5 things to know before the stock market opens March 31, 2020

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1. Stock futures are higher after another robust rally from coronavirus lows

U.S. stock futures were pointing to a higher open Tuesday, the final day of the turbulent first quarter. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 3% on Monday — up over 20% from its coronavirus sell-off low hit on March 23 but still off 24.5% from last month’s record high. The 10-year Treasury yield moved higher early Tuesday but remained around 0.7%. U.S. oil prices were bouncing more than 5% early Tuesday after falling below $20 per barrel to an 18-year low and finishing the New York session just above that level Monday. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, in phone call Monday, agreed to talks to stabilize energy markets. China’s official purchasing managers’ index for March showed an expansion instead of an expected contraction. However, Chinese officials warned against reading too much into the numbers because February’s outbreak halt was so severe.

2. Dow set to post its worst quarter in over three decades

New York Stock Exchange building is seen at the Financial District in New York City, United States on March 29, 2020.

Tayfun Coskun | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Wall Street closes the books Tuesday on the worst month since the financial crisis, when the Dow sank 14% in October 2008, and the worst quarter since Q4 1987, a three-month period that included the October “Black Monday” stock market crash. The fourth quarter in 1987 saw the Dow plunge 25.3%. This year, heading into the final trading day in March, the Dow was losing more than 12% for the month and nearly 22% for the first quarter as the coronavirus crisis bought the U.S. economy to a virtual halt. The S&P 500 was faring marginally better than the Dow, off 11% in March, the worst since a nearly 17% drop in October 2008. The S&P 500’s 18.7% decline with one day left in the quarter was the worst three-month period since Q4 2008, when the index lost almost 22.6%.

3. Global coronavirus cases surpass three quarters of million

A nurse wearing a protective mask is seen outside Elmhurst Hospital Center in the Queens borough of New York, March 30, 2020.

Jeenah Moon | Reuters

Global coronavirus cases surged past 788,500 with 37,877 deaths and nearly 160,000 recoveries, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The U.S. remained the country with the most known cases — over 164,600. The U.S. death toll of 3,170 as of Tuesday morning was 139 below fatalities in China, where the outbreak started in December. The most deaths from the virus and the second most infections were in Italy, which saw 11,591 deaths among more than 101,700 cases. Spain has the third most cases at about 88,000 and the second highest death toll at 7,716. China has the fourth most cases at over 82,240 and the third most deaths at 3,309.

4. USNS Comfort docks in New York City to relieve overwhelmed hospitals

A U.S. Coast Guard helicopter flies above USNS Comfort as it enters New York Harbor during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City, U.S., March 30, 2020.

Mike Segar | Reuters

The USNS Comfort floating hospital ship was docked in New York City after arriving Monday morning with the goal of taking noncoronavirus patients within 24 hours. The arrival of the Comfort attracted crowds, with many seeing the ship as a symbol of hope. But the onlookers also raised questions around social distancing.

The Comfort’s mission was to help take the strain off New York hospitals, which have been overwhelmed by coronavirus cases. Temporary hospitals have been set up in New York’s Javits Convention Center and in Central Park. The Comfort’s sister ship, the USNS Mercy, has been serving noncoronavirus cases in Los Angeles since Sunday.

5. Amazon fires warehouse worker who organized a strike over coronavirus protections

Amazon has fired a New York warehouse worker who organized a strike to demand what he sees as the greater need for coronavirus protections for employees. Chris Smalls, a management assistant at the fulfillment center known as JFK8 on the city’s Staten Island, told CNBC on Monday he was fired to keep him quiet. Amazon said Smalls was fired after he received “multiple warnings” for violating social distancing guidelines and refusing to remain quarantined after coming into close contact with an associate who tested positive for the virus. The organizers said at least 50 people joined Monday’s walkout. Amazon said that number was more like 15. The JKF8 facility employs about 4,500 people.

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