The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down more than 1,400 points Wednesday, crossing firmly into bear market territory, or a 20 percent decline from a 52-week high. The losses came as the World Health Organization labeled the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.
The S&P 500 and the Dow are down more than 14 percent from the record highs they hit just last month, making this the fastest drawdown from peak to decline.
Wednesday’s massive sell-off is a response to the lack of concerted policy action from President Donald Trump’s administration, which has been criticized for its mixed messaging about the best ways to address and contain the virus.
“We have the best scientists, doctors, nurses and health care professionals. They are amazing people who do phenomenal things every day. …Together we are putting into policy a plan to prevent, detect, treat and create a vaccine against CoronaVirus to save lives in America and the world. America will get it done!” Trump tweeted Wednesday afternoon.
Corporate America has in large part chosen to follow its own counsel, however, with companies canceling conferences, tightening contingency plans and asking employees to work from home. Google, which announced this week that it has asked all 100,000 of its U.S.-based employees to work remotely where possible, said Wednesday it is expanding that policy to Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
The WHO on Wednesday called the coronavirus a pandemic, the first such characterization in the 50 days since it officially recognized the disease. The U.S. has more than 1,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, a number that is expected to climb as testing becomes increasingly available.
“Prior to the coronavirus, it was just all go,” Trump said of the economy during a meeting Wednesday afternoon with executives of the nation’s largest banks. “The numbers from a week ago were great … but now we’re hitting a patch and we’re going to have to do something. The Number 1 priority is the health of the country.
The White House also met Wednesday with representatives from Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Twitter to coordinate efforts over the growing coronavirus outbreak.