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Live Stock Market Tracker During Coronavirus Pandemic

Markets wavered on Tuesday as investors remained jittery following a period of staggering volatility in financial markets in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The S&P 500 drifted from losses to gains and back again, while stocks in Europe pared most of their early gains as the day progressed.

Though the worst of the recent swings in asset prices seem to have ended, financial markets are trying to find a footing even as the number of coronavirus cases climb. Even as stocks rebounded well off their lowest point of the month — after a surge last week — March is likely to be the worst month for the S&P 500 since October 2008, when investors feared a collapse of the economy in the wake of the global financial crisis.

In other financial markets, the damage has been even more severe. Oil prices are down more than 50 percent this month, and other commodities have also slumped, reflecting expectations for a global economic slowdown.

As consumers stay home and factories shut down, millions of workers have lost their jobs. Wall Street economists and analysts continue to downgrade expectations for the economy, even after lawmakers in Washington enacted a $2 trillion spending plan.

Goldman Sachs, for example, now expects U.S. economic output to plunge at an annualized rate of 34 percent in the second quarter. The unemployment rate will hit 15 percent, the bank said in a research note on Tuesday.

Here’s how major benchmarks have done in March, through Monday:

  • ⬇️S&P 500 down 11 percent

  • ⬇️Dow Jones industrial average down 12 percent

  • ⬇️FTSE 100 in Britain down 15 percent

  • ⬇️Nikkei 225 in Japan down 10.5 percent

  • ⬇️Brent crude futures down 55 percent

The Federal Reserve on Tuesday unveiled a new program that will let foreign central banks swap out their Treasury securities for dollars in short-term agreements.

The goal is to prevent foreign nations from selling their Treasury holdings in a scramble to acquire dollars. By stopping fire sales, the effort could help to ease strains on the Treasury market, which is the backbone of the broader financial system.

“They don’t want foreign central banks selling Treasuries into very illiquid markets,” said Gennadiy Goldberg, a market strategist at TD Securities, noting that some needed to sell Treasuries to manage their reserves and stabilize their currencies.

The new program will allow foreign central banks with accounts at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to enter into overnight repurchase agreements, swapping out security holdings for needed dollar funding.

While the Fed has currency swap lines in place — through which foreign central banks can temporarily exchange their currencies for dollars — those only exist with 14 counterparts.

This new effort, available April 6, could widen that scope, allowing the Fed to funnel funding into economies where it has fewer longstanding and deep relationships with partner central banks.

The Treasury Department called on distressed airlines to submit their applications to receive billions of dollars of coronavirus bailout money by Friday and to identify what they will offer in stock, warrants or other compensation to protect American taxpayers.

In guidance released on Monday evening, the Treasury Department outlined the application process for airlines, which have been crippled as the pandemic has ground domestic and international travel to a halt. Companies must refrain from layoffs or pay cuts through the end of September and curb pay increases if they receive funds.

The legislation that Congress passed last week included $25 billion of grant money for airline carriers and $4 billion for air cargo carriers. It also included another $29 billion in loans and loan guarantees.

The airline industry, which had substantial input in the crafting of the economic relief package, has been urging Treasury to disperse the funds quickly and warned that the 750,000 jobs that the sector supports could be at risk.

Also on Tuesday, the Transportation Department clarified a requirement under the law that airlines maintain minimum nationwide service. That rule applies only to places, not airports, and allows airlines to reduce the frequency of flights to those places, the agency said. Airlines can also request exemptions from serving destinations that “are not reasonable or practicable to serve,” the agency said.

Walmart, which has seen a surge in business during the pandemic, said it would provide masks and gloves to workers and check their temperatures when they arrive at work.

Facing increasing criticism from workers and labor rights groups, Walmart said it would begin providing “high quality” masks to any staff member who wanted one.

Additionally, the company will begin taking the temperatures of employees as they show up to work at stores and distribution centers. Any employee with a temperature of 100 degrees or more will be sent home and cannot return to work until they are fever free for at least three days.

“In listening to our associates and listening to our customers we felt this was a prudent step to take,” said Dan Bartlett, Walmart’s executive vice president of corporate affairs, in a call with reporters Tuesday morning.

Walmart said there had been an increase in the number of employees not coming to work since the pandemic hit, but its hiring spree helped alleviate some of the pressure. The company said it had hired 50,000 additional workers since March 19 — about 5,000 workers a day.

Walmart is the largest private employer in the United States, with about 1.5 million employees. Its decision is a significant move in the retail industry, where millions of workers who have continued to come to work and interact with the public have expressed concerns about their safety. Some retailers have told their workers that they cannot wear masks for fear of upsetting customers.

Pennsylvania’s economy was buoyed during the Great Recession when energy companies discovered a way to get at the state’s vast natural-gas reserves, investing billions of dollars in the region.

But as they brace for the coronavirus recession, natural-gas companies are much more likely to weigh on the local economy than to rescue it.

Even before the latest shock, gas operators were reeling from self-inflicted wounds. They had taken on too much debt and drilled so many wells that they had flooded the market with gas, sending its price into a tailspin.

Many local businesspeople and residents expect the energy industry to remain an important part of their economy for years to come.

But there are strong signs that this natural-gas shakeout could grind on longer than others. And if it does turn into a rout that leads to large layoffs and business closures, Pennsylvania may have to reassess its great shale experiment.

Zoom, the popular videoconferencing app whose traffic has surged amid the coronavirus pandemic, is under scrutiny by the office of New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, for its data privacy and security practices.

The attorney general’s office sent a letter to Zoom on Monday asking what, if any, new security measures the company had put in place to handle increased traffic on its network and to detect hackers, according to a copy reviewed by The New York Times.

The letter referred to Zoom as “an essential and valuable communications platform,” but it outlined several concerns, noting that the company had been slow to address security flaws such as vulnerabilities that have allowed malicious users to invade videoconferences held on the service, a practice known as Zoombombing.

Facebook and Twitter took down posts featuring Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, over the past two days after he claimed that the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine was a “cure everywhere” for the coronavirus and called for an end to social distancing and shelter-in-place measures in Brazil.

Mr. Bolsonaro had posted the videos, which showed him talking to street vendors in the Taguatinga district of Brasília, Brazil’s capital, to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram on Sunday. The New York Times has reported that there is no proof that the drug is effective against the virus.

Twitter took down the videos on Sunday. The videos on Facebook and Instagram were taken down on Monday evening. The companies said the posts violated their policies for spreading misinformation that could also lead to physical harm.

But the moves were unusual for the tech companies, which have long been hesitant to remove posts from world leaders, even when they walk the line of disinformation. The companies have said posts from world leaders are newsworthy.

Twitter deleted a post by President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela last week, in which Mr. Maduro promoted a “brew” that he claimed could cure coronavirus. President Trump has previously posted that hydroxychloroquine showed “tremendous promise,” which the social media companies said did not violate their policies because there was not a clear call to action that would cause the public any harm.

  • Nearly 500,000 German firms in March — up from fewer than 2,000 the previous month — filed the paperwork for the so-called short work program, Germany’s Federal Employment Agency said Tuesday. The program allows companies to cut worker hours with the government making up most of the lost wages. France, Italy, Britain and numerous other European countries have similar programs.

  • Lee Enterprises, a newspaper chain with more than 70 titles including The Buffalo News and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, said it was instituting pay cuts and furloughs worth two weeks’ salary. It’s the latest media outlet to cut costs in response to the dismal advertising climate.

  • Airlines around the world will issue an estimated $35 billion in ticket refunds in the second quarter of the year, the International Air Transport Association said on Tuesday. In all, the industry is predicted to burn through $61 billion in cash by the end of June.

  • Ford Motor said Tuesday that it was indefinitely postponing the resumption of auto production in North America “to help protect its workers.” The announcement came five days after the company said it aimed to reopen a factory in Mexico on April 6 and some U.S. plants on April 14. To help combat the coronavirus pandemic, Ford said it expected to start making a federally approved ventilator in cooperation with GE Healthcare at a plant in Ypsilanti, Mich., the week of April 20, with paid volunteers from the United Automobile Workers union.

  • Dollar Tree, the discount retailer with more than 15,000 locations, said same-store sales soared 7.1 percent for its Dollar Tree brand and 14.4 percent at Family Dollar in the last two months, compared to last year. The company has previously said it plans to hire 25,000 additional workers.

Reporting was contributed by Carlos Tejada, Alan Rappeport, Michael Corkery, Niraj Chokshi, Raymond Zhong, Peter Eavis, Davey Alba, Sheera Frenkel, Kevin McKenna, Mohammed Hadi, Geneva Abdul, Kate Conger, Ernesto Londono and Daniel Victor.

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