The daily business briefing: March 18, 2020

Harold Maass
A trader on the NYSE


Wall Street struggles after Tuesday's big gains

U.S. stock index futures plunged early Wednesday in ongoing volatility as investors awaited details on the federal government's response to the coronavirus crisis. Trading was briefly halted around 5 a.m. when the losses hit 5 percent. On Tuesday, Wall Street bounced back from its worst day since 1987 as the White House considered a $1 trillion package to boost the economy during the coronavirus crisis. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up by 5.2 percent. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq gained 4.6 percent and 6 percent, respectively. "We're going big," President Trump said of the stimulus package. The news of the stimulus plan drove down prices of the 10-year Treasury, pushing the yield of the 10-year note (which moves inversely to prices) above 1 percent. [CNBC]


White House backs calls to send checks to all U.S. households

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters on Tuesday that the Trump administration wants Congress to approve sending checks to most American adults in the next two weeks to help them get through the coronavirus crisis. "Americans need cash now," Mnuchin said. The White House suggested the amount could exceed the $1,000 suggested by Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah). Mnuchin reportedly warned Republican senators unemployment could rise to 20 percent if the government doesn't step in with massive aid, including tax deferrals for corporations and some individuals. A Democratic plan would provide a series of several checks. "We will need multiple rounds of money for everyone," said Claudia Sahm, a former Federal Reserve economist. "This recession is going to be more severe than the Great Recession." [The Washington Post, The New York Times]


Uber, Lyft suspend shared rides

Uber and Lyft on Tuesday suspended shared ride services in the U.S. due to the threat of coronavirus infection. The rival ride-hailing services will continue to offer services to individual customers, and Uber will continue offering its Uber Eats service. The suspended services let riders heading in the same direction carpool to lower their fares. "Our goal is to help flatten the curve of community spread in the cities we serve," said Andrew Macdonald, senior vice president of Uber Rides and Platform. "We remain in close contact with local leaders and will continue to work with them to discourage non-essential travel." "The health and safety of the Lyft community is our top priority," a Lyft spokeswoman said. [The Mercury News, NPR]


Facebook fixes glitch that blocked links on coronavirus

Facebook's vice president of integrity, Guy Rosen, said Tuesday that a bug in the social network's anti-spam system temporarily blocked links users tried to post about the coronavirus. Rosen tweeted that Facebook was working on fixing the glitch after users complained that the company's system was blocking stories about school closings and other issues related to the virus outbreak. Later, he said the company had restored the mistakenly deleted posts. Rosen said the problem was not related to the company's decision to send human content-moderators home this week due to the outbreak. [The Associated Press]


Tesla shares fall as sheriff says factory included in coronavirus restrictions

Tesla shares fell by more than 5 percent in after-hours trading Tuesday following a tweet from the Alamada County, California, Sheriff's Department saying the electric-car maker's Fremont factory in the area was a non-essential business limited to "minimum basic operations" in the region's shelter-in-place coronavirus restrictions. The department's tweet came after Tesla workers reportedly returned to work after counties in the San Francisco Bay area told people to stay home. Tesla CEO Elon Musk had told workers in an internal email that it was "totally OK" to stay home, although he has downplayed the COVID-19 coronavirus risk in tweets. [MarketWatch, The Mercury News]