Dow Off 1,450 Points, 5.86%, and Enters Bear Market as WHO Declares Virus a Pandemic

The Dow enters a bear market and stocks end sharply down as Wall Street frets over the lack of specifics from the Trump administration on its plans to fight the coronavirus outbreak. The World Health Organization declares the virus outbreak a pandemic.
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  1. Stocks finished sharply down Wednesday as the Trump administration's plans to fight the coronavirus outbreak lacked specifics and the World Health Organization declared the virus outbreak a pandemic.
  2. Coronavirus update: The number of confirmed global cases of the coronavirus has risen to 124,910, according to Johns Hopkins CSSE, and deaths increased to 4,589. The U.S. has 1,110 cases of the virus and deaths have climbed to 32.
  3. JPMorgan Chase is Real Money's Stock of the Day as bank executives will be meeting with President Donald Trump Wednesday to discuss the coronavirus outbreak.

Stocks finished sharply down Wednesday -- with the Dow Jones Industrial Average at a bear-market level - amid a lack of specifics from the Trump administration on plans to fight the coronavirus outbreak and as the World Health Organization declared the virus outbreak a pandemic.

The Dow industrials finished down 1,464 points, or 5.86%, to 23,553, the S&P 500 fell 4.89% and the Nasdaq slumped 4.7%. The Dow slid into bear-market territory, more than 20% off recent highs.

The Dow on Tuesday had gained 1,167 points, or 4.89%, to close at 25,018.

“We are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, said Wednesday.

The WHO generally defines a pandemic as a disease that has become widespread around the world.

The number of confirmed global cases of the coronavirus has risen to 124,910, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering, and deaths increased to 4,589.

The U.S. has 1,110 cases of the virus and deaths have climbed to 32.

Stocks had a topsy-turvy session Tuesday after Trump promised to fight the economic fallout from the virus outbreak but failed to deliver.

“We were promised something substantive from the Trump administration, and if it hasn’t come yet at this hour, then it looks like it is being delayed,” said Michael McCarthy, chief market strategist at CMC Markets in Sydney.

“That’s why markets have a negative tone. From a global investor’s perspective, there are still a lot of downside risks.”

The president said Monday that he would ask Congress for a payroll tax cut and that his administration would be making "major" economic announcements to stem the coronavirus Covid-19 outbreak and the increasing volatility in the financial markets.

Trump did say on Tuesday that the government was working with the cruise-line industry, but little else of what he said impressed Wall Street.

To that end, banking executives, including those from JPMorgan Chase  (JPM) - Get Report, Citigroup  (C) - Get Report, Goldman Sachs  (GS) - Get Report and Bank of America  (BAC) - Get Report, were scheduled to meet with Trump Wednesday to discuss the coronavirus outbreak. 

JPMorgan Chase Co-President Gordon Smith, currently sitting in for CEO Jamie Dimon as he recovers from heart surgery, was slated to attend the meeting.

Meanwhile, CNBC reported that lobbyists representing the oil and gas industry met with White House policy staffers Wednesday morning to discuss the coronavirus, the state of the economy and the market.

Amazon  (AMZN) - Get Report asked employees at its Massachusetts offices to work from home if they can through the end of the month, CNBC said. The company previously told workers at its offices in New York, New Jersey, the San Francisco Bay Area, Madrid and Italy to work from home during March.

European stocks declined but the drops weren't as steep as those on Wall Street after the Bank of England became the latest central bank to slash interest rates.

The Federal Reserve meets next week and the central bank is expected to cut rates for the second time in March.

"It is time to see what the Fed can do to directly assist the economy that will be most affected by the coronavirus: small and medium-sized businesses," said Danielle DiMartino Booth, CEO and chief strategist of Quill Intelligence.

Gilead Sciences  (GILD) - Get Report rose Wednesday after the company's experimental coronavirus treatment reportedly was being used in the United States under federal rules that allow the use of unapproved drugs on compassionate grounds.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield told lawmakers on a House appropriations panel Tuesday that remdesivir, Gilead's developing coronavirus treatment that was first designed to combat the Ebola virus, was being used on compassionate grounds in Washington state.

PepsiCo  (PEP) - Get Report on Wednesday said it was buying energy drink maker Rockstar Energy for $3.85 billion in a move that will expand the beverage giant’s footprint in the high-demand and highly competitive energy-drink market.