Dow hits bear market, plunging by more than 1,600 points

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by more than 1,600 points on Wednesday afternoon, threatening the nation’s historic 11-year bull market, the longest expansion on record.

The Dow is currently trading below 23,641, the point at which U.S. will officially be in a bear market if the 30-stock index remains at or below that number when the closing bell rings. A bear market is marked by a 20 percent decline from a 52-week high.

The S&P 500 and the Dow are currently 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.

Corporate America has in large part chosen to follow its own counsel, with companies canceling conferences, tightening contingency plans, and asking employees to work from home. Google, which announced earlier this week 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 World Health Organization on Wednesday called the coronavirus a pandemic, the first such characterization in the 50 days since it officially recognized the disease. The U.S. currently has more than 1,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, a number that is expected to climb as testing becomes increasingly available.

The White House met with representatives from Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Twitter on Wednesday to coordinate efforts over the growing coronavirus outbreak. A meeting was also scheduled for Wednesday afternoon between White House officials and representatives of the nation’s largest banks to discuss an economic response to the virus.

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