Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Stocks surge higher on hopes of rescue plan

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are jumping in afternoon trading on Wall Street amid expectations that Congress is nearing a deal on a big coronavirus relief bill. That would follow more aggressive steps from the Federal Reserve announced a day earlier to support lending and bond markets.

Major U.S. indexes jumped more than 7%, joining a worldwide rally for stocks and bond yields. The market has seen rebounds like this before, only for them to wash out immediately.

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Investors say they ultimately need to see the number of new coronavirus infections peak before markets can find a bottom.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-CONGRESS

Lawmakers say deal is close

WASHINGTON (AP) — A deal may be at hand to ease the economic pain of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.

Both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the top Democrat, Sen. Chuck Schumer, say agreement appears close. The package would free up nearly $2 trillion to help businesses and workers.

A key provision in the emerging package would provide stepped-up unemployment insurance for workers furloughed because of the pandemic.

After being ravaged for days, stocks rose as congressional and White House negotiators approached a deal. Any deal struck by the Senate would need House approval next.  

VIRUS OUTBREAK-TRUMP

Trump looks at ways to ease guidelines

WASHINGTON (AP) — With lives and the economy hanging in the balance, President Donald Trump is weighing how to refine nationwide social-distancing guidelines to put some workers back on the job amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The White House is eyeing ways to ease the advisories that have sidelined workers, shuttered schools and led to a widespread economic slowdown.

The U.S. is now more than a week into an unprecedented 15-day effort to encourage all Americans to drastically scale back their public activities.

Trump tweeted Tuesday that “Our people want to return to work.”

VIRUS OUTBREAK-ECONOMY

Investors expect sobering economic news

WASHINGTON (AP) — Even as stocks rally Tuesday, many investors are being careful not to say the market has hit bottom. For one thing, they expect to see a series of sobering economic indicators in the days and weeks ahead.

With big chunks of the U.S. economy essentially shutting down, newly-unemployed Americans are flooding the nation’s jobless claims systems. Economists expect that the government on Thursday will report the number of people who applied for jobless benefits skyrocketed to roughly 3 million last week, the first week of broad, virus-related business closures. That’s roughly four times the previous record of nearly 700,000 in October 1982.

There is one complicating factor: Many state websites and phone lines that laid-off workers use to file for benefits have collapsed under the crush of applicants. That could mean the official total to be reported Thursday may be lower than expected. Or it could mean that the numbers seeking aid are even higher than forecast, which could push the number above 3 million.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-AIRLINES

Many flights nearly empty as virus undercuts travel

UNDATED (AP) — Airlines are canceling thousands of flights, and even those that remain are mostly empty. Airlines are also drafting contingency plans in case there aren’t enough air traffic controllers or airport security officers to keep flying.

More than 8,300 U.S. flights were canceled Tuesday, according to FlightAware.

Airlines officials call it a dire situation. The industry is lobbying for at least $50 billion in help from the federal government, but lawmakers disagree on whether that should include cash grants or just help in getting loans.

The airlines were highly profitable before the coronavirus outbreak led governments to impose travel restrictions and undercut demand. 

NEW HOME SALES

Home sales down 4.4%

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. new home sales fell 4.4% in February with bigger declines expected in coming months as the coronavirus puts a major crimp on home sales.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that February sales dropped to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 765,000 homes, down from a rate of 800,000 homes in January.

Larry Kudlow, head of the president’s National Economic Council, told reporters at the White House Tuesday that overall economic growth was “going to be rough” in coming months. But he said that the support that the economic stimulus package that Congress is working on means “we’ll be setting the stage for a good rebound in the second half of the year.”

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