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Stocks plummet after Trump restricts travel to US from Europe

Stocks plummeted Thursday morning after President TrumpDonald TrumpIran's leader vows 'revenge,' posting an image resembling Trump Former Sanders spokesperson: Biden 'backing away' from 'populist offerings' Justice Dept. to probe sudden departure of US attorney in Atlanta after Trump criticism MORE restricted travel from Europe to the U.S., the latest sign that the coronavirus is slamming the economy.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 2,000 points shorty after 10 a.m. Thursday, plunging 8.6 percent.

The index already on Wednesday had slipped to more than 20 percent below its 52-week high, entering what traders consider a bear market. 

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The S&P 500 fell 7.6 percent Thursday, also falling into bear market territory and setting off an automatic 15-minute pause in trading for the second time this week. The Nasdaq composite also fell 7 percent.

The steep drop came after a series of events focused the degree to which U.S. life and spending will slow down because of the coronavirus. The NBA suspended its season, the NCAA said its popular basketball tournaments would play to empty arenas and several states and municipalities said no events with more than 1,000 people should go forward. 

Thursday’s plunge is the latest signal of deep concern within financial markets about the economic toll of the COVID-19 coronavirus and the efforts to mitigate its spread. There are more than 1,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus within the U.S., with cases likely to climb as testing continues.

Public health officials say that while the risk of contracting the virus remains low in communities where it has not begun to spread, it is essential for all Americans to take steps to slow the spread of the disease. 

Questions about the federal government's plans to protect the economy from the outbreak have also roiled Wall Street.

Stock futures began tanking as Trump laid out his plans to restrict travel from Europe, criticizing the continent for failing to impose travel restrictions from areas where the coronavirus outbreak first emerged.

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“The European Union failed to take the same precautions and restrict travel from China and other hot spots,” Trump said. “As a result, a number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travel from Europe.”

The restrictions will not include the United Kingdom, which has left the EU, even though it currently has nearly 500 coronavirus cases.

Trump also proposed several measures intended to boost the economy and protect small and midsize businesses that could be devastated by a long-term economic slowdown. 

Trump said he will "soon be taking emergency action [to] provide financial relief ... targeted for workers who are ill, quarantined or caring for others due to coronavirus," without specifying how he would do so.

The president also said he would ask the Small Business Administration to offer low-interest loans to businesses in coronavirus hot spots to overcome steep declines in activity, and would ask Congress to approve a temporary payroll tax suspension that has fallen flat among lawmakers.

"This is not a financial crisis. This is just a temporary moment of time that we will overcome together as a nation," Trump said. 

The Democratic-led House is expected to pass a coronavirus economic relief plan Thursday, though it remains unclear when and if the GOP-controlled Senate will take up the measure. The Democratic bill aims to ensure paid sick leave for all workers, expand unemployment insurance, guarantee free coronavirus testing and expand federal food assistance for low-income families and children.

The House and Senate are set to leave Washington, D.C., for a pre-scheduled weeklong recess Thursday, giving Republicans little time to offer an alternative before the Capitol vacates. Lawmakers have also expressed concerns about keeping Congress in session during the outbreak, which ramps up pressure to strike a deal before the end of the week.

--Updated at 10:11 a.m.