The daily business briefing: March 30, 2020

Harold Maass
The Amazon logo
DENIS CHARLET/AFP via Getty Images

1.

Stock futures mixed ahead of another tense week

U.S. stock index futures were mixed and fluctuating between slight gains and losses early Monday ahead of what could be another week of volatile trading as the coronavirus crisis intensifies. Stocks rebounded last week from historic losses after Congress passed a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package, and President Trump signed it. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose more than 12 percent, its biggest weekly gain since 1938. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq had their best week since 2009, rising 10.3 percent and 9.1 percent, respectively. "Bulls staged an epic comeback," said Ken Berman, strategist at Gorilla Trades. "Despite the rally ... the uncertainty regarding the length of the necessary, but economically damaging global lockdowns continues to weigh on risk assets." [CNBC]

2.

DOJ, SEC investigate senators' stock trades after COVID-19 briefings

The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission have launched an investigation into stock trades Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) other lawmakers made just before the market plunged as the coronavirus outbreak accelerated in the U.S., CNN reported Monday, citing two people familiar with the matter. Burr, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, sold as much as $1.7 million in stocks on Feb. 13, after receiving non-public briefings on the pandemic. Earlier this month, he asked the Senate Ethics Committee to review the trades, although he said he based his investing decisions on publicly reported information, not the closed-door briefings. Burr lawyer Alice Fisher said the senator "welcomes a thorough review of the facts in this matter, which will establish that his actions were appropriate." [CNN, Politico]

3.

2020 Detroit auto show canceled, venue to become field hospital

The 2020 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, which had been scheduled to take place in June, has been canceled and will return in June 2021. The organizers notified show sponsors of the decision over the weekend after the Federal Emergency Management Agency chose the venue where the show was to be held, the TCF Center, as the location for a field hospital for people infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus. The field hospital will be in use for at least six months. The show traditionally is held in January but it was pushed back to allow for outdoor events along the river in the city's resurgent downtown. The event normally draws 800,000 paying visitors to its public days, along with auto industry insiders. [Detroit Free Press]

4.

Mall landlord Taubman says tenants must pay rent through crisis

U.S. mall owner Taubman has informed tenants they have to pay rent through the coronavirus crisis. The real estate investment trust said in a memo dated March 25 that it has to continue to paying mortgages, utility bills, and other obligations, and it has to collect rent to do so. "All tenants will be expected to meet their lease obligations," the company said. The policy could set up a clash with some store and restaurant owners. National restaurant chain The Cheesecake Factory, for example, said days ago that it would not be paying April rent as its outlets will remain closed in the coming month, and was in discussions with landlords. [CNBC]

5.

Amazon, Instacart workers demand more coronavirus protection

Amazon employees at a Staten Island, New York, warehouse plan a walkout on Monday to demand greater precautions against coronavirus infections. The employees say the online retail giant shouldn't have kept the facility open after a confirmed case of the COVID-19 coronavirus there last week, said Christian Smalls, an assistant manager at the facility who is leading the protest. Smalls said as many as seven workers there have been diagnosed with the virus. An Amazon spokesperson said Sunday that the company's top priority is worker health and safety. Employees of grocery delivery service Instacart are going on strike demanding more safety precautions and "hazard pay" for every delivery. [CNN, Vice]