5 things to know before the stock market opens March 20, 2020

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1. Dow set for gains Friday but steep weekly losses

A trader works on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York, the United States, March 18, 2020.

Michael Nagle | Xinhua News Agency | Getty Images

Dow futures were pointing to about a 600-point jump at Friday’s open on Wall Street. Nasdaq futures hit their 5% “limit up.” If gains were to hold by the close, the Dow Jones Industrial Average would log its first back-to-back advances since Feb. 5-6, one week before its Feb. 12 record high. Thursday’s coronavirus-driven volatility saw the Dow off 720 points or 3%, before closing nearly 200 points or 0.95% higher. Heading into Friday, the Dow — down over 13% for the week — was tracking for its worst weekly loss since the 2008 financial crisis. Despite Thursday’s gain, the Dow was still 32% below last month’s record highs.

2. California issues ‘stay at home’ order

Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom took the extraordinary step of requiring residents statewide to “stay at home,” in a coronavirus order that took effect Thursday night. Essential government functions such as law enforcement and essential businesses like gas stations, pharmacies, grocery stores and banks can remain open. Other businesses must close.

California estimates that more than half of the state’s 25.5 million people will get the virus over the next eight weeks. California currently has just about 1,000 confirmed cases, the third most in the United States, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. New York has the most cases with more than 5,700 followed by Washington state with nearly 1,400 cases. The U.S. has over 14,000 cases with 205 deaths.

3. Italy now the deadliest country in outbreak

Italy has overtaken China as the world’s deadliest coronavirus hotspot with only about the half the number of cases. Italy has over 41,000 cases. China, where the outbreak originated in December, has more than 81,000 cases and 3,253 deaths. South Korea, which had spiked to the biggest hotspot outside China, is now No. 8 on the global list with about 8,650 cases and 94 deaths. The worldwide death toll surpassed 10,000 with cases increasing to nearly 245,500. Globally, over 86,000 patients are listed as recovered.

4. Bailouts for companies, relief for Americans take shape

The Senate GOP coronavirus bailout bill would cap executive pay at companies that receive taxpayer money, while also allowing the government to take ownership stakes. Democrats are pushing for more restrictions, including the prohibition of stock buybacks at bailed-out firms. The Senate Republican plan for relief to Americans includes $1,200 cash payments to individuals that would start to phase out at $75,000 in adjusted gross income. Companies are also doing their parts to take care of workers. Walmart is spending $365 million to pay cash bonuses to its hourly employees for working during the pandemic.

5. Two senators face questions about timing of stock sales

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., is facing questions about his decision to sell between $630,000 and $1.7 million worth of stock one week before global financial markets began their historic slide in response to the coronavirus pandemic. A second Republican senator, Georgia’s Kelly Loeffler, also sold large amounts of stock in late January and early February, when U.S. markets were hitting all-time highs. Both Burr and Loeffler have received non-public information about the global spread of the coronavirus from Executive Branch officials, who have been briefing senators regularly since at least January.

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