Wednesday’s sell-off on Wall Street was startling because it followed months of a steadily climbing, tranquil stock market.

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Confidence in President Donald Trump’s agenda to stoke economic growth was questioned Wednesday, as stocks tumbled and the dollar weakened.

The sell-off was startling because it followed months of a steadily climbing, tranquil stock market, a rally that came to be known as the Trump bump. And domestic employment and corporate profits have been strong, usually a boon for stocks.

Yet investors, who have shrugged off previous turmoil in the Trump administration, were clearly rattled by the most recent episode. Some on Wall Street speculated about whether the White House’s pro-business pledges to cut taxes, lighten regulation and increase infrastructure would be thwarted by the growing tumult in Washington. Some bank analysts even discussed the probability of impeachment.

And at a gathering of big money managers in Las Vegas, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, said he was worried about the stability of Trump’s leadership.

“I think it’s a reasonable concern, obviously,” Bernanke said. He later added that after years of a strong economy, statistically speaking, it was time for a slowdown. “Over the next four years,” he told an audience of hundreds of investors, “there is a pretty good chance we’ll have a downturn.”

The question is whether it began Wednesday.

The New York Times report Tuesday that Trump had asked James Comey, then the FBI director, to scuttle an investigation shook markets.

The benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 index tumbled 43.64 points, or 1.8 percent, to 2,357.03 Wednesday, its sharpest decline since September. The Dow lost 372.82 points, or 1.8 percent, to 20,606.93 — its steepest slide since the election. And the Nasdaq composite index, coming off setting two consecutive record highs, gave up 158.63 points, or 2.6 percent, to 6,011.24.

Wall Street’s fear gauge, the volatility index known as the VIX, spiked 46 percent after a long streak at historically low levels. And the dollar weakened against other currencies, with the Bloomberg dollar index falling to its lowest level since the election.

Investors flocked to markets considered safer in times of political risk. The price of gold rose nearly 2 percent, while Treasury securities rallied.

One day in the markets does not make a pattern. Still, the reaction contrasted sharply with investors’ earlier complacency. The surprising firing of Comey last week and even the news early this week that Trump had shared confidential intelligence details with Russian diplomats had little discernible effect on markets.

But the revelations on Tuesday that a memo written by Comey detailed a plea by Trump to shut down a federal investigation into his former national-security adviser, Michael Flynn, over his ties to Russia, seemed to be more than investors could stomach.

“This piece of news, the market appears to be acting differently towards,” said Curtis Schenker, co-founder of Scoggin Capital Management. “For the first time, there is real concern that Trump has overstepped his boundaries, which may create some chaos in the market.”

The political risk has existed for months, with Trump’s provocative Twitter posts drawing scrutiny. Questions have been raised about links to Russia in his campaign team and administration, and, the White House has fumbled its legislative agenda.

Yet throughout the president’s first months in office, stock investors focused not on the questions and the missteps, but on the pro-business policies he had promised.

Now, however, with few policy victories in hand, the reports on Trump’s plea to Comey stimulated a market backlash.

“Equities had been rallying for a long time, without much of a pause,” Stephen Jen, a London-based hedge-fund manager, wrote by email Wednesday. “To the extent that the political noises in the U.S. further reduce the prospect of market-boosting measures such as tax cuts,” he added, “a correction in the risk assets,” in this case, stocks, “makes sense.”

Analysts at Japan’s Nomura bank wrote that, while “impeachment still seems a distant prospect,” the “negative impacts that the latest developments have on Trump’s ability to pursue his policy agenda could be more important for markets.”

Still, not every investor was unnerved. With the U.S. job market robust, the prospect of improving growth and a season of healthy corporate earnings, the economy is in good shape, some investors said. That strong foundation cannot be undermined by possible presidential misconduct, they argued, no matter how serious.