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The S&P 500 on Wednesday was briefly down more than 20% from its Feb. 19 intraday record high, dipping under the bear market threshold after the World Health Organization classified the coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and Nasdaq also dipped 20% below intraday record highs from February. To confirm a bear market the averages would need to close 20 percent below their record closing highs.

The S&P firmed from its lowest level, last down 4.5% on the day, having extended losses after Reuters reported that President Donald Trump’s White House has ordered federal health officials to treat top-level coronavirus meetings as classified, which has restricted information and hampered the U.S. government’s response to the contagion, according to four administration officials.

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SAL ARNUK, PARTNER AND COFOUNDER, THEMIS TRADING, CHATHAM, N.J.

“There’s been a negative backdrop all day. That’s a function of oil, that’s a function of the Bank of England’s emergency cut. We were starting to rally on low volume, but two things perhaps might have chilled the market. One, the White House classifying new information on COVID-19 at the highest level. The second thing is when candidate (Bernie) Sanders did not drop out (after rival Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s primary victories on Tuesday.) That creates more uncertainty around the election.”

“Are these particularly intelligent market moves? No, but that is the emotion driving the tape.”

“If you feel the need to embargo information, a lot of people don’t like that, because that makes you think they’re concerned that the numbers are getting increasingly worse, so bad that they feel they need to shield the American public from that information.”

KIM FORREST, CHIEF INVESTMENT OFFICER, BOKEH CAPITAL PARTNERS, PITTSBURGH

“The pandemic thing has pushed investors over the edge. We woke up really worried about it. There’s a wider spread, the numbers are growing…I don’t think anyone at this point knows the real scope of this.”

PETER TUZ, PRESIDENT, CHASE INVESTMENT COUNSEL, CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA.

“What it doesn’t tell you is, is this a long-lasting bear market or a V-shaped one that could quickly come back if we can get our arms around the situation?”

“If China truly has seen its coronavirus cases stabilize, if we see something similar this could be a fairly short-lived bear market. If we do not see that this could last for many months.”

“You’ve got the virus, the collapse of energy prices earlier this week and the uncertainties over the election which has taken a back burner to the other two things. “

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JIM BARNES, DIRECTOR OF FIXED INCOME, BRYN MAWR TRUST, DEVON, PA.

“There was some optimism that accumulated yesterday with regard to the potential fiscal response that could be coming (from Washington), and it didn’t meet investor expectations. So that unwound investor optimism today. Layered over that was some pessimism with some new news tied to the coronavirus. It’s been relentless.”

“You’re getting leaders around the globe, medical people, saying we need to act now. So we don’t know what’s coming, and we are getting more news that it’s more urgent for us to act on the fiscal front.”

“The optimism (seen in Tuesday’s equity gains) was built on something that hasn’t come yet.”

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