Wall Street was struck by another round of bearish momentum, as global markets around the world remain highly volatile, as all three of the major U.S. stock market indices were hit on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones industrial average nearly erasing all of its gains since President Trump took office as coronavirus lockdowns and travel restrictions expanded.
The Dow plummeted more than -1,338.46 points or -6.30% to close at 19,898.92, marking the first time the blue-chip average has closed below 20,000 since Feb. 2, 2017. The Dow was down more than -2,300 points at the lows of the session.
The Standard & Poor’s 500 tumbled -131.07 points, or -5.18% to 2,398.10 and closed nearly 30% below a record set last month as both indexes sank further into bear markets.
By mid-day, in New York, the “circuit breaker” tripped for the fourth time bring a 15-minute trade halt, however, the short pause did little to dent the bearish momentum.
The spread of the coronavirus also led the New York Stock Exchange to on Wednesday announced that it would temporarily close its historic trading floor and move entirely to electronic trading. The exchange said that two people tested positive for the disease at screenings it conducted this week.
All-electronic trading will begin on March 23 at the open, the exchange said.
Both averages have nearly erased all their gains since President Donald Trump’s inauguration. The Dow is up less than 1% since then. The broader S&P 500 index had soared roughly 50% in that span when it hit records in mid-February and is now up just 6%.
As Wednesday’s selling swept through the global markets, both U.S. West Texas Intermediate and Brent crude futures nosed-dived overnight.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate fell more than 24% at one point and revisited the lows posted back in 2002 after posting an intraday low at $20.45 a barrel, while Brent crude ended to a loss of -13.2% at the close.
However, all three of the major U.S. stock market indices moved off their lows toward the end of Wednesday’s session, after the Senate had enough votes to pass a bill expanding paid leave and unemployment benefits in response to the virus as part of what’s expected to be a whopping governmental response to avoid a downturn.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday he would vote for the plan despite what he called “real shortcomings.”
With the urgent need to act, “I do not believe we should let perfection be the enemy of something that will help even a subset of workers,” he said.
The White House is weighing a fiscal package of more than $1 trillion that includes direct payments to Americans and financial relief to small businesses and the airline industry.