Plus, the White House and congressional Democrats are beginning work on a fourth stimulus package, Simon Property Group has furloughed 30% of its workers amid the coronavirus pandemic, and Domino’s shares are down after the pizza chain said sales rose less investors had expected in the first quarter.
Stocks fell to start Tuesday with the Dow dropping 88 points, or 0.4%. The S&P 500 traded 0.4% lower along with the Nasdaq.
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March is shaping up to be the Dow’s worst first quarter on the history books due to the coronavirus crisis. The Dow is up 20% from its sell-off low reached on March 23, but is still down 12% in March marking its worst month since October 2008, and is down nearly 23% year-to-date. The S&P 500 is ending the quarter down roughly 20%. Oil is also on track to register its worst quarterly performance on record as global demand for crude plummets. Brent crude fell to its lowest level in 18 years yesterday and West Texas Intermediate crude ended yesterday below $20 per barrel. Year-to-date, Brent futures have fallen more than 65%, dropping more than 54% in March alone, while WTI futures have sunk more than 67% this quarter.
The White House and congressional Democrats are starting work on a fourth round of stimulus in an effort to support the U.S. economy through the coronavirus shutdown. White House officials have reportedly complied lists of requests from government agencies totaling around $600 billion, including state aid as well as financial assistance for mortgage markets and the travel industries. Meanwhile, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that Democrats are “collecting information, taking inventory” on what may be needed in another stimulus bill including more federal assistance for states and local governments, and possible further direct payments to Americans. Pelosi also said this morning that the country needs to move toward a “vote by mail” system to give citizens a safe way to vote amid the coronavirus outbreak, and will push for election reform in a “phase 4” package, setting up a fight with President Donald Trump who opposes efforts to push toward a vote-by-mail system.
More Americans have now died from COVID-19 than were killed in the 9/11 terror attacks as cases nationwide surge to at least 164,610. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said this morning that the coronavirus is “more dangerous” than expected as cases in the state jump 14% overnight to 75,795. “We’re the ones who are hit now. That’s today, but tomorrow it’s going to somewhere else, whether it’s Detroit, whether it’s New Orleans. It will work it’s way across the country,” Cuomo said. The U.S. has now conducted almost 1 million tests for the virus, while hospitalizations due to the virus rise past 22,000. With the rising hospitalizations, Ford and General Electric have teamed up to manufacture around 200,000 ventilators this year. General Electric has licensed a ventilator device from Airon, and Ford will build the ventilators. Meanwhile, Walmart said that it will start taking employees’ temperatures when they report to work and send them home if they have a fever of at least 100 degrees. The retailer will also be offering masks and gloves for employees to wear in an effort to protect them during the pandemic.
Simon Property Group, the largest mall owner in the U.S., announced it has furloughed 30% of its workforce and has done a round of layoffs as it tries to cope with its properties being temporarily closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. CEO David Simon said he would take a 100% reduction in salary for the duration of the pandemic, while upper-level managers at the real estate company will see a salary reduction of up to 30%. Similar cuts are expected to happen at other U.S. mall owners, including Taubman Centers and Washington Prime Group, in the coming weeks.
And Domino’s Pizza shares are down more than 5% this morning after the pizza chain said it estimates domestic same-store sales growth of 1.6% and international sales growth of 1.5% in the first quarter, disappointing investors who were hoping for a bigger increase. Papa John’s shares, meanwhile, are up nearly 6% after it said it expects North American same-store sales will grow by 5.3% in the first quarter. “While the company’s business is currently performing well, there are many uncertainties related to the COVID-19 pandemic which cannot be predicted,” Papa John’s said in a statement. Citing the market uncertainty, Domino’s has borrowed the rest of the $158 million outstanding variable funding notes to improve its cash position and has more than $300 million in cash on hand.
Stocks We’re Watching
Owens & Minor (NYSE: OMI): Owens & Minor shares are up nearly 44% over the last week after the company said it has ramped up production of face masks and other medical gear to keep u with demand for personal protective equipment amid the coronavirus crisis. CEO Ed Pesicka told CNBC’s Jim Cramer on Friday, “We are in the process of actually expanding capacity, but that’s going to take probably 5 to 6 months to make sure that you have the capability to expand that capacity. So that’s the time frame that we’re looking at for additional expansion, beyond what we’ve done already running 24/7.”
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