Jim Zarroli

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Stock prices took another nosedive Wednesday, amid fears that a spike in coronavirus cases in parts of the Sunbelt could force the economy into another lockdown.

The major stock indexes finished the day down more than 2%, as investors grappled with evidence that the economy may not rebound as fast as they'd expected.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 770 points, a drop of more than 2.7%.

Shares of companies that have been especially hard hit by the pandemic, such as homebuilders and cruise lines, lost ground, as did bank stocks.

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Updated at 4:07 p.m. ET

Stocks plunged Thursday amid reports of a second wave of coronavirus cases, as well as a warning from Fed officials that the economy may take longer than first thought to recover.

After the coronavirus lockdowns forced it to shut down its 345 U.S. theaters, Texas-based Cinemark in April decided to do what a lot of companies have done: borrow money by selling bonds.

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The Federal Reserve is waging an unprecedented and historic effort to prop up the economy right now. It's doing this by flooding the nation with trillions of dollars. But that doesn't necessarily mean all the money is going to the right places. NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: When the history of the COVID-19 crisis is written, it may turn out that the Federal Reserve did more than anybody else to keep the economy from collapsing.

It's counterintuitive.

At a time of roiling civil unrest and an unprecedented economic crisis, stock prices are chugging along quite nicely. In fact, they have rebounded sharply since the dark days of March.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which lost 37% of its value between Feb. 12 and March 23, has now regained more than two-thirds of the ground it lost. Same with the broader S&P 500 index.

Trevon Ellis spent years building up his north Minneapolis barbershop, the Fade Factory, luring customers with smart haircuts, snacks and friendly conversation.

It took just one terrible night to destroy it all.

"Inside is totally burned down," Ellis says. "Everything was burned to a crisp."

The recent wave of protests against police brutality has left a trail of chaos and destruction in many city neighborhoods, with countless businesses looted and damaged.

The coronavirus has taken a hatchet to municipal budgets everywhere, forcing cities and towns to lay off librarians, parks workers and even first responders like police and firefighters.

From big cities like Detroit to small towns like Ogdensburg, N.Y., workers are being furloughed, programs are being cut and major capital projects are being shelved.

Marshall Gilmore finally got what he'd been waiting for this month when the state of Mississippi allowed him to offer table service again at his restaurant, the Harvest Grill in Meridian.

Still, many of his tables sit empty, even at limited capacity, and he makes most of his money offering curbside food pickup.

"People are just a little apprehensive about getting out in public. This was a once-in-a-lifetime scare that we all just went through. So everyone's a little scared," Gilmore says.

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