The America First presidency collided with a global pandemic Wednesday night. The result failed to reassure skittish markets or a nervous nation.

President Donald Trump relied on a familiar playbook as he spoke in a prime-time address from the Oval Office, announcing sweeping new restrictions on travel from Europe and scattered executive actions to help workers and businesses rocked by what he labeled a “foreign virus.”

He blamed allies for not adopting tough immigration measures that he said had prevented a wider outbreak in the U.S. But the combative approach and small-bore measures seemed only to highlight the president’s struggles to confront the most consequential moment of his presidency.

And even in a 10-minute address, Trump couldn’t stick to the facts.

He overstated the European travel restrictions, saying he was “suspending all travel” from the continent, and suggested they would also apply to trade. He tweeted later that trade wouldn’t be affected, and the Department of Homeland Security clarified that the restriction applies generally to foreigners who’ve been in Europe within 14 days.

He said U.S. health insurers had agreed to waive co-payments for coronavirus treatment. A spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade group, said its members had agreed only to waive co-payments for testing.

‘Isn’t Much Confidence’
The speech clearly underwhelmed investors, who have been waiting for a “major” economic plan the president promised on Monday and has yet to put to paper.

Futures on the benchmark S&P 500 index steadily deteriorated as details of Trump’s plan leaked out over the dinnertime hours in New York. Down about 0.8% when his remarks began, the loss extended to 2% by the time the president finished speaking and got worse from there.

The sell-off sweeping global equities gathered pace Thursday morning. An initial bout of selling pushed U.S. equities down as much as 8% and triggered a 15-minute NYSE-mandated trading halt.

“Investors are looking for bold government stimulus. So far we haven’t seen a lot of detail and there isn’t much confidence it will happen quick enough,” said Nathan Thooft, Manulife Investment Management’s head of global asset allocation.

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