Business & Economy

US stock trading halted for 2nd time this week amid coronavirus fears

New York, Mar 12 (efe-epa).- Stock trading on Wall Street was automatically halted for the second time this week on Thursday after a key large-cap index – the S&P 500 – plunged 7 percent shortly after the opening bell.

A major sell-off occurred in response to US President Donald Trump’s decision on Wednesday to suspend incoming flights from continental Europe for one month. That move came after the World Health Organization designated the outbreak of Covid-19 to be a pandemic.

A so-called “circuit-breaker,” 15-minute trading halt was triggered at 9.34 am when the S&P 500 plunged around 192 points, or 7 percent, to 2,549.05.

When trading resumed at 9.49 am, that index tumbled further in morning trading to 2,508.66, a 52-week low.

The blue-chip Dow 30 index also fell to a 52-week low of 21,349.33 on Thursday morning, down from a record high of 29,568.57 on Feb. 12.

In addition, the tech-heavy Nasdaq declined to a 52-week low of 7,279.95 in morning trading.

The recent market plunge has taken its toll on some of the United States’ most successful companies of the past decade.

Facebook fell on Thursday to a 52-week low of $155.78 per share, while Alphabet (Google’s parent) and dipped as low as $1,114 per share and $1,696.63 per share, respectively.

Alphabet’s 52-week high is $1,532.11 and its low is $1,025, while’s 52-week high is $2,185.95 and its low is $1,672.

Netflix and Apple are not as close to their 52-week lows but still are off around 15 percent and 20 percent, respectively, from their 52-week highs.

Trump on Wednesday night announced in a televised address from the Oval Office the suspension of all travel from continental Europe, one of the areas of the world hardest-hit by Covid-19, in a bid to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The United Kingdom was exempted from the measure, which will go into effect at midnight on Friday at 11.59 pm.

Trump added that there will be “exemptions for Americans (traveling from Europe) who have undergone appropriate screenings”; he later clarified that the restriction would only affect the movement of people not cargo.

Separately, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that Americans avoid all non-essential travel to Europe.

In his televised address, Trump also announced a government low-interest loan program for small businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak and said he will ask Congress to approve an additional $50 billion to finance it.

He further announced a postponement (beyond April 15) of the tax-payment deadline for certain individuals and companies affected by Covid-19, saying that measure will provide a temporary infusion of $200 billion in liquidity into the US economy.

In addition, the president urged Congress to approve “immediate payroll-tax relief.”

Finally, Trump said he will approve an emergency measure that ensures that people unable to work as a result of the coronavirus, whether due to illness, quarantine or to take care of third parties, do not lose their wages.

Trading on Wall Street was suspended for 15 minutes on Monday after the S&P 500 plunged 7 percent due to ongoing coronavirus fears and Saudi Arabia’s oil-price war against Russia.

That marked the first time since the depths of the global financial crisis in December 2008 that trading was halted during regular hours.

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