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Photo by Mark Makela/Getty Images

The Federal Reserve announced a broad slate of programs to make sure credit flows to businesses and consumers as coronavirus safety measures cripple the economy.

Why it matters: The Fed’s announcement early Monday is the most aggressive step so far this year — and the markets responded in kind, with futures rising steeply ahead of the market's open.

Details: The Fed said its previously announced plan to purchase treasury and mortgage-backed securities — a program called quantitative easing — would be unlimited.

  • For the first time, the Fed will dip its toes into the corporate bond market by contributing to a lending facility that will be used to buy corporate bonds issued by highly rated companies.
  • The measures go beyond those used during the 2008 financial crisis.

The Fed also expanded its buying to include government-backed commercial real estate debt.

  • It will lend to investors who want to purchase se­cu­ri­ties backed by consumer debt, including auto and credit card loans.
  • In coming days, the Fed said, it will launch a program directly aimed at Main Street — to support loans to small businesses.

The state of play: Last night, amid President Trump's news conference about the status of efforts to fight COVID-19, stock futures plunged the most allowed. While the losses faded overnight, futures turned positive after the Fed’s announcement.

  • The Fed says the programs will provide $300 billion in new financing.
  • Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC Monday morning that Congress was "very close" to passing a stimulus package.

What they’re saying: “Ag­gres­sive ef­forts must be taken across the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors to limit the losses to jobs and in­comes and to pro­mote a swift re­cov­ery once the dis­rup­tions abate,” the central bank said in a statement.

Go deeper

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Prior coronavirus infections may not protect well against Omicron

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

New data from South Africa suggests the Omicron variant spreads more than twice as quickly as the Delta variant, and that immunity from prior infection doesn't appear to protect a person very well against Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The findings are extremely preliminary, and there are still many open questions about how well vaccines work against the variant. But these initial breadcrumbs of data are helping the world begin to understand what it's up against.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
2 hours ago - Technology

AI could end foreign-language subtitles

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

AI companies are developing methods to translate and synthesize voices in ads, movies and TV.

Why it matters: The advances in voice synthesis could help fix bad movie dubbing — and they come as international content is becoming increasingly important to studios and streaming platforms as part of the globalization of entertainment.

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Updated 11 hours ago - Technology

A dark view of the future of autonomous weapons

A still from the video "If Human: Kill ( )." Image: Future of Life Institute

A new short film warns of the coming risks posed by the development and proliferation of lethal autonomous weapons.

Why it matters: Drones with the ability to autonomously target and kill without the assistance of a human operator are reportedly already being used on battlefields, and time is running out to craft a global ban of what could be a destabilizing and terrifying new class of weapon.