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Dow Dives 6%; NYSE To Close Its Floor, Shift To All-Electronic Trading

A trader reacts after automatic circuit breakers kicked in and trading was halted temporarily Wednesday at the New York Stock Exchange.
Mark Lennihan
A trader reacts after automatic circuit breakers kicked in and trading was halted temporarily Wednesday at the New York Stock Exchange.

Updated at 5:13 p.m. ET

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted more 1,334 points, or 6.3%, Wednesday after President Trump announced new emergency steps to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, including suspending foreclosures and evictions until the end of April.

The Dow had been down more than 2,000 points earlier in the day, but later recovered some of its losses.

Trading on the New York Stock Exchange was temporarily halted for the fourth time in two weeks after the S&P 500 index plunged 7%. The S&P 500 fell 5% for the day.

At 19,898, the Dow hasn't been this low since late 2016, meaning the blue chip index has lost three years of gains.

After the market closed for the day, the New York Stock Exchange announced it will temporarily shift to all-electronic trading starting Monday. "The decision to temporarily close the trading floors represents a precautionary step to protect the health and well-being of employees and the floor community in response to COVID-19," the NYSE said.

"Our markets are fully capable of operating in an all-electronic fashion to serve all participants, and we will proceed in that manner until we can reopen our trading floors to our members," said NYSE President Stacey Cunningham. She added that all NYSE markets "will continue to operate under normal trading hours despite the closure of the trading floors."

Total confirmed infections from the virus topped 200,000 worldwide, and more than 8,000 people have died, as of midday Wednesday.

The virus continues to hammer large sectors of the economy, from small businesses to airlines. On Wednesday, Ford and General Motors suspended production at their U.S. facilities to help slow the spread of the virus. The shutdown is scheduled to continue at least through the end of March.

Vice President Pence told NPR that disruptions from the outbreak could continue until midsummer. Trump said Wednesday on Twitter that the U.S. border with Canada will be closed temporarily "by mutual consent" but that "trade will not be affected." It's the latest in a series of border shutdowns around the world in response to the pandemic.

The stock market has been in a jarring up-and-down pattern for weeks. Just on Tuesday, the Dow soared 1,049 points, or 5.2%, after the Trump administration unveiled plans for a $1 trillion stimulus package and the Federal Reserve unveiled a special loan program to help offset the economic damage.

The Dow has fallen by one-third from its record high set on Feb. 12. European markets were also down sharply.

Oil prices tumbled 17%, to about $22 per barrel. The price of oil has dropped more than 60% so far this year as the world economy has virtually ground to a halt in response to the coronavirus and as major producers Saudi Arabia and Russia have entered a price war.

The pandemic is hitting American pocketbooks, with nearly 1 in 5 households experiencing a layoff or a cut in work hours, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll. Restaurants, bars, hotels and airlines have been hit hard, but the ripple effects are spreading across the economy and thousands of people are suddenly out of work.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.