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

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios.

We're not in a financial crisis, which means we don't need the full arsenal of weaponry a financial crisis requires.

Why it matters: Humanity needs to fight a virus, not a credit crunch. Our success or failure on the epidemiological front lines will ultimately determine the medium-term path of the U.S. and global economies.

  • Markets are not part of the problem. Insofar as they're reacting to the coronavirus, they simply reflect investors' fears and expectations about the economic damage that the virus will cause. Goosing the stock market does nothing to address the much bigger underlying issue.

The big picture: With stocks whipsawing wildly and yields on Treasury bonds hitting new all-time lows, it's easy for policymakers to find themselves fighting the last war — to react to the current emergency in much the same way as they did to the financial crisis.

  • Those responses will help, at the margin. If economic activity slows down as a result of the coronavirus, then lower interest rates will make it easier for individuals and businesses to borrow money to cover short-term losses.
  • Fiscal stimulus, similarly, will always cause some kind of extra economic activity, and will therefore help to counteract a virus-related slowdown. But as former White House economic adviser Jason Furman told New York Magazine's Josh Barro, "This is definitely not TARP. I think this is a nice to have."

Our thought bubble: Political capital is finite, and fighting the virus directly has to be the top priority of any government. If and when the virus can be brought under control, then there's a good chance of a V-shaped recovery in which markets will take care of themselves.

  • China provides a good example. The macroeconomic response will come, but first the government had to get to the point at which the rate of new infections was going down rather than up.

IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva has laid out the priorities facing any government fighting coronavirus. First is to "protect people’s wellbeing, take care of the sick, and slow the spread of the virus." Second is fiscal policy, targeted at the hardest-hit sectors and households.

  • Monetary policy comes last — but so far it's the only area where the U.S. has taken decisive action, with the Fed's emergency rate cut this week.

The bottom line: Broken markets were a large part of the cause of the financial crisis, and fixing those broken markets was a large part of the necessary policy response. Neither of those things is true this time around.

Go deeper

Mike Allen, author of AM
3 hours ago - World

Courage vs. coddling with China

Peng Shuai of China serves during the China Open in Beijing in 2017. Photo: Andy Wong/AP

The women's professional tennis tour suspended tournaments in China Wednesday out of concern for Peng Shuai, on the same day that a top business voice made excuses for Beijing.

Why it matters: Ahead of February's Winter Olympics in Beijing, some sports figures are taking on the regime — while Big Business shrinks from confrontation with the world's second-largest economy.

3 hours ago - Sports

What to know about the first MLB lockout since 1995

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Hope you enjoyed the recent flurry of free-agent activity, because it's likely the last non-lockout-related MLB news for a while.

Driving the news: The owners locked out the players after the collective bargaining agreement expired at midnight last night, leading to MLB's ninth work stoppage — and first since 1995.

Biden extends mask mandates for travelers into 2022

President Biden delivers remarks at the White House on Dec. 1. Photo: Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

President Biden will announce new testing protocols for international travelers on Thursday and extend masking requirements through March as the U.S. prepares to fight the Omicron variant this winter, according to senior administration officials.

Driving the news: The U.S. will tighten pre-departure testing protocols starting early next week by requiring all inbound international travelers to take COVID-19 tests within one day of their departure rather than three.