“The Pandemic Is Accelerating” WHO Says As Global Coronavirus Cases Surpass 350,000

Plus, the Fed issued new initiatives in an effort to calm the market, the Senate is still negotiating a $2 trillion stimulus package, GE’s aviation unit is laying off 10% of its workforce, and CVS is hiring 50,000 workers.

Stocks were lower to start Monday with the Dow falling 836 points, or 4.4%, to its lowest level in three years. The S&P 500 slid 4%, while the Nasdaq traded 2.6% lower.

Treasury yields plunged on Monday after the Federal Reserve committed to asset purchasing “in the amounts needed to support smooth market functioning and effective transmission of monetary policy to broader financial conditions and the economy.” The 10-year Treasury yield dropped 25 basis points to 0.692%, while the yield on the 30-year Treasury note fell 20 basis points to 1.34%. The Fed will also be moving into corporate bonds for the first time, committing to purchase the investment-grade securities in primary and secondary markets and through exchange-traded funds. The central bank also said it is launching an initiative for an unspecified lending program for Main Street businesses, reintroducing the Term Asset-Backed Loan Facility implemented during the financial crisis, and said it will purchase agency commercial mortgage-backed securities—otherwise known to the market as quantitative easing—as part of an expansion in its asset purchases. “Today’s announcement will go a long way to reassuring investors the Fed has their backs and will stop the growing credit crisis in its tracks,” said Chris Rupkey, MUFG chief financial economist. “Yield spreads should narrow and the stock market should rest easier now that the Federal reserve is giving it all it’s got.”

Senate Republicans and Democrats stumbled in their attempt to agree to a $2 trillion stimulus package over the weekend after Senate Democrats voted to reject Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s latest version of the plan arguing that the plan amounted to “a large corporate bailout” with insufficient oversight that shortchanges the healthcare system in its response to the coronavirus pandemic. However, both sides of the aisle are expected to come to an agreement today. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said this morning that the two sides are nearly in agreement on the massive stimulus package. “I think we’re very close. We need to get this deal done today,” Mnuchin said to CNBC. “It is very important… We announced overnight with the Fed some very important actions supporting the asset-backed market, supporting the corporate bond market – primary and secondary. We’re using some of the funds we have, but we need Congress to approve additional funds today so that we can move forward and support American workers and the American economy.”

Cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. doubled over the weekend to at least 35,224 as testing efforts ramped up. Cases in New York, the hardest hit state, surged 38% overnight to 20,875. Delaware, Louisiana, Ohio, and Michigan have joined California, Illinois, and New York in ordering all residents to stay at home. Global cases have have accelerated to more than 350,000, with around 15,000 deaths. “The pandemic is accelerating,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a press briefing today. “It took 67 days from the first reported case to reach 100,000 cases, 11 for [the] second 100,000 cases, and just four days for the third 100,000 cases.” U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams warned today that the COVID-19 outbreak will worsen in the U.S. this week. “I want America to understand this week, it’s going to get bad,” Adams said. “Right now, there are not enough people out there who are taking this seriously. Everyone needs to act as if they have the virus right now. So, test or no test. We need you to understand you could be spreading it to someone else. Or you could be getting it from someone else. Stay home.” President Donald Trump on Sunday announced that he has activated the National Guard in California, New York, and Washington state in order to combat the spread of the coronavirus, though the administration emphasized that the deployment is not martial law. “This is a war – a different kind of war than we’ve ever had,” Trump said. U.S. tech CEOs including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Apple’s Tim Cook, and Salesforce’s Marc Benioff have pledged to donate masks to medical providers, while Tesla’s Elon Musk said his factories were building ventilators and said in a tweet, “We expect to have over ~1200 to distribute this week. Getting them delivered, installed & operating is the hardest part.”

Pressures are mounting on the International Olympic Committee and the Japanese government to postpone this summer’s Tokyo Olympics as Canada and Australia said they will not participating in the Games if they are not pushed back to 2021 given the coronavirus crisis. “The world is facing a crisis and this is more important than any other sport event,” Martin Richard, communications chief for the Canadian Olympic Committee, said to Reuters, “nothing is more important than the health and safety of our athletes and the world community.” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe changed his tone about rescheduling the games over the weekend, saying that the games will have to be postponed if the safety of spectators and athletes can’t be guaranteed due to the pandemic, though he added that cancellation of the games was not an option. While some analysts say that postponing or cancelling the Games could be “a huge blow” to the Japanese economy, others have said the impact may be modest. “Although the Japanese government would not necessarily be viewed negatively for postponing or cancelling the games, it would rob Prime Minister Abe of a potential major national celebration in 2020 as he prepares to step down in September 2021,” Fitch Solutions analysts wrote in a note. “Conversely, maintaining the Olympic Games could upset a significant portion of the population who may fear a second wave of infection as Japan would welcome athletes, staff and tourists from around the world.”

General Electric’s aviation unit, which makes some of the world’s most commonly used aircraft engines, sit it is laying off 10% of its U.S. workers—around 2,600 people—as the coronavirus dents demand. GE said it will also furlough about half of its aviation unit’s maintenance, repair and engine overhaul workers for 90 days. The moves are designed to safe $500 million to $1 billion this year. The company also announced that its healthcare unit, meanwhile, is scrambling to increase production of equipment including ventilators, patient monitors, CTs, and mobile X-ray devices to meet increasing demand from hospitals and other facilities fighting the pandemic. “I know our business teams are working hard to understand our new realities,” said CEO Larry Culp in a note to employees. Elsewhere, CVS Health said it plans to immediately fill 50,000 jobs across the U.S. in an effort to keep up with demand for over-the-counter medicines, prescriptions, and other items amid the coronavirus outbreak. The pharmacy chain is looking for more store associates, home delivery drivers, distribution center employees and customer service professionals for part-time, full-time, and temporary roles, and will use virtual job fairs, virtual interviews, and tech-enabled job tryouts to fill the roles. In a press release, CVS called it “the most ambitious hiring drive in the company’s history.” Walmart, Amazon, Domino’s Pizza, and Papa John’s have also announced similar hiring sprees.

Stocks We’re Watching

Daxor Corp (OTC: DXR): Daxor shares jumped as much as 48.7% Friday after the company announced the first use of its BVA-100 test to guide volume treatment in a patient infected with COVID-19. “Optimal volume management and knowledge of capillary status is key to survivability, preventing collapse of the circulatory system and allowing time to defeat infection,” said Michael Feldschuh, CEO of Daxor. “The BVA-100 test has been shown in a prospective randomized control trial to reduce ICU mortality by as much as 66% and reduce ventilator days in patient populations suffering predominantly from respiratory distress and septic shock. In addition, we believe our test can have a significant impact on patient triage and help guide precise administration of scarce resources such as ventilators for our healthcare system because of its unique measure of capillary permeability, which has been shown to have important prognostic value in ICU outcomes.”