Dow Dives More Than 2,000 Points; Steep Market Slide Triggered Trading Halt Stock indexes tumbled so fast Monday that marketwide trading was halted temporarily for the first time since October 1997. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 2,013 points, or nearly 8%.

Dow Dives More Than 2,000 Points; Steep Market Slide Triggered Trading Halt

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NOEL KING, HOST:

Fears of the coronavirus caused stocks to plunge when markets opened at 9:30 this morning. Trading was temporarily halted after the S&P dropped 7% in just minutes. Trading has started again. NPR's chief economics correspondent Scott Horsley is with me in studio. Hey, Scott.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good to be with you, Noel.

KING: So what happened this morning? There's two things - stocks and oil prices both plummeting.

HORSLEY: That's right. Obviously, we have the background concerns about the coronavirus and the damage that that threatens to do to the U.S. and global economies. That's sort of been a cause for a lot of volatility in the last couple of weeks. And then today's move was really triggered by a Saudi surprise overnight. Saudi Arabia decided to slash the price of oil and flood the oil market.

And that really took world markets by surprise because until just yesterday, the Saudis and the Russians had been trying to negotiate a cut in oil production in order to put a floor under oil prices, to prop up oil prices. They couldn't cut a deal. And so Saudis have just said, OK, we're going to flood the market and try to steal market share from Russia. That's good for gasoline customers, but of course, this comes at a time when nobody wants to go anywhere. It's certainly bad for energy companies. And it comes at a time when already we were seeing declining demand for oil because the world economy is sort of jittery right now.

International forecasters have been saying we could see the first absolute decline in worldwide oil demand this year since the Great Recession in 2009. So all of this has just made an already jittery market even more so.

KING: Just very quickly, what are you going to be watching for for the rest of the day?

HORSLEY: Well, trading has restarted now, and the stocks have gained back a little but - of what they've lost. But after a roller coaster ride on Wall Street last week, it looks like we're in for another fasten-your-seat-belt situation.

KING: NPR's Scott Horsley. Thank you, Scott.

HORSLEY: Good to be with you.

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