The Dow Jones Industrial Average slumped more than 700 points, or 2.7 percent, to 25,445.94.
The broad-based S&P 500 slid 2.6 percent to 3,050.33, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index shed 2.2 percent to 9,909.17, retreating from a record.
Numerous states in the western and southern United States have reported record coronavirus cases in recent days, prompting more local officials and private companies to freeze reopenings or retreat from prior steps to relaunch activity.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott told a television interview that the “safest” place for residents was home unless they had to go out, while Apple said it was reclosing stores in Houston, the state’s biggest city.
Meanwhile, the governors of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey announced they would impose a mandatory 14-day quarantine to people traveling to their states from areas with high COVID-19 infection rates.
After rising most of the last couple of months, the market “was poised for a pullback of some sort,” said Quincy Krosby, chief market strategist at Prudential Financial.
The market is spooked not only by higher coronavirus cases in the United States, but also increased hospitalizations in many places.
“The question is how much this is going to cause the economy to slow down,” Krosby said. “The market is vulnerable to these headlines.”
There were other negative news catalysts, including an announcement the US Trade Representative is weighing a new list of $3.1 billion in European goods that could be subject to tariffs, and a downcast outlook from the International Monetary Fund.
While the losses were broad-based, travel-oriented companies were especially weak, including Wynn Resorts, down 11 percent, Delta Air Lines, down 7.7 percent and Marriott International, down 6.2 percent.
Petroleum-linked shares were also under pressure, with Exxon Mobil shedding 4.7 percent and Halliburton losing 8.9 percent.
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