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Jerome Powell. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

The Federal Reserve said Tuesday it would intervene in a key market used by cash-strapped businesses for the first time since the financial crisis — a move intended to help corporations hurt by the coronavirus outbreak.

Why it matters: This market froze up in recent weeks, limiting businesses' ability to borrow at a time when the halt in economic activity is weighing on American corporations. It's the latest in a series of moves by the Fed to step in and ease that pain.

What they're saying: The Fed is providing a backstop for the so-called commercial paper market, which is looked to for financing "a wide range of economic activity, supplying credit and funding for auto loans and mortgages as well as liquidity to meet the operational needs of a range of companies," the Fed notes.

  • "[I]f you don’t get this short-term borrowing, you can’t get payments out, you can’t pay your employees, you can’t pay your customers,” Randy Kroszner, a former Fed official, told CNBC.

How it works: The Treasury Department, which had to approve the action, fronted $10 billion in credit protection to the Federal Reserve in connection with the program.

  • To unfreeze the market, the Fed said it would lend to commercial paper issuers at a rate of 2 percentage points above overnight lending rates.

The big picture: The Fed's action comes on the heels of the central bank lowering interest rates to near zero, flooding short-term funding markets with liquidity, and stepping up purchases of Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities — all in the name of fighting the economic harm that the coronavirus has brought.

  • The Fed also announced Tuesday night that it would restart yet another financial crisis-era measure to support credit markets. In exchange for broad types of collateral, the Fed will give short-term loans to financial institutions that buy a range of things, including corporate debt.

Go deeper

2 hours ago - Health

CDC prepares tougher testing rules for international travelers

Travelers with their luggage arrive at a COVID-19 testing location at the airport in Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 23, 2021. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday night that it is working to impose stricter testing requirements for international travelers due to the spread of the new Omicron variant.

The big picture: The new rules would require all international travelers, regardless of vaccination status, to show a negative test taken a day before their flight to the U.S. Currently, the CDC says fully vaccinated travelers are allowed to show a test taken no more than three days before their departure, AP reports.

Republicans threaten to shut down government over vaccine mandates

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) in the Capitol in November 2020. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Conservative Republicans in the House and Senate are planning to force a government shutdown Friday to deny funding needed to enforce the Biden administration's vaccine mandates on the private sector, according to Politico.

Why it matters: Congress has until the end of the week to pass a stopgap measure to extend funding into 2022, though objection from a small group of Republicans could shut down the government.

Electric car prices could go up before they come down

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The secret to affordable electric vehicles is cheaper batteries. But after years of falling prices, battery costs are now headed in the wrong direction.

Why it matters: Costlier batteries could drive up the price of electric vehicles — threatening the auto industry's transition away from fossil fuels, and, in turn, society's fight against climate change.