Mar 18, 2020

Axios Markets

By Dion Rabouin
Dion Rabouin

Disclaimer: Much of what I write here at the top is intended to be humorous and fun. Some of you took my note about being disappointed I couldn't go to the gym a little (read: A LOT) too seriously.

  • The world is a scary place right now, so I suggest we all get a sense of humor and take a chill pill.

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🎙“Every woman is a queen, and we all have different things to offer.” - See who said it and why it matters at the bottom.

1 big thing: The "great virus crisis" gets real for the U.S.
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Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Call it March Sadness. The sobering reality that COVID-19 is going to severely disrupt life in the U.S. for a long time set in quickly on Tuesday as orders for quarantines, sweeping job losses and widespread product shortages all unfolded.

Why it matters: The worst-case scenarios that economists envisioned only weeks ago are happening and it appears those may have been too optimistic.

Driving the news: The coronavirus pandemic “will last 18 months or longer” and could include “multiple waves,” according to a federal government plan provided to the White House last week and shared Tuesday night by the New York Times.

  • The 100-page plan noted, “Shortages of products may occur, impacting health care, emergency services, and other elements of critical infrastructure."
  • “State and local governments, as well as critical infrastructure and communications channels, will be stressed and potentially less reliable."

That followed the release of a poll that found "some 18% of adults reported that they had been laid off or that their work hours had been cut," and that 25% of those making less than $50,000 a year had been laid off or seen reduced hours.

  • The report came from a survey by NPR, PBS and Marist of 835 working adults in the contiguous United States.

The big picture: The job losses are largely a result of business closures and curfews around the nation that are likely to increase.

  • On Monday, San Francisco announced it would legally prohibit residents from leaving their homes except to meet basic needs, including visiting the doctor and buying groceries or medicine, until at least April 7.
  • Given that the U.S. seems to be following the trajectory of quarantine directives that have taken place in Italy, it's highly likely more municipalities will follow suit and a nationwide quarantine could be on its way.

What they're saying: "How bad is the COVID-19 pandemic? It’s so bad that even President Donald Trump finally said so," Ed Yardeni, president of Yardeni Research, wrote in a note to clients.

  • "Both monetary and fiscal monetary policymakers are responding to the GVC (Great Virus Crisis) with similar programs as the ones that were implemented during the GFC."

What's next: Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin are both now pushing for the big spending response economists have been seeking.

  • Mnuchin even warned GOP senators in a closed-door meeting that unemployment could reach 20% if the proposed $1.2 trillion package is not passed, CNBC reported.
2. Catch up quick

Oil prices briefly fell below the lowest settlement price since 2003, with West Texas Intermediate as low as $26.20 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. (Bloomberg)

The Fed opened up its crisis-era primary dealer credit facility to provide short-term loans to banks and broker-dealers for the first time since the global financial crisis. (CNBC)

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq both jumped 6%, and the Dow rose by more than 1,000 points on Tuesday. However, the major indexes remain down at least 25% from their February highs. (WSJ)

Holding this year's Olympics in Tokyo would be “insensitive and irresponsible, International Olympic Committee member Hayley Wickenheiser tweeted, following a statement from the IOC that there was "no need for any drastic decisions" yet. (

3. Americans say they can't get food and other necessities
Data: Axios/Ipsos survey of 1,092 U.S. adults, conducted March 13-16, 2020. Margin of error of ±3.2 percentage points; Chart: Axios Visuals

Axios' Jennifer Kingson writes: Even with the brunt of store closings yet to take effect, a full 45% of Americans said last week that their ability to buy food and household goods had deteriorated, according the newly launched Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

What it is: A weekly poll introduced last week by Axios and the global research firm Ipsos will monitor the effects of the global pandemic on people's attitudes and living conditions.

  • Among respondents who said that their access to necessities had worsened, the largest number lived in the South, compared with those in the Northeast, Midwest and West.

By the numbers: In other notable results from the poll's debut, 44% of the 1,092 respondents said that their 401(k) retirement account had gotten "a little worse" or "a lot worse" since the virus started sending markets haywire.

  • A full 10% of respondents said they had been furloughed, suspended or otherwise told not to work in the last few weeks.
  • Among respondents who were employed, 21% said they had been asked to work remotely or at home.
  • And 34% said their employers had asked them to forgo in-person meetings in favor of video or telephone conferencing.
  • 47% said they had been planning to attend a conference, event or meeting that was cancelled because of coronavirus.

In terms of shopping, the results showed that people were just starting to feel the effects of store closures and virus-induced hoarding or emergency stockpiling.

  • 11% said they had attempted to shop at a store that they had found shuttered.
  • 30% said they had tried unsuccessfully to buy hand sanitizer, 24% said the same about toilet paper, and 8% about soap.
4. Economic sentiment hits lowest since January 2019
Data: CivicScience, Hamilton Place Strategies; Chart: Axios Visuals

Consumer confidence has fallen over the past two weeks to its lowest level since January 2019, according to a reading that updates daily from Hamilton Place Strategies and data firm CivicScience.

  • The index's two-week average, provided first to Axios, dropped to 49.4, with the daily reading drifting even lower to 45.5 on Tuesday.

Why it matters: Traditional data metrics are all lagging behind the spread of the COVID-19 outbreak, which is the primary driver of markets at the moment.

  • The Economic Sentiment Index is a “living” metric that tracks U.S. adults’ expectations for the economy going forward, as well as their feelings about current conditions for major purchases, CivicScience analysts say.

The big picture: Consumer confidence has clearly declined, but even as of Tuesday's weak level, it has not fallen off a cliff.

5. Hotel industry seeks $150B in coronavirus relief
Sources: U.S. Travel Association, Airlines for America, Boeing, American Hotel and Lodging Association; Chart: Axios Visuals

Axios' Joann Muller writes: The hotel industry is asking the federal government for $150 billion in emergency aid, mostly to keep employees on the payroll until the pandemic subsides and travelers are ready to hit the road again.

Why it matters: The coronavirus outbreak has already hurt the hotel industry more than the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the Great Recession combined, an industry trade group says. Without immediate help, people at the lower rungs of the economic ladder will suffer the most.

The big picture: Besides $150 billion in aid for hotels — many of which are operated by franchisees or small business owners — the industry is seeking another $100 billion for travel-related businesses like retail shops, attractions and restaurants.

  • Passenger and cargo airlines are seeking an additional $58 billion in relief.

What they're saying: Travel industry losses alone will be enough to push the U.S. economy into recession, predicts the American Hotel and Lodging Association.

  • A projected $355 billion decline in travel spending — transportation, lodging, retail, attractions and restaurants — will deliver an $809 million hit to the U.S. economy and cost 4.6 million travel-related jobs, says the U.S. Travel Association.
  • With occupancy rates below 10%, hotels have already laid off 45% of their staff, with more layoffs expected by the end of the week.

What they're seeking: The $150 billion aid package could include...

  • A fund for workforce stabilization that would pay employees more than they'd earn in unemployment benefits, if not their full paychecks.
  • Emergency grants to preserve hotel companies' liquidity.
  • Streamlined Small Business Administration loan programs to support independent hoteliers and franchisees.

One more: Boeing was the latest industry to seek assistance from the government Tuesday, requesting "a minimum of $60 billion in access to public and private liquidity, including loan guarantees, for the aerospace manufacturing industry."

What to watch: The government could put restrictions on any financial assistance to make sure the money winds up in employees' pockets rather than in CEO bonuses or stock buybacks to benefit shareholders.

Dion Rabouin

Quote: “Every woman is a queen, and we all have different things to offer.”

Why it matters: Dana Elaine Owens, a Grammy-, Emmy-, and Golden Globe-winning performer (who also owns three Screen Actors Guild Awards, two NAACP Image Awards, and an Academy Award nomination) was born on March 18, 1970.

  • Known professionally as Queen Latifah, she has sold more than two million records. She recently dropped a verse on a track with DJ Kayslay, Jadakiss and Bun B called "Living Legend."