- US deaths hit 114
- Senate to vote on 2nd economic rescue bill
- Iran reports another 147 deaths
- Hong Kong reported 14 new confirmed cases
- Brazil Senate Chief tests postiive
- France case total nears 2,000, death toll passes 250
- NYSE to close floor trading
- McConnell promises vote on 2nd economic bailout package by Friday
- Two Congresswomen tests positive
- Conn. reports first fatality
- Kudlow says US might capitalize troubled companies by buying stock
- WHO declares virus "enemy of humanity"
- State Department suspends visa services
- Germany sees 1k new cases as total nears 10k
- Kudlow says stimulus package should be $1.3 trillion
- Merkel warns country facing biggest challenge since WWII
- European Union seals borders
- PM Johnson prepares 'London Lockdown' plan
- Trump says China hasn't asked the US to suspend tariffs
- UAW succeeds in pushing Detroit automakers to shut down factories
- UK reportedly about to close schools as Boris scrambles to catch up with policy U-turn
- ECB holding emergency call over virus response
- Facebook launches coronavirus website information center
- France follows Germany by eliminating bank capital buffers
- HUD suspends evictions
- Cuomo bars NY companies from having more than 50%
- Wal-Mart shares hit record high
- US, Canada agree to close border
- Cuomo says state "looking into" reports of Covid-19 cluster in Borough Park
- White House now pushing to send 2 $1,000 checks to every American
- Spanish Olympic Committee head says Tokyo Games should be postponed
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Update (2040ET): Utah Congressman Ben McAdams has become the second member of the House of Representatives to test positive.
"Today I learned that I tested positive," he said in a statement.
Both Congressmen are Republicans.
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Update (1845ET): In another alarming development, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont on Wednesday confirmed the state's first death linked to Covid-19: An 88 year old man who was recently admitted to a hospital in Danbury.
It is with sadness today that we are confirming the first death of a person in Connecticut due to severe complications from COVID-19. The patient, a man in his 80s, had recently been admitted to Danbury Hospital, where he was receiving treatment. (1/4)— Governor Ned Lamont (@GovNedLamont) March 18, 2020
The first fatality "really brings it home", Lamont said during an interview on MSNBC. "We don't want Italy to happen in Connecticut," Lamont said, explaining that this is why he moved early to close schools, restaurants, gyms and other public areas.
If the state doesn't move quickly, it could be faced with its own Kirkland-style crisis, as WTNH reports that a patient in a nursing home in Stafford Springs, the town that hosts Connecticut's only major airport, Bradley, has also tested positive. The rest of the residents in the facility are in the process of being tested.
After more than half a dozen lawmakers self-quarantined over the past few weeks, Florida Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart has become the first member of the US Congress to test positive for the coronavirus. Diaz-Balart announced the diagnosis in a tweeted statement, where he explained that he had decided to self-quarantine in Washington after votes on March 13 because his wife had conditions that made her a high-risk patient. Diaz-Balart presumably met with one of the many Brazilian officials who has now tested positive for the virus (or maybe one of those defiant spring breakers putting the health of the nation at risk to party on the beach, as is their god-given right as Americans). The problem of political officials catching the virus has been a problem from Iran, to Italy to many other countries the virus has traveled.
I'm feeling much better. However, it's important that everyone take this seriously and follow @CDCgov guidelines in order to avoid getting sick & mitigate the spread of this virus. We must continue to work together to emerge stronger as a country during these trying times. pic.twitter.com/g5W5vSQIyH— Mario Diaz-Balart (@MarioDB) March 18, 2020
It's only fitting that he's from Florida...
Meanwhile, in Spain, where the prime minister has instituted a 'shelter in place' crackdown after his wife also caught the virus, health officials reported 2,943 new cases of the virus, bringing the total to 14,769, along with 105 new deaths, bringing the total to 638.
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Update (1740ET): NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio insisted that there are nearly 2k case sin NYC alone as of Wednesday afternoon, and that 11 NYC residents had died from the virus. That 1,871 number is up from 1,339 this morning.
- DE BLASIO: NUMBERS GROWING REALLY RAPIDLY, 1871 CASES IN NYC
- DE BLASIO: 11 NYC RESIDENTS HAVE DIED FROM VIRUS
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Update (1715ET): Despite myriad misgivings, the Senate passed the first economy-focused coronavirus relief package on Wednesday. A couple hours later, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said a second stimulus bill (the third bill dedicated to fighting the virus) could be passed as soon as Friday, even as Mnuchin and Pelosi continue to haggle over the details.
That bill could include $500 billion in direct payments to Americans, another $100 billion for industries in need of rescue, $300 billion in small and medium business loans, and possibly more. The dollar-amount, which keeps moving higher (Kudlow most recently put it at $1.3 trillion) is intended to shock and awe the public and quiet the panic as millions of Americans file for unemployment.
Yesterday, Mnuchin told lawmakers that if they didn’t pass the bill, that unemployment in this country could hit 20% - though Trump said that’s an “absolute, worst-case scenario”, and “we’re nowhere near it.”
We suspect sentiment regarding the bill's chances is going to start having an impact on equity prices.
Meanwhile, the total number of global coronavirus cases has climbed to $214,000.
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Update (1655ET): Trump economic advisor Larry Kudlow made some more bullish comments after his interview with Fox News, telling reporters with the White House pool that the administration could even resort to direct purchases of equities - a de facto nationalization - as part of its bailout package.
"Whatever it takes," Kudlow said, at one point.
Meanwhile, after a handful of futures exchanges closed floor trading, the NYSE has decided to follow suit, closing floor trading (aka the CNBC live set) and move to only electronic trading beginning on Monday, according to NYSE owner IntercontinentalExchange.
In other news, the president of the Brazilian Senate has tested positive for Covid-19.
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Update (1540ET): With Larry Kudlow has taken to Fox Business to try and jawbone the market higher as the Senate begins its vote on the 'Part 2' economic stimulus package for small businesses, which we suspect will pass following last night's meeting with Mnuchin.
During the interview, Kudlow said the total value of the third economic stimulus package should be $1.3 trillion, and if it takes more than $1.3 trillion worth of stimulus for 'Phase 3', "we will do more than that".
Yesterday, Mnuchin said the stimulus would include $1 trillion in direct aid to Americans (checks in mailboxes), and another $300 billion in tax relief for small businesses. As one twitter wit pointed out...
Kudlow today says phase three stimulus should be $1.3trln - growth rate of stimulus estimates is slowing 🙄 https://t.co/AnQpn5Nq9m— Yogi Chan (@Yogi_Chan) March 18, 2020
A word of advice, guys: the stimulus conversation is starting to sound a little desperate. The market wanted this done last week. The longer it takes from here on out, the further we will fall.
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Update (1530ET): A State Department spokeswoman just said that the US is suspending visa services in most countries worldwide as the world turns inward to combat the coronavirus.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire revealed an aid package on Wednesday, following in the footsteps of Germany by allowing French banks to ignore capital buffers to tap an additional €8 billion in capital. He also called on the ECB to follow up with a "massive" intervention, as the ECB governing council is reportedly holding an "emergency call" on virus response.
The US Air Force’s National Guard unit has transported 500,000 nasopharyngeal swabs for coronavirus tests from Italy to Memphis, Pentagon officials said.
In a worrying sign for the banks, JPM just reported that it will be closing 1,000 Chase branches out of the more than 5,100 across the US. This comes just one day after Treasury Secretary Mnuchin insisted that no banks were considering closures.
Facebook denied a WaPo report claiming the company was working with the government to build an app to help track the spread of coronavirus by exploiting sensitive personal data. Instead, the company announced a new website to help provide coroanvirus information - news, testing info, treatment, prevention - to all of FB's 2 billion+ users.
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Update (1420ET): Telegraph editor Steven Swinford reports that Boris Johnson - who was evasive when asked about the possibility earlier - has asked the government to draw up plans for a total London lockdown.
Exclusive:— Steven Swinford (@Steven_Swinford) March 18, 2020
Boris Johnson has asked departments to draw up plans for London lockdown
Cabinet Office has asked for proposals on restrictions, implementation & compliance measures
It’s being called the ‘London Shielding Plan’
Responses expected by Fridayhttps://t.co/ZK8yAzc1N4
In the US, the only areas that have been really locked down are New Rochelle and the area near the nursing home in Kirkland Washington where dozens of patients have died. The lockdown of London would be essentially unprecedented in the West, since it's larger than any city in Italy, Spain or Paris.
Johnson has pivoted in his approach to the virus in recent days after experts determined that the UK government's approach, which left businesses and schools open, while encouraging everybody exhibiting symptoms to quarantine as soon as they emerged, risks killing hundreds of thousands, while some have accused Johnson of embracing a 'herd immunity' approach, which the administration has denied.
Earlier this week, Johnson advised all Britons - especially those working in the capitol - to work from home and avoid going out if possible, yet tube ridership has only declined 19%.
Additionally, officials said, the Johnson administration isn't planning on adopting the measures within the next 48 hours. But they're worried that as more individuals ignore the government's advice, they might need to take a heavy handed approach.
Boris Johnson has asked government departments to draw up plans for a lockdown of London to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
The Cabinet Office has written to departments asking for recommendations about restrictions, how they could be implemented and how to ensure "compliance."
The measures, which are being described as a “shielding plan for London”, could be introduced as soon as next week and see businesses closed and restrictions placed on travel. Robert Jenrick, the housing minister, is taking the lead on the policy.
Under new emergency powers the government will be able to “close premises” and “restrict or prohibit events and gatherings” including halting cars, buses, trains and planes.
The issue of 'enforcement' came up several times.
Across the channel, France reported a total of 9,135 cases on Wednesday, a jump of 1,404 cases from Tuesday, according to Director General for Health Jerome Salomon, who released the figures during a daily briefing. Deaths rose to 264 from 175 the day before.
Earlier, the WHO branded the virus an "enemy against humanity," and urged a collective response to fight the global outbreak.
"This coronavirus is presenting us with an unprecedented threat," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday.
As expected, the EU on Wednesday barred travelers from outside the bloc for 30 days to try to slow the rapid spread of the virus. Though it estimated that there are still 80,000 EU citizens abroad who must return home.
Europe has now recorded 4,023 deaths, including 2,978 in Italy which recorded its highest single day toll Wednesday, surpassing 3,384 deaths in Asia. Across the Continent, more than 84,000 cases have been confirmed, with Italy, Spain and France leading in both infections and fatalities.
While Italy, France, the UK and Spain suffer, Germany has had slightly more success in containing the virus, as cases and deaths have remained muted while testing has always been high. As of Feb. 24, Germany had 16 confirmed cases.
On Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel delivered a major televised address - a format typically saved for her new years' address - warning the country that it's facing its most serious challenge since World War II where "solidarity" was critical. Cases in the country jumped by more than 1,000 overnight to a total of 8,198, while the German death toll has been steady at 12 for days. If effective measures aren’t taken, 10 million Germans could be infected in the next three months, Germany's top health authorities have warned.
"The coronavirus is currently changing life in our country dramatically,” Merkel said. "Our expectations of normality, of public life, of community - all that is being tested like never before." She called on all Germans to "do their part" in limiting the damage.
Schools have been closed in some areas (particularly in hard-hit Bavaria), and restaurants and bars across the country have shuttered or reduced their hours, though no blanket bans or closures have been adopted by federal officials.
* * *
Update (1350ET): UK PM Johnson just ordered all schools across the UK to close, and promised to "do more" after passing a massive stimulus package yesterday.
NEW: Boris Johnson announces:— Daniel Hewitt (@DanielHewittITV) March 18, 2020
-Schools closed from Friday 'until further notice'
-Staying open for children of key workers & vulnerable children
-Working on voucher scheme for children on free school meals
-Exams in May and June cancelled
The prime minister promised nervous students that "exams will not take place as planned in May and June" and that schools would 'remain open' on some level to accommodate the children of emergency workers as well as 'vulnerable pupils'. To lessen the financial blow to families, Johnson added that the government will provide vouchers for free school meals for those eligible.
* * *
Update (1330ET): Italy has reported another record jump in deaths on Wednesday: 475 new deaths were confirmed, bringing total to 2,978. Meanwhile, the total number of confirmed cases has climbed to 35,713 from 31,506, with a total of 2,978 deaths.
UK also reported its largest jump in deaths, reporting an additional 37 fatalities, bringing its total to 104, while it's case total lingers below 3,000, while government epidemiologists project that the true number infected is likely closer to 50k, given the death toll.
Schools in Scotland and Wales are set to close on Friday, with PM Boris Johnson and his education secretary Gavin Williamson hinting that the situation in schools is getting harder to control, and with ensuring safety becoming more difficult, it's about time to close up shop.
* * *
Update (1255ET): The UAW has reportedly succeeded in convincing Detroit automakers to shut down all US factories, following similar decisions by German and South Korean car companies.
As the reporters in the briefing room chew over Trump's insistence on blaming China while maintaining a 4ft perimeter of personal space, we'd like to highlight the results of a study by the University of Southampton showing there could have been a 95% reduction in cases world wide if China had acted to contain the virus 3 weeks earlier.
The UK is reportedly about to close schools across the country as PM Boris Johnson continues his policy about-face after the experts advising the administration's shifted their view and warned that if Johnson were to stay the course - ignoring the quarantines and closures being implemented everywhere else - it would likely result in "hundreds of thousands" of deaths.
The education secretary has said that the situation for schools has become "increasingly challenging" and that the circumstances are "shifting."
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Update (1250ET): Trump said China hasn't asked the US for any leeway on the 'Phase 1' trade pact, though he speculated that they might thanks to the enormous economic hit they are taking.
Regarding Mexico, Trump said he's not closing the border, but is invoking a "provision" giving him greater latitude.
In unrelated, but encouraging, news for some of the most vulnerable Americans during this time of crisis, HUD has suspended all foreclosures/evictions until the end of April, Trump said.
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Update (1220ET): President Trump has invoked the Defense Production Act and deploys FEMA to all regions of the country.
After once again calling on Americans to heed the governments guidance, Dr. Birx said she has seen some preliminary data suggesting that young people are being infected at much higher rates because of their indifference to the virus - which would explain the unusually large number of young people in serious condition in Italy and other parts of the country.
With tests about to become widely available, the US could see numbers of cases rise pretty swiftly, potentially provoking claims that the US is "worse than Italy". She advised the public to ignore this, adding that Roche and Thermo-Fisher have really stepped up in providing tests.
Unsurprisingly, one of the first questions posed to Trump was an inquiry about why he keeps referring to the virus as the "Chinese virus", with the reporter snarkily noting that more Europeans now have the virus than Chinese people.
"Because it comes from China," Trump calmly replied, before going on to explain that "China was saying that US soldiers spread the virus to China...I can't have that."
Trump also said that the economy is "nowhere close" to the 20% unemployment number that has been bandied about since Mnuchin reportedly brought it up during a meeting with Republican lawmakers.
Notably, Dr Anthony Fauci, who is nearly 80 and technically in the "high risk" contingent for the virus, was absent from today's briefing. Maybe that's why markets were so unimpressed.
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Update (1200ET): Mitch McConnell has called a vote on the second part of the federal coronavirus response package for 2 pm. The bill was stalled after some GOP lawmakers insisted on making 'technical alterations'.
In a series of tweets, McConnell says he will support the bill, though he feels it doesn't go far enough to help small business owners. Of course, in the middle of a crisis, we suspect the small businesses McConnell is championing would rather have something concrete, than all the empty soundbites in the world.
The Senate is going to vote on the House’s proposal. I will support it. But it does not help enough Americans and, crucially, it adds even more uncertainty for small businesses. It will make it all the more urgent for the Senate to pass bold legislation to help small businesses. pic.twitter.com/R0DjHKBLrI— Leader McConnell (@senatemajldr) March 18, 2020
The market is moved higher in recent trade. Is the Trump Administration about to show investors that it has the capacity to step up in times of crisis? Stay tuned...
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Update (1150ET): Cuomo and NY public health officials just confirmed that they're "looking into" reports about a "cluster" of cases in Borough Park, Brooklyn, a neighborhood that's overwhelmingly populated by ultra-orthodox Jews, stirring up memories of last year's measles outbreak.
In other news, the total cases diagnosed in Europe has now passed the total from China.
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Update (1140ET): As we wait for the inevitably tardy White House task force, accompanied by President Trump, to deliver Wednesday's briefing, here are a few more updates:
Companies in NY shouldn't have no more than 50% of their workforce in their facilities at any time, NY Gov Andrew Cuomo said, as his daily presser began.
After initially proposing a $50 billion airline bailout, Trump is reportedly proposing lending to air carriers from the Exchange Stabilization Fund, a pool of capital at the Treasury used for direct FX-market interventions. The administration is also reportedly planning to set aside another $150 billion for other industry bailouts.
With NY still leading the country in testing thanks to a handful of 'drive thru' testing centers that have opened in the southern part of the state, Cuomo said the state has now confirmed 2,382 cases in the state, up 1,008 since yesterday, slightly larger than yesterday;'s jump. That's a larger total than all but 10 countries.
In Norway, lawmakers passed a bill granting the country's executive emergency powers, what appears to be a first in Europe.
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Update (1110ET): The EU has reportedly decided on a plan that will 'pave the way' for the ECB to make the bond purchases that it has promised.
In other news: Amid the market carnage, Wal-Mart shares climbed 6.1% higher on Wednesday to hit a fresh record high. In Canada, PM Trudeau confirmed that the decision to close the northern border was a mutual decision.
And once after again trashing President Trump's fiscal plan of giving every American $1,000, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday that the payments to Americans need to be "bigger" and "more frequent". He's not the only one: Bernie Sanders said he would double the amount to $2,000 per adult American during a post-primary announcement on Tuesday. Even Andrew Yang tweeted that he was "consulted" about his infamous 'freedom dividend' policy.
Like a teenager intent on acing that first job interview, when it comes to the market chaos, the White House simply won't take 'no' for an answer, and has repeatedly tried to jawbone us out of this crisis, even as the reaction has made plain that only concrete action from the Trump Administration and Congress can save us from this meltdown.
Steve Mnuchin was in the middle of an interview with CNBC Wednesday morning when the Washington Post reported that the White House now intends to send two $1,000 checks to adult Americans, in addition to the $300 billion in 'emergency liquidity' (ie zero-interest loans) it's also promising.
Here's a few headlines from the Mnuchin interview.
- MNUCHIN PROPOSES $500B IN AID CHECKS PAID IN TWO INSTALLMENTS
- MNUCHIN SUMMARIZES VIRUS AID PROPOSAL IN FACT SHEET
- U.S ALSO OUTLINES $200B IN CORPORATE AID, $300B SMALL BUSINESS
- CHECKS TO AMERICANS WOULD COME ON APRIL 6, MAY 18 IF APPROVE
In a few minutes, we're bound to hear more from the White House task force.
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Update (1000ET): In a statement released by the Pentagon, 49 American members of the American military have now tested positive for the virus, 13 more than Tuesday.
Three of them have been hospitalized.
In addition, 14 DoD contractors have tested positive, 19 spouses of service members and 7 contractors.
* * *
Update (0940ET): President Trump just tweeted that the US will be closing the 5,500-mile Canadian border "by mutual consent" - adding that trade and other "essential" traffic wouldn't be interrupted.
We will be, by mutual consent, temporarily closing our Northern Border with Canada to non-essential traffic. Trade will not be affected. Details to follow!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 18, 2020
Since the order comes via "mutual consent", American citizens won't be able to cross into Canada. This comes after PM Trudeau closed the country's borders to all foreigners except Americans earlier this week.
In other news, NYC Mayor de Blasio said the city needs the military's help to combat the virus, eliciting mental images of phalanxes of soldiers walking down Fifth Avenue, like something out of a disaster movie.
As we wait to see if the rest of the Olympic Committee will take the advice of Spanish Olympic Committee head Alejandro Blanco and push to cancel the games...especially as quarantines make it impossible for athletes to train.
In the UK, a reporter for the London-based 'City AM' business newspaper said she'd heard that the government is planning in order to ban nonessential traffic in and out of London. The quarantine order would also shutter all stores besides groceries and pharmacies.
Additionally, the Eurovision 2020 contest has been cancelled.
* * *
With US equity futures limit-down again overnight, the novel coronavirus outbreak is beginning to feel like 'Groundhog Day'.
And if the market's performance isn't enough to get readers doubting their own sanity, some of the novel coronavirus headlines hitting in the early morning and overnight just might do the trick. One day after Chinese health officials reported just a single case of Covid-19 that was transmitted domestically, President Xi has warned that "inbound" cases of the virus - ie foreigners traveling to China who are already infected - are placing China at risk for reinfection. So, after China infected the world, President Xi is warning that the world might soon reinfect China.
Overnight, Hong Kong reported 14 new confirmed cases - its largest single-day jump - after new cases slowed to a trickle in recent weeks. According to the SCMP, all except one of those cases was a foreigner bringing the virus back to HK.
Singapore and Taiwan, which were widely praised for acting swiftly to stamp out the virus via mandatory closures, travel restrictions and - as the NYT explained in a story published Wednesday morning - swiftly tracing and isolating contacts of the recently diagnosed. In South Korea, a spate of new clusters around densely populated Seoul has raised fears about another runaway outbreak, per the SCMP.
The KCDC reported 93 new cases on Wednesday, up from 84 a day earlier and 74 on Monday. The new cases took the total infection caseload to 8,413.
As Republican "deficit-hawks" like Lindsey Graham pushed back against the Trump Administration's latest 'helicopter money' stimulus plan yesterday that will inject $1 trillion into the economy (on top of $300 billion in deferred tax payments), Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin took a page out of the 'TARP' playbook and warned a group of GOP senators during a closed-door meeting on Tuesday that the unemployment rate in the US could soar to depression levels of around 20% if they failed to pass the legislation, then promptly leaked his comments to Reuters, with the stipulation that Mnuchin's comments didn't represent an official "forecast", merely one of many worst-case scenarios that could come to pass if the federal government continues to sit on its hands.
In the Middle East, Iran reported another 147 deaths from the virus on Wednesday, bringing its death toll to 1,135. Elsewhere, the Sultanate of Oman entered an almost full lockdown beginning at noon local time on Wednesday as the sultanate imposes the most restrictive measures across the Gulf states to limit the spread of coronavirus after the region recorded its first death outside Iran two days ago.
In the UK, Sainsbury's supermarket chain said Wednesday that it would begin limiting customer purchases to between 2-3 items to combat hoarding.
As suddenly unemployed workers in the US crash state benefit websites, the ILO has warned that the pandemic could leave up to 25 million more out of work, and drastically slash incomes.
Globally, the total number of Covid-19 cases passed 200,000 overnight - more than doubling over two weeks - after health officials around the world reported the largest jump in cases yet, with an additional 15,615 confirmed on Tuesday, and even more confirmations following overnight.
So far, the US has confirmed 6,496 cases, including 114 deaths. In Italy, the second worst-hit country after China (and likely Iran, which lags Italy on the official death toll but likely has thousands of dead or deathly ill who aren't being counted. In Italy, infections topped 31,500 and deaths reached 2,503 by Wednesday morning.