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Dow closes below 20,000 after stock selloff trips circuit-breaker and investors gauge government response to coronavirus

U.S. stocks finished sharply lower again Wednesday, but off session lows after Congress passed the first of two planned bills providing some relief from the economic damage the coronavirus pandemic is inflicting on businesses and consumers.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled 1,338.40 points, or 6.3%, to settle at 19,898.92, its lowest close since Feb. 2, 2017. The S&P 500 dropped 131.09 points, or 5.2%, to end at 2,398.10. The Nasdaq Composite slipped 344.94 points, or 4.7%, to finish at 6,989.84.

Stocks skidded on worries that the coronavirus pandemic will mean a prolonged lockdown of several nations, potentially leading to defaults not just across major corporations but also small businesses that may struggle to survive a sharp drop in revenues over the next few months.

Late in the session news that the U.S. Senate voted to approve a House-passed coronavirous bill that targets paid leave and free COVID-19 testing helped stocks recover some ground. Earlier, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the government is working on some $1.3 trillion of emergency funding, as well as other measures, to businesses and workers “right away,” in a CNBC interview.

But investors are still waiting for some evidence that the growth of global Covid-19 infection rates is peaking. Infection rates in China peaked in late February but the number of new cases is still rising in Europe and the U.S.

Dow closes below 20,000 after stock selloff trips circuit-breaker and investors gauge government response to coronavirus, MarketWatch, Mar 18

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