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Dow Plunges 943 Points; Steep Sell-Off Is Triggered By Fears Of More Lockdowns

The U.S. flag hangs outside the New York Stock Exchange earlier this month. Investors have been grappling with a wave of uncertainty that's sent the market lower in recent weeks.
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The U.S. flag hangs outside the New York Stock Exchange earlier this month. Investors have been grappling with a wave of uncertainty that's sent the market lower in recent weeks.

Updated at 4:11 p.m. ET

Stocks fell sharply on Wednesday as a spike in coronavirus cases in the United States and Europe is raising the prospect of further lockdowns that could hurt the global economy.

At the close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 943 points, a decline of 3.4%, and is in negative territory for the month. The S&P 500 fell 3.5%, its third consecutive decline, and is down over 8% from its record high in early September.

Losses accelerated Wednesday afternoon after Germany said it would close down restaurants and bars to contain a surge in coronavirus cases, while imposing other restrictions on social gatherings.

Germany's action comes as the rise in coronavirus cases is leading European countries such as Spain and Italy to declare states of emergency as well as restrictions.

In the United States, investors had been grappling with a wave of uncertainty that's already sent the market lower in recent weeks. The White House and Democrats in Congress have struggled to agree on a new relief bill, and the possibility of a contested election makes the likelihood of an agreement even murkier.

Now, the coronavirus appears to be surgingin the United States as well, with 73,200 new cases on Tuesday alone, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Global lockdowns severely dented economies worldwide earlier during the pandemic, raising fears of a new hit should the spike in coronavirus cases accelerate.

In Illinois, which announced new pandemic guidelines Tuesday, officials are warning about a resurgence of infections and deaths.

"If I haven't made it clear, we are in that second wave that we have been alluding to for months," said Dr. Ngozi Ezike, director of the state's Department of Public Health.

The ongoing slowdown in economic activity is taking a toll on companies, especially those that depend on travel and tourism.

Boeing said Wednesday it plans to cut thousands of additional jobs through next year because of the decline in air travel. The airplane maker reported its fourth quarterly loss, sending its shares down 4.6%.

Losses in markets were widespread, with airlines and leisure stocks continuing to extend recent losses. United Airlines was down 4.6%, while Marriott International fell 3.7%.

The stock market losses comes a day ahead of the U.S. third-quarter gross domestic product data. The economy is expected to have grown at least at an annual rate of 30% in the July-September quarter, in the last report card before the election.

However, economists warn that the surge in growth reflects pent-up activity after lockdowns earlier this year, and worries are resurfacing about how a new wave of coronavirus cases would affect the global economy.

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

Jim Zarroli is an NPR correspondent based in New York. He covers economics and business news.