Major Companies Are Pivoting Production To Hospital Supplies as COVID-19 Cases Surpass 245,000 Globally

Plus, Senate republicans unveiled the third coronavirus relief package, California residents are under lockdown, and JPMorgan and Walmart are giving cash bonuses to front-line employees.

Stocks were higher to start Friday with the Dow adding 100 points, or 0.6%. The S&P 500 gained 0.2%, while the Nasdaq traded 1.6% higher.

Stocks are on track to end their wild week on a positive note, though each of the three major indexes are still down more than -9% for the week. “The markets are trading more on emotion than the actual data. That’s what’s causing the volatility,” said Sal Bruno, chief investment officer at IndexIQ. “We’ve seen assets just trade off, really for no good reason, but just because there’s fear. When we look back at this, we’ll see how much of this was information-based trading and how much was emotionally based trading.” Alvine Capital Management chairman Stephen Isaacs said today that financial markets are facing their worst crisis since 1929. “This is an unprecedented situation, this is worse than 2008, this is worse than 1987, this is the worst crisis to hit financial markets since the Great Depression,” Isaacs said.

Senate republicans released their proposal for a third coronavirus relief package yesterday afternoon. The $t trillion bill introduced by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and includes four major components: “direct financial help” for Americans including cash payments for individuals of up to $1,200, “rapid relief” for small businesses, “significant steps to stabilize our economy,” and “more support” for health-care professionals and patients. The bill also includes up to $50 billion in relief aid for airlines, $8 billion for cargo air carriers, and $150 billion for other severely distressed businesses, and caps executive payment for businesses receiving a loan at $425,000 though does not restrict those businesses from doing buybacks with the money received or forbid worker layoffs. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement, “We are beginning to review Senator McConnell’s proposal and on first reading, it is not at all pro-worker and instead puts corporations way ahead of workers.” The House Appropriations Committee is also “working on robust funding for a strong federal, state, and local coronavirus response to include in the phase three bill. Supplemental appropriations are an essential part of a whole-of-government strategy to address this pandemic and it is irresponsible for Senate Republican leadership to omit these needed resources from its proposal.”

Global cases of the coronavirus are now more than 245,000, while the number of infected in the U.S. has risen to at least 14,250. Deaths worldwide now top at least 10,031. California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a statewide stay-in-place order until further notice to curb the spread of the virus Thursday afternoon, while New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered non-essential businesses to keep 100% of their workers at home as coronavirus cases in the state surge past 7,100 overnight. Elsewhere, the president of the region of Madrid, Spain, Isabel Diaz Ayuso, said yesterday that 80% of residents in the city will eventually get COVID-19. Ayuso added that while most who contract the virus would likely have mild symptoms, the coronavirus could be “lethal” for any person in the vulnerable population group, including the elderly or those with underlying health conditions.

JPMorgan and Walmart are giving some workers cash bonuses to cushion the difficulties of working during the coronavirus crisis. JPMorgan is giving “front-line employees” a one-time bonus of up to $1,000, and is also giving all employees up to five extra paid leave days and extended the carryover period of unused vacation days from last year. Walmart said it will pay nearly $550 million in bonuses to hourly employees, including special bonuses to reward its workforce for keeping shelves stocks as shoppers flock to stores. Walmart executive vice president of corporate affairs Dan Bartlett said that the bonuses will reward employees for “performing Herculean efforts.” “It’s almost like a mini stimulus package for Walmart associates,” Bartlett said. “It is quite frankly, unprecedented, the type of sustained pressure that we’re seeing. It is like Black Friday day after day after day in some respects.”

And several companies are ramping up efforts to produce hospital supplies as they pivot in the coronavirus fight. Honeywell and 3M are stepping up production of N95 industrial face masks, which can now be sold directly to hospitals in need. LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton has started making hydro alcoholic gel for hand sanitizer in facilities typically used for perfumes and cosmetics. General Electric is committing more of its production lines at its GE Healthcare subsidiary to the creation of ventilators and adding shifts so its production can be active 24 hours a day. And Ford and General Motors have said that there’s the possibility of using their facilities to produce ventilators.

Stocks We’re Watching

Bioamerica Inc (NASDAQ: BMRA): Shares of this thinly traded nano-cap are up 593% this week after Bioamerica announced that it has started shipping initial samples of its COVID-19 IgG/IgM Rapid Test which can generate results in 10 minutes and can be performed in non-laboratory settings. Bioamerica Chairman and CEO Zackary Irani said in a statement, “We are saddened by the continued global spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the devastating effects on the lives of people affected by COVID-19. While the Bioamerica test is new and being evaluated by various institutions, we are hopeful our low-cost test can be one of the tools used to contain this virus while vaccines and other permanent solutions are developed.”

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