&P 500 is now also in a bear market, ending an 11-year winning streak.

In addition to the travel ban, Trump also announced measures to overcome "temporary economic disruptions" caused by the COVID-19 disease. The proposals include a $50 billion program to provide low-interest loans to small businesses affected by the coronavirus.

Congressional Democrats also unveiled a legislative stimulus package aimed at easing the economic damage. Their plan includes expanded unemployment reimbursement for states, extra money for food security for low-income children and federally funded family and sick leave for people affected by the virus.

The coronavirus pandemic has had far-reaching and quickly developing economic impacts.

Thursday morning, Princess Cruises, which has had several ships hit by coronavirus outbreaks, announced that it will pause operations of its 18 cruise ships globally for 60 days. The move is in response "to the unpredictable circumstances evolving from the global spread of COVID-19," the company said.

The airline industry has also been hard hit by travel cancellations and travel restrictions. "I would say we're in the middle of a very significant impact, some would say devastating impact, to the airline industry," JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes told NPR.

The NBA suspended the rest of its season after a player on the Utah Jazz preliminarily tested positive for the coronavirus. Major League Baseball canceled the remainder of spring training and said it would delay the start of the regular season by at least two weeks. The National Hockey League also announced a "pause" in its season.

In New York, Broadway theaters were shut down after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced restrictions on gatherings of more than 500 people.

The European Central Bank announced a series of stimulus measures to help banks and other businesses. But unlike the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England, the ECB failed to cut interest rates.

"The spread of the coronavirus has been a major shock to the growth prospects of the global economy and the euro area economy, and it has heightened market volatility," ECB President Christine Lagarde told a news conference, according to Reuters.

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