Markets plunge following Mnuchin outreach to banks

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged more than 400 points Monday morning, following a weekend attempt by Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinTreasury expands penalty relief to more taxpayers China says it will investigate firms sanctioned by US for helping North Korea Treasury targets two Chinese shipping firms under North Korea sanctions MORE to calm the markets.

Mnuchin said Sunday that he spoke with the heads of six major banks — Bank of America, Citi, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo — and reported that they had "ample liquidity."

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He also said he would convene a call with the president's working group on financial markets and a group of key regulators.

But the unusual message may have backfired, with analysts noting that the group Mnuchin was calling together was the same as the "Plunge Protection Team" that met at the height of the 2009 financial crisis.

Markets have also been spooked by reports that President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate GOP budget ignores Trump, cuts defense Trump says he'll nominate Stephen Moore to Fed White House: ISIS territory in Syria has been 100 percent eliminated MORE is looking to fire Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell. The move would be seen as undermining the Fed's institutional independence, which is a key element in the country's financial system.

U.S. stock markets early Monday continued a decline that last week saw the Dow's worst trading week in a decade. Traders will have a shortened day on Christmas Eve and markets will be closed on Tuesday for the Christmas holiday.