Updated at 5:54 p.m. ET

The Federal Reserve cut its key interest rate to near zero, a dramatic move not seen since the depths of the 2008 financial crisis.

It was the U.S. central bank's second emergency rate cut this month in an attempt to cushion the rapidly growing economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Fed also announced plans to buy $700 billion in government securities.

"The effects of the coronavirus will weigh on economic activity in the near term and pose risks to the economic outlook," the Fed said in a statement announcing the moves Sunday. "In light of these developments, the [Federal Open Market] Committee decided to lower the target range for the federal funds rate to 0 to 1/4 percent."

President Trump — who has often slammed the Fed for not cutting rates more quickly — praised the actions minutes later.

"It's really great news" and "great for our country," Trump told reporters at the White House, adding that the Fed's announcement should cheer financial markets. Just on Friday, Trump had said he could remove Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, whom he had appointed, from the top job at the Fed.

In addition to the rate cut, the Fed also announced measures to "support the smooth functioning of markets for Treasury securities and agency mortgage-backed securities." The Fed said it will boost its holdings of Treasurys by at least $500 billion and its holdings of agency mortgage-backed securities by at least $200 billion in coming months.

Global financial markets have been shaken deeply by the growing pandemic. And U.S. stock indexes have plummeted at least 20% from their recent record highs — putting the market in bear market territory after an 11-year winning streak. The Dow Jones Industrial Average has fallen nearly 6,400 points since its record high on Feb. 12.

On Friday, the Dow jumped 9.3%, or 1,985 points, after posting its worst day since the Black Monday crash of October 1987. That rebound came as Trump declared a national emergency and announced several steps to deal with the coronavirus crisis. But the Dow still lost nearly 2,700 points for the week.

"The coronavirus outbreak has harmed communities and disrupted economic activity in many countries, including the United States," the Fed said Sunday. "Global financial conditions have also been significantly affected."

In cutting its key interest to zero, the Fed has practically lost one of a major policy tool — one that it would need if the economy tumbles into recession. But the Fed said its policymaking committee "will continue to closely monitor market conditions and is prepared to adjust its plans as appropriate."

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