Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The Dow fell 1,861 points Thursday, the fourth worst one-day point drop on record, and the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq sank 5.9% and 5.3%, respectively. It was the worst one-day decline for the major averages since March 16.

Why it happened: Various media reports have pointed to an increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths (which had been happening for at least a week) and the Fed's dour economic outlook at its June policy meeting (which was little changed from its dour economic outlook in April).

  • But no one really knows.

Why it matters: It could mark the end of a rally that has seen the S&P rise more than 40% in the best 50-day stretch in history and the Nasdaq hit an all-time high above 10,000 points.

  • Or it could not.

The big picture: It was just one day.

Go deeper

Fed upgrades expectations for pandemic-hit economy

Jerome Powell testifies before Congress in June. (Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Pool/ AFP via Getty Images)

The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that the economy will shrink by 3.7% this year — a rosier outlook than the 6.5% contraction initially projected in June.

Why it matters: The economy is still wrecked by the coronavirus pandemic, but has rebounded faster than some anticipated. Signs still suggest the recovery could stall out. The August unemployment rate is already lower than where the Fed, in June, said it would be by year-end.

Coronavirus cases increase in 17 states

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Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise/Axios

Coronavirus infections ticked up slightly over the past week, thanks to scattered outbreaks in every region of the country.

Where it stands: The U.S. has been making halting, uneven progress against the virus since August. Overall, we're moving in the right direction, but we're often taking two steps forward and one step back.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 12 p.m. ET: 30,241,377 — Total deaths: 947,266— Total recoveries: 20,575,416Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 12 p.m. ET: 6,681,251 — Total deaths: 197,763 — Total recoveries: 2,540,334 — Total tests: 91,546,598Map.
  3. Politics: Trump vs. his own administration on virus response.
  4. Health: Massive USPS face mask operation called off The risks of moving too fast on a vaccine.
  5. Business: Unemployment drop-off reverses course 1 million mortgage-holders fall through safety netHow the pandemic has deepened Boeing's 737 MAX crunch.
  6. Education: At least 42% of school employees are vulnerable.