Stocks wipe out earlier gains, end lower

Stocks erased earlier gains to close lower on Tuesday, as investors continued to assess rising coronavirus cases and policymakers’ responses to the outbreak.

At the highs of the session, the Dow was up 937 points before ending in negative territory, as the stark reality of the pandemic forced stocks to succumb to gravity.

New York, which houses the largest number of cases in the U.S., reported its largest one-day gain in new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, which brought the state’s death total to 5,489. This marked a jump after two prior days of flat to lower numbers of new deaths.

While the death toll increased in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said during a press briefing Tuesday that the hospitalization rate and new-infections rates were both declining, and the state anticipated the outbreak overall was reaching a plateau. Total cases in the state surged to 138,836, from 130,689 on Monday.

In New York and in other hot spots for the coronavirus across the country, hospitals are still strained with large numbers of patients, and demand for testing materials and health-care devices including ventilators remains overwhelming.

Italy, another global epicenter of the outbreak, reported new coronavirus-related deaths on Monday, but new cases overall declined, which raised hopes that fatalities could soon retreat. The number of confirmed cases rose by 3,599, marking the lowest number of new cases recorded over a one-day period since March 17.

South Korea on Tuesday reported 47 new coronavirus infections, matching the number from Monday for the fewest new cases since late February. And while Japan remains hard-hit by the virus, the country on Tuesday declared a state of emergency and approved a near $1 trillion stimulus package to help rein in the damage from the outbreak.

Still, however, visibility into the direction of the outbreak in the weeks to come remains murky. And market participants are bracing for an influx of dire corporate earnings results and economic data reports, which are set to capture the brunt of social distancing measures designed to curb the outbreak.

“With over 90% of Americans reportedly following an either voluntary or mandated ‘stay at home’ policy, the lockdown has essentially shut down businesses,” noted Beth Ann Bovino, chief U.S economist, S&P Global Ratings on Tuesday.

“This has left many workers by the wayside, either laid off or furloughed until the business opens (assuming the business survives),” she said, adding that unemployment figures in the coming weeks were likely to be “dismal.”

4:05 p.m. ET: Stocks end lower after volatile session

Stocks erased earlier gains and closed in the red on Tuesday, with the Dow shedding more than 900 points from session highs to market close.

Here’s where the three major indices settled Tuesday:

  • S&P 500 (^GSPC): -4.27 points (-0.16%) to 2,659.41

  • Dow (^DJI): -26.13 points (-0.12%) to 22,653.86

  • Nasdaq (^IXIC): -25.98 (-0.33%) to 7,887.26

3:01 p.m. ET: Stocks rapidly pare gains

Stocks cut earlier gains, with the Dow rising by about 150 points after adding more than 900 points at session highs. The Nasdaq briefly turned negative before rising back into positive territory.

Here were the main moves in equity markets, as of 3:01 p.m. ET:

  • S&P 500 (^GSPC): +13.89 (+0.52%) to 2,677.57

  • Dow (^DJI): +153.79 (+0.68%) to 23,833.78

  • Nasdaq (^IXIC): +3.87 (+0.05%) to 7,917.10

2:44 p.m. ET: Crude reverses, ends 9% lower

West Texas intermediate crude oil futures reversed earlier gains, settling lower by 9.4% to $23.63 per barrel on Tuesday. This followed a near 8% loss on Monday for a second straight day of declines.

Saudi Arabia, Russia and other members of OPEC and allied nations are set to hold virtual talks on Thursday to discuss a potential output cut to ease a global supply glut. However, investors have grown concerned the deal may not go far enough to alleviate energy storage strain, as the coronavirus and related social distancing measures have wiped out much of the global demand for fuel.

Brent crude oil prices fell 3.27% to $31.97 per barrel as of 2:37 p.m. ET.

12:50 p.m. ET: Here’s who could benefit when the economy rebounds

The rescue of small U.S. businesses and key industries is barely underway, but has already started fleshing out which sectors could see a big rebound. In a new report, the analytics firm counted gyms and home improvement as two areas that may benefit from the economy’s eventual restart:

While gyms and fitness centers were hit hard and quickly, there are a handful of data points that suggest this is a sector that could rebound quickly. Firstly, when we look at other areas that have been hit with crises in the last few years, one of the first examples is Hurricane Harvey. The storm-battered Houston, TX., resulting in closed gyms and incredibly low visits. However, not only did these gyms bounce back quickly, they were able to buck normal visitation trends. Where visits normally decrease substantially after the first quarter of each year, the weeklong hiatus seemed to spur a return to fitness for visitors. 

Considering the long periods of being stuck at home driven by social distancing, there is a high potential for a comeback for gyms once again.

Meanwhile, also estimated that “desires to restore [homes] will outweigh buying something new, and projects that might otherwise call for a contractor will be handled as a DIY process.”

And along those lines:

…Home Depot (HD) continued to see visits grow in early Q1. However, the prime period for the sector is generally late Q1 and into Q2 when spring cleaning and DIY projects reach their peak. Looking at March data from 2020, Home Depot saw an earlier rise than normal. Visits the second week of March were 9.3% above the baseline, marking a visit increase of 7.4% year-over-year. And this was following the first week of March where visits were up 7.6% year-over-year. While the third and fourth weeks of March did see declines, they were far more measured than those experienced by other sectors.

12:30 p.m. ET: Don’t count on a banking crisis this time around

As economic gloom stemming from the coronavirus lockdown abounds, a notable feature has been the relatively low concerns about a liquidity (read BANKING) crisis. Banks have been in pretty good shape since the 2008 crisis ended, and they’re actually part of the current solution to rescue small businesses being squeezed by extreme social distancing measures.

Capital Economics said on Tuesday that risks of another banking crisis are, in fact, “quite low:”

The coronavirus-related recession will lead to a marked increase in defaults on bank loans but, while that will hit earnings and justifies the sharp sell-off in banking stocks, the greatly improved financial health of banks means that we don’t believe this represents a systemic risk to the banking system. In particular, we think the risk of a GFC-style adverse feedback loop developing – in which mounting losses in the banking system trigger a further contraction in credit, additional asset price declines and, consequently, even greater loan losses – is quite low.

The firm noted that bank balance sheets are in much better shape now than in 2008, when markets were falling out of bed (they certainly are now). However, markets should thank the Federal Reserve:

In part thanks to the Fed’s bigger balance sheet, overall deposits are far bigger than overall loans, banks are holding a lot of cash, which is mostly reserve balances held at the Fed, and short-term borrowing is roughly the same size as it was in 2008, even though the overall size of banks’ balance sheets is now double what it was back then.

11:50 a.m. ET: McConnell seeking more funds for small-business loan program

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he is aiming to pass a plan to provide additional funds for the small-business loan program included in the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill approved by Congress late last month.

The legislation package originally authorized about $350 billion worth of loans to help small business employers retain workers during the pandemic.

“Congress needs to act with speed and total focus to provide more money for this uncontroversial bipartisan program,” McConnell said in a statement. “I will work with Secretary Mnuchin and Leader Schumer and hope to approve further funding for the Paycheck Protection Program by unanimous consent or voice vote during the next scheduled Senate session on Thursday.”

10:38 a.m. ET: Stocks pare some gains

Stocks eased up after surging at market open. Each of the three major indices, however, was still up at least 1%.

Gains in the S&P 500 were led by the Energy sector, up 5.5% as crude oil prices rebounded. A 10% gain in materials company Dow Inc., and a 7.7% rise in shares of American Express led the Dow higher.

Here were the main moves in markets, as of 10:38 a.m. ET:

  • S&P 500 (^GSPC): +51.43 (+1.93%) to 2,715.11

  • Dow (^DJI): +543.76 (+2.4%) to 23,223.75

  • Nasdaq (^IXIC): +86.65 (+1.1%) to 8,000.18

  • Crude (CL=F): +$0.50 (+1.92%) to $26.58 a barrel

  • Gold (GC=F): +$0.10 (+0.01%) to $1,694.00 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): +8.3 bps to yield 0.761%

9:47 a.m. ET: Exxon Mobil cuts capital spending plans by $10 billion amid falling crude oil prices

Oil major Exxon Mobil (XOM) said Tuesday it is slashing its capital spending plans for the year by 30%, or $10 billion, with cash investments now expected to total about $23 billion. The bulk of the cuts will take place in the Permian Basis in West Texas and New Mexico and will impact drilling and fracking activities in the region.

Cash operating expenses will also be cut by 15% this year, the company said in a statement.

“The long-term fundamentals that underpin the company’s business plans have not changed – population and energy demand will grow, and the economy will rebound,” CEO Darren Woods said in a statement. “Our capital allocation priorities also remain unchanged. Our objective is to continue investing in industry-advantaged projects to create value, preserve cash for the dividend and make appropriate and prudent use of our balance sheet.”

9:31 a.m. ET: Stocks open higher, heading toward a second straight session of gains

Here were the main moves in markets, as of 9:31 a.m. ET:

  • S&P 500 (^GSPC): +88.35 (+3.32%) to 2,752.03

  • Dow (^DJI): +886.78 (+3.91%) to 23,566.77

  • Nasdaq (^IXIC): +318.57 (+2.68%) to 8,125.32

  • Crude (CL=F): +$0.33 (+1.27%) to $26.41 a barrel

  • Gold (GC=F): -$0.10 (-0.01%) to $1,693.80 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): +8.3 bps to yield 0.761%

9:15 a.m. ET: Small business optimism plunges

FILE – This Wednesday, April 1, 2020 file photo shows the marquee for the Iowa Theater, closed in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, on John Wayne Drive in Winterset, Iowa. The $349 billion program approved by Congress to help small businesses devastated by the coronavirus outbreak is expected to be spent quickly after it opens on Friday, April 3, 2020, in part because large franchisees and multi-property companies are poised to claim a disproportionate share as soon as the money starts flowing. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Sentiment among U.S. small businesses cratered last month, setting a grim new record amid the disruptions sparked by the coronavirus crisis. The National Federation of Independent Business optimism index slumped 8.1 points to 96.4, the organization said on Tuesday — in line with what might be expected during a global pandemic that forces governments to shutter businesses and keep consumers at home.

7:12 a.m. ET Tuesday: Stock futures point to sharply higher open

Here were the main moves in markets, as of 7:12 a.m. ET: Tuesday:

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): up 89 points, or 3.37% to 2,733.5

  • Dow futures (YM=F): up 829 points, or 3.69% to 23,317.00

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): up 249.25 points, or 3.1% to 8,279.00

  • Crude (CL=F): +$0.82 (+3.14%) to $26.90 a barrel

  • Gold (GC=F): +$12.80 (+0.76%) to $1,706.70 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX): +7.1 bps to yield 0.749%

6:01 p.m. ET Monday: Stock futures edge lower after rebound

Here were the main moves at the start of the overnight session for U.S. equity futures, as of 6:02 p.m. ET on Monday:

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): down 5 points, or 0.19% to 2,639.50

  • Dow futures (YM=F): down 49 points, or 0.22% to 22,439.00

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): down 19.5 points, or 0.24% to 8,010.25

NEW YORK, NY – MARCH 12: The statue os George Washigton is seen in front of the New York Stock Exchange on March 12, 2020. in New York City. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 2,352.60 points, a decrease of almost 10% and the largest since 1987. (Photo by Pablo Monsalve/VIEWpress/Corbis via Getty Images)

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