BUSINESS Dow closes below 20,000 on heightened virus fears


Dow closes below 20,000 on heightened virus fears


01:03, March 19, 2020

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Stock trader Gregory Rowe works at the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, March 18, 2020 in New York. (Photo: AP)

NEW YORK, March 18 (Xinhua) -- US equities ended Wednesday's volatile session sharply lower as panic selling continued on Wall Street amid coronavirus fears.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average decreased 1,338.46 points, or 6.30 percent, to 19,898.92, marking its first close below 20,000 since February 2017. The 30-stock index cratered more than 2,300 points at session lows.

The S&P 500 was down 131.09 points, or 5.18 percent, to end at 2,398.10. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 344.94 points, or 4.70 percent, to 6,989.84.

Shares of US energy giant Chevron slumped about 22 percent, leading the laggards in the Dow. Boeing declined 17.9 percent, dragging the market lower.

All the 11 primary S&P 500 sectors ended lower, with energy down 14.28 percent, representing the worst-performing group.

The S&P 500 tumbled 7 percent in the early afternoon, triggering a key circuit breaker that halted trading for 15 minutes. It was the second time this week that the circuit breaker has been tipped and the fourth time since last week.

Wednesday's slide came despite Washington's massive stimulus plan to counter the virus impact.

The White House is seeking a stimulus package worth as much as 1.2 trillion US dollars in spending, including direct payments to Americans, to cushion the US economy from coronavirus fallout, local media reported Tuesday.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin pitched 250 billion dollars in checks to be sent at the end of April with a second set of checks totaling 500 billion dollars four weeks later if there is still a national emergency, Bloomberg quoted people familiar with the matter as saying.

President Donald Trump said on Monday the US economy "may be" heading toward a recession and that the COVID-19 outbreak could last for months.

The Federal Reserve on Sunday cut its benchmark interest rate by a full percentage point to near zero and pledged to boost its bond holdings by at least 700 billion dollars amid mounting fears over the COVID-19 outbreak. 

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