Dow below 20,000 as stock plunge threatens Trump-era gains

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed below 20,000 on Wednesday, at one point wiping out all of the gains from the Trump era before recovery slightly.

The blue-chip index fell more than 1,500 points or 6 percent while the benchmark S&P 500 slipped 5 percent and tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite just under that level.

Some of the selling abated during the final minutes of trading as lawmakers work to pass stimulus measures.

Earlier Wednesday, trading was halted for the second time this week, when the S&P tumbled 7 percent as investors reacted to a coronavirus pandemic that has slowed the economies of the U.S. and some European nations almost to a standstill.

The selling comes as the Trump administration and Congress hammer out the details of a $1 trillion stimulus package designed to prop up the most harshly pummeled sectors of the U.S. economy and give cash to people out of work.

Looking at stocks, Boeing shares were rocked as the company called for a $60 billion bailout for aerospace manufacturers.

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Airlines, restaurants, hotels and casino operators remained under pressure as the Trump administration weighs assistance for the industries hit hardest by the pandemic.

Meanwhile, plunging oil prices hammered energy giants ExxonMobil and Chevron and weighed heavily on Hess Corp. and Continental Resources. West Texas Intermediate crude oil settled at an 18 year low hitting

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Miners slid as the price of an ounce of gold slipped 3.1 percent to $1,477.30 an ounce.

On the earnings front, FedEx fell after announcing its adjusted net income dropped 53.5 percent from a year earlier to $371 million and suspending its 2020 profit outlook due to uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

General Mills raised its adjusted profit forecast, but its shares declined nonetheless.

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Elsewhere, the yield curve steepened as investors bought shorter-dated Treasurys and sold longer-dated ones. The yield on the 2-year note was down 3.5 basis points at 0.426 percent while the yield on the 10-year note was up 13 basis points at 1.126 percent.

The steeper curve was unable to give relief to banks, which continued to see their share prices sink.

Winners were few and far between, with meal-delivery service Blue Apron among the only bright spots.

The company's shares soared as investors speculated that it would benefit from restaurants closing their dining rooms. Shares were already up 187 percent this week through Tuesday.

European markets were sharply lower, with France’s CAC falling 5.9 percent, Germany’s DAX sliding 5.6 percent and Britain’s FTSE tumbling 4.1 percent.

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng paced the decline in Asia, falling 4.2 percent, while China’s Shanghai Composite and Japan’s Nikkei fell 1.8 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively.

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