The Fed’s rescue plan is undermined by a drum beat of bad news.
The Federal Reserve unveiled a vast expansion of its efforts to shore up businesses and keep markets functioning. But the brief boost for Wall Street was soon wiped away as Washington lawmakers failed again to come together on a nearly $2 trillion rescue package.
Across the landscape of American business, grim news abounded Monday as the coronavirus pandemic paralyzed the country.
Boeing said it was temporarily idling 70,000 factory workers in Washington State after about 30 employees tested positive for Covid-19. Twitter said its revenue would take a hit as advertising has declined. Nordstrom, its cash diminished, drew down $800 million in credit. And General Electric said it would cut 10 percent of workers in its aviation unit.
The biggest factor again driving markets was Congress, which hit another wall in its attempt to push through a fiscal stimulus package.
Senate Democrats blocked the progress of the nearly $2 trillion government rescue package for a second time as they continued to negotiate for stronger protections for workers and restrictions for bailed-out businesses.
The S&P 500 fell about 3 percent Monday, adding to a 15 percent plunge last week as traders remained cautious about the Fed’s ability to shift the trajectory of an economy that appears to be in free-fall because of the coronavirus crisis.
“It is hard for the Fed to stimulate underlying demand. For that, fiscal stimulus is needed,” Randy Watts, chief investment strategist at William O’Neil, an equity research and advisory firm, wrote in an email. “The deal in the Senate of the fiscal stimulus bill is obviously disappointing.”
There was more reason to worry on Monday as well. The International Monetary Fund’s managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, said she expected “a recession at least as bad as during the global financial crisis or worse” this year, with a rebound in 2021. “The faster the virus stops, the quicker and stronger the recovery will be,” she added.
And forecasters at Morgan Stanley offered one of the grimmest assessments for how much damage the coronavirus could inflict on the American economy in the months to come.
The economists said in a research note that they expected the economy to contract at an annualized rate of 2.4 percent in the first quarter of the year and a 30 percent rate in the second quarter — which would be the worst single-quarter drop recorded in modern American economic statistics.
In that scenario, the unemployment rate would approach 13 percent, which would also be a record.
“Economic activity has come to a near standstill in March,” they wrote.
As Fox News played down the coronavirus, its chief protected himself.
In the first 10 days of March, some of the commentators on Fox News and Fox Business played down the threat of what would soon be recognized as a pandemic.
Many of the networks’ elderly, pro-Trump viewers responded to the coverage and the president’s public statements by taking the virus less seriously than others.
But one elderly Fox News viewer, a crucial supporter of President Trump, took the threat seriously: The channel’s chairman, Rupert Murdoch, who was to celebrate his 89th birthday on March 11.
On March 8, as the virus was spreading, the Murdoch family called off a planned party out of concern for the patriarch’s health, according to a person familiar with the cancellation. There were about 20 people on the guest list.
The canceled party is perhaps the most glaring instance of the gap between the elite, globally minded family owners of Fox — who took the crisis seriously as reports emerged in January in their native Australia — and many of their nominal stars, who treated the virus as a political assault on Mr. Trump, before zigzagging, along with the president, toward a focus on the enormity of the public health risk.
Boeing will temporarily shut its Washington State factories.
Boeing plans to announce on Monday that it will temporarily shut down its operations in Washington State, where the company has two major factories and several smaller sites, in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus among its tens of thousands of employees in the region, according to three people familiar with the matter.
The factories will close for two weeks and all of the 70,000 employees will continue to receive paychecks during that time, according to two of the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal decisions. Boeing is in contact with the Pentagon to determine how to handle its work on the KC-46 tanker and P-8 military aircraft, which are made in the Washington factories.
For now, the company’s other major production facilities, in Missouri, South Carolina, Arizona and Pennsylvania, will remain open.
The Fed says it will buy corporate debt to cushion the blow for businesses.
The Federal Reserve said it would buy as much government-backed debt as it needed to keep financial…
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