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 MnuchinBipartisan housing finance reform on the road less taken Trump at a pivotal crossroads on Iran Overnight Defense: Trump says he doesn't want war with Iran | Pentagon chief calls attack on Saudi oil facilities 'unprecedented' | Administration weighs response | 17th US service member killed in Afghanistan this year 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 TrumpJimmy Carter: 'I hope there's an age limit' on presidency White House fires DHS general counsel: report Trump to cap California trip with visit to the border 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.