Get the latest market trends in your inbox

Stay on top of the latest market trends and economic insights with the Axios Markets newsletter. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Minneapolis-St. Paul

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa-St. Petersburg news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa-St. Petersburg

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

What a difference a month makes.

Then: The nation's largest companies were on top of the world — buying back stock, watching their share prices flirt with all-time highs and hiring in droves.

Now: Corporate America is prepping for what could be a very lengthy and severe recession.

The big picture: The never-before-considered scenario of revenues coming to an absolute standstill is now a reality for a slew of companies from a cross-section of industries. And it's threatening millions of jobs.

  • Companies are going to lengths to preserve the cash they have — and seeking ways to raise more.
  • They're fortressing their balance sheets and, in some cases, looking to federal bailouts.

Flashback: The S&P 500 hit an all-time high on Feb. 19 — an indication that investors were confident in the state of the economy even as the coronavirus outbreak worsened around the world. (The bond market was less confident.)

  • Now stock prices are plummeting, amid one of the worst bouts of volatility in stock market history.
  • The S&P 500 closed down more than 5% today — nearly 30% below that all-time high.
  • J.P. Morgan estimated today annualized Q1 GDP growth would fall to -4.0%, and -14% in Q2.

Driving the news: A stimulus proposal from the White House on Wednesday suggests that many suffering companies could get help from Congress, though it could come with some strings attached.

  • That's already leading to bad P.R., with citizen watchdogs asking why these now ailing industries spent so much money on stock buybacks in recent years. But even the most prolific forecasters couldn't see this coming.
  • "The setup going into the last 30 days took 10 years to develop," Nicholas Colas, co-founder of DataTrek Research and a long-time market research analyst, tells Axios, referring to how companies positioned themselves (or didn't) for a crisis.

What's going on: A wave of companies —including airlines and banks— are putting share repurchase and capital expenditure programs on hold. They're letting go of workers, or asking for government help so they can making payroll.

  • Boeing, Hilton, SeaWorld Kraft Heinz, and beer giant AB Inbev are among the companies that have tapped billion-dollar credit lines in recent days.
  • Others, including Coca-Cola, Verizon, and ExxonMobil, issued debt on Tuesday to raise a total of $25 billion in cash, as the Financial Times reports.

The bottom line: Preparing for an economic slowdown is one thing. Preparing for a never-before-seen halt in economic activity is another.

Go deeper

Scoop: FDA chief called to West Wing

Stephen Hahn. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has summoned FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn to the West Wing for a 9:30am meeting Tuesday to explain why he hasn't moved faster to approve the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, two senior administration officials told Axios.

Why it matters: The meeting is shaping up to be tense, with Hahn using what the White House will likely view as kamikaze language in a preemptive statement to Axios: "Let me be clear — our career scientists have to make the decision and they will take the time that’s needed to make the right call on this important decision."

Scoop: Schumer's regrets

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images   

Chuck Schumer told party donors during recent calls that the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the fact that Cal Cunningham "couldn't keep his zipper up" crushed Democrats' chances of regaining the Senate, sources with direct knowledge of the conversations tell Axios.

Why it matters: Democrats are hoping for a 50-50 split by winning two upcoming special elections in Georgia. But their best chance for an outright Senate majority ended when Cunningham lost in North Carolina and Sen. Susan Collins won in Maine.

Trump's coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas resigns

Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty

Scott Atlas, a controversial member of the White House coronavirus task force, handed in his resignation on Monday, according to three administration officials who discussed Atlas' resignation with Axios.

Why it matters: President Trump brought in Atlas as a counterpoint to NIAID director Anthony Fauci, whose warnings about the pandemic were dismissed by the Trump administration. With Trump now fixated on election fraud conspiracy theories, Atlas' detail comes to a natural end.