The daily business briefing: March 26, 2020

Harold Maass
An Amazon truck
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images


Senate approves $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief deal

Senators unanimously approved a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill late Wednesday, despite a last-minute delay after Republicans made objections to jobless aid they said could encourage layoffs, or give workers incentives to collect unemployment benefits instead of returning to work. The House plans to vote on the legislation Friday, and President Trump has vowed to sign it. Under the bill, Americans earning up to $75,000 would get $1,200 in the form of checks or direct deposits to their banks. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said families should receive the money "within the next three weeks." New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said the aid for his state would be a "drop in the bucket" given the cost of confronting the outbreak in the hard-hit state. [The New York Times, CNBC]


Amazon extends closure of warehouse where 3 tested positive for coronavirus

Amazon on Wednesday told workers at a Kentucky warehouse that it was keeping the facility closed after three employees tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus. The online retail giant on Monday told workers it was halting operations at the warehouse for 48 hours to do an "enhanced, daily deep cleaning." Hours before the doors were supposed to reopen, the workers received an automated phone call informing them that the warehouse would remain closed until further notice. This week, Amazon also said it had removed more than 3,900 accounts from its U.S. retail platform for "violating our fair pricing policies," an apparent reference to price gouging. [Bloomberg, USA Today]


Dow, S&P 500 post 1st 2-day winning streak since selloff began

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 rose on Wednesday, capping their first two-day winning streak since the coronavirus outbreak triggered a prolonged selloff. The S&P 500 gained 1.2 percent, giving back some of an earlier 5.1 percent rise after a last-minute dispute delayed a Senate vote on a $2 trillion economic rescue package designed to help families, businesses, and states get through the coronavirus crisis. The S&P 500 is now up by 10.6 percent in the last two days. The Dow has gained nearly 13 percent on optimism about the stimulus deal. U.S. stock index futures shed early gains on Thursday morning, pointing to what could be a lower open as investors brace for the latest data on new applications for jobless benefits. [The Associated Press, CNBC]


Economists expect report to show record number of jobless claims

Economists expect a Thursday Labor Department report to show that new applications for jobless benefits surged to a record high of up to 4 million last week as restrictions intended to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus sparked widespread layoffs. The report will provide one of the clearest pictures yet of the economic impact of the crisis, which sparked extraordinary stimulus efforts by the Federal Reserve and a $2.2 trillion relief package just approved by the Senate. Economists surveyed by Reuters expected a seasonally adjusted rise in initial claims to 1 million for the week that ended March 21, with the estimates reaching as high as 4 million. That's up from 281,000 applications a week earlier. The previous record, set in 1982, was 695,000 applications. [Reuters]


Report: Coronavirus stimulus could result in insider trading surge

Insider trading cases could skyrocket in connection with Congress' massive stimulus package to counter the economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report from scholars at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, Stanford University, University of Cambridge, and IESE Business School. Insider trading profits soared during the bailouts in response to the 2007-2009 global financial crisis, according to the research, which was published online this month in the Journal of Finance. "Anytime the government picks winner and losers, there is a greater opportunity for insider trading by connected individuals," said Daniel Taylor, an associate professor at University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and one of the report's authors. [Reuters]