1. Dow set to sink as oil prices plunge
Dow futures were pointing to about a 500-point drop at Monday’s open as the May futures contract on West Texas Intermediate crude was sinking more than 38% to around $11 per barrel. The May contract on WTI, the American oil benchmark, is set to expire Tuesday. The June contract was off over 11% to about $22 per barrel. Oil has been tanking on slumping demand as coronavirus mitigation measures have kept drivers off the roads. At the same time, crude storage facilities have been filling up rapidly. On Friday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average soared 704 points, or 3%, to its first closed above 24,000 since March 10. The S&P 500 closed 2.7% higher. The Nasdaq was up 1.4%. Friday’s rally was fueled by hopes for a coronavirus therapeutic as a report said Gilead Sciences drug remdesivir showed some effectiveness in treating the coronavirus.
2. Senate nears small business loan deal
Senate Democrats and Republicans are nearing a deal that could inject roughly $370 billion into loan programs for small businesses, a person familiar with the negotiations told CNBC. The talks come after the $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program, which offers forgivable loans to small businesses, ran out of money Thursday. Democrats rejected a proposal to refill the fund two weeks ago, arguing for more money to support federal testing, hospitals and local governments. Shake Shack is returning a $10 million loan that it got through PPP. The restaurant chain said it was able to raise additional capital on its own.
3. Texas eases some of its coronavirus restrictions
Protesters rally at the Texas State Capitol to speak out against Texas’ handling of the COVID-19 outbreak, in Austin, Texas, Saturday, April 18, 2020.
Eric Gay | AP
Starting this week, Texas is easing some of its coronavirus restrictions, allowing retailers to sell items for curbside pickup, resuming elective surgeries and reopening state parks. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott made the announcement Friday, one day after the White House put out a three-phase blueprint for states to reopen their economies. President Donald Trump on Friday tweeted, “LIBERATE MINNESOTA,” “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” and “LIBERATE VIRGINIA,” three states whose Democratic governors have faced protests to ease restrictions.
A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, conducted before Thursday’s reopening guidelines, shows 58% of registered voters are more concerned about moving “too quickly in loosening restrictions.” U.S. coronavirus cases have topped 750,000 and 40,600 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data Monday morning. Globally, infections have surpassed 2.4 million and 165,000 fatalities.
4. Trump wants to force increased swab production
Trump announced Sunday he plans to use the Defense Production Act to force an unnamed manufacturer to increase production of swabs used in coronavirus testing by 20 million per month. The president made the announcement after some governors cited a lack of swabs and chemicals need for testing. Health experts, and even many CEOs, have warned against opening the country before widespread testing is available. Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday said the state plans to roll out tests this week to detect whether a person has developed Covid-19 antibodies, which indicates that they may be immune. New York’s more than 248,000 cases and 18,200 deaths are the most in the nation.
5. FDA approves randomized trial of hydroxychloroquin
A logo sits on display on a building at the Novartis AG campus in Basel, Switzerland, on Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019.
Stefan Wermuth | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Swiss drug giant Novartis has received emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration to conduct a randomized trial of malaria drug hydroxychloroquine against Covid-19. Novartis plans to start recruiting 440 patients within weeks at more than dozen U.S. sites. The decades-old drug, also approved to treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, was authorized this month for use on coronavirus patients. So far, there’s no scientific proof it works. Focus on hydroxychloroquine soared after Trump promoted it. Companies such as Novartis, Roche and Gilead are testing older medicines developed to treat other diseases, for signs they could be repurposed to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
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— Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.