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Dow Dips, Gibbs Informed of it By Reporter at Briefing (Update: Plunge May Have Been Trader Error)

3:50 PM, May 6, 2010 • By MARY KATHARINE HAM
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The Dow fell nearly 1,000 points today and MSNBC's Savannah Guthrie informed White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs of it at the daily press briefing. Her question was the first he had heard of it, and he answered the question with generalities about the "Treasury monitoring Europe and the Greek crisis," according to reporter David Corn, who was at the briefing.

Dow Dips, Gibbs Informed of it By Reporter at Briefing (Update: Plunge May Have Been Trader Error)

The Wall Street Journal's graphic of today's Dow drop.

The Wall Street Journal has a dramatic graphic of the Dow's fall, before it gained back several hundred points to finish around 5oo points down.

Gibbs added he hasn't heard Obama speak specifically about Europe's handling of the Greek credit crisis, and the possibility it might spread. He followed that non-answer with more generalities:

"Anything we believe has ability to affect the global economic recovery is and should be a concern," he said, later joking that he should "bring his computer" with him to briefings. He fiddled with what looked like computer monitors built into the press briefing podium, pointing out that their high-tech looks are deceiving. They're "unhelpful," he said.

I understand that news moves fast these days, but it seems that even if Gibbs happened to miss the day's precipitous Dow plunge, he should have had a more complete answer about how the president and his advisers view the Greek crisis, its potential dangers to us, and our role if any in preventing spread.

The exchange did not inspire confidence, especially since we're frequently reminded that Gibbs isn't just any old mouthpiece. He's a high-level adviser and sometime strategist.

On Sunday, Obama talked to Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and said he welcomed Greece's "ambitious" reform plan, and the support the IMF is willing to give. The announcement of the reform plan triggered riots and protests during which three have been killed. Estimates are that 30,000 participated.

Closing quote from bond investor, Pimco's Mohammed El-Erian:

"We are not Greece. We have more time. But what the Greek crisis tells you is debt and deficits matter," El-Erian said. "The structure of your deficits matter and the US doesn't have much flexibility."

"Don't underestimate how quickly this can happen," he added. "There are structural headwinds out there and we better get our act together before those structural headwinds become overwhelming."

Update: Trader error?

In one of the most dizzying half-hours in stock market history, the Dow plunged nearly 1,000 points before paring those losses in what possibly could have been a trader error. 

According to multiple sources, a trader entered a "b" for billion instead of an "m" for million in a trade possibly involving Procter & Gamble

[PG  60.75    -1.41  (-2.27%)   ]

, a component in the Dow. (CNBC's Jim Cramer noted suspicious price movement in P&G stock on air during the height of the market selloff. Watch.)

Sources tell CNBC the firm in question that handled the erroneous trade is Citigroup. The bank said it has no evidence of a bad trade but is investigating the situation

The massive selloff, which began shortly after 2 pm ET, amplified concerns about the spreading European debt crisis as the approval of austerity measures by the Greek Parliament sparked renewed rioting in Athens.

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