Dow falls again as health officials brace for US coronavirus spread

Stocks suffered steep losses Tuesday as investors braced for the economic damage of the spreading coronavirus outbreak.

Wall Street extended a Monday sell-off into Tuesday afternoon despite a brief rebound earlier in the day as the Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 800 points, or about 2.9 percent, shortly after 2:25 p.m. The S&P 500 index sunk 2.8 percent and the Nasdaq composite dropped 2.5 percent.

Nancy Messonnier, a top official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters Tuesday that an outbreak within the U.S. appears inevitable and the agency expects to see community spread of the disease.

"It’s not a question of if this will happen but when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses," she said. “Disruption to everyday life might be severe."

U.S. stocks suffered their worst losses in two years Monday and wiped out all of their gains in 2020 after a sharp increase in confirmed coronavirus cases and a new outbreak in Italy emerged over the weekend.

The Dow plunged 1,031 points, or 3.6 percent, on Monday as investors braced for the coronavirus to spread faster beyond China, where it likely originated.

There are more than 80,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus across 32 countries, with the vast majority of cases in China. Efforts to contain the lethal respiratory illness have derailed the Chinese economy and frozen essential supply lines for global companies that depend on factories in China and neighboring countries.

The toll of the outbreak is likely to dampen U.S. economic growth even if the coronavirus does not spread within the country, according to economists.

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