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Market rebounds on Federal Reserve's moves

By SCOTT REEVES in New York | | Updated: 2020-03-20 05:43
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The Dow Jones Industrial Average rebounded Thursday after the Federal Reserve and other central banks announced programs to counter the worldwide coronavirus outbreak.

The market was volatile in early trading with the blue chip index falling as much as 700 points before making a comeback.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 188.27 points, or 0.95 percent, and closed at 20,087.19. The S&P rose 11.29 points, or 0.47 percent, and closed at 2,409.39. The Nasdaq Composite added 160.73 points, or 2.30 percent, and closed at 7,150.58.

On Wednesday, the Dow fell 1,338.46 points, or 6.3 percent, and closed below 20,000 for the first time since February 2017.

The market turned negative in early trading after the US Labor Department said jobless claimed increased to 281,000 last week from 211,000 the previous week. It was the largest number of new claims filed since September 2017.

The Labor Department said the increase was "clearly attributable to impacts from the COVID-19 virus".

"Today's jobless claims statistics provide the confirmation, if it was needed, that the economy has just fallen over the cliff and is turning down into recession," Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank, said in a research note.

The market rose on action by the Federal Reserve to offset the negative effects of the coronavirus, also called COVID-19. The Bank of England cut interest rates to 0.1 percent, an all-time low.

S&P Global Ratings believes the Fed's recently announced moves, including quantitative easing, cutting interest rates close to zero, buying commercial paper, and new lending to back money market mutual funds, will bolster the economy and strengthen the banking system.

Brendan Browne, a credit analyst at S&P, said in a research report that the moves

will lower the odds that the effects of the coronavirus will test banks' liquidity:

"Compared with 2019, we think bank earnings will fall by a double-digit percentage and perhaps by nearly 25 percent on how quickly banks can reduce their funding costs solely based on lower rates."

On Thursday, JPMorgan Chase gained 1.69 percent. Bank of America rose 2.02 percent. Citi climbed 8.81 percent.

Technology companies led the market's rebound. Amazon rose 2.78 percent. Facebook climbed 4.20 percent. Netflix was up 5.25 percent.

Investors await congressional action on US President Donald Trump's proposed $1 trillion stimulus package.

At a White House news conference Thursday, Trump said he wouldn't oppose barring companies that receive federal assistance during the economic downturn from buying back their stock, a common tactic to boost earnings per share and share value.

"It takes many people in this case to tango, but as far as I'm concerned, conditions like that would be okay with me," Trump said.

Mark Cuban, perhaps best known for the $5.7 billion sale of and as owner of the NBA's Dallas Mavericks, said any company receiving a federal bailout should be permanently barred from buybacks.

US airlines, hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak as passengers cancel or postpone trips, want about $50 billion in federal aid, including direct grants from the government.

American, Delta, Southwest and United, the four largest US carriers, spent about $39 billion in the last five years to buy back shares, according to S&P Dow Jones Indices.

Airlines stock fell Thursday. United slipped 0.47. Delta fell 8.43 percent. American lost 11.67 percent. Southwest dropped 12.20 percent.

Boeing, hurt by the worldwide grounding of its top-selling jet, the 737 MAX, has spent about $35 billion on stock buybacks. Its stock lost 4.01 percent and fell to $97.71 a share Thursday. The 52-week high is $398.66.

Oil producers Diamondback Energy jumped 20.12 percent and Apache rose 11.49 percent Thursday as futures contracts tied to the price of West Texas Intermediate crude rallied more than 24.55 percent to $25.37 a barrel.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Trump may intervene in the Saudi-Russian oil price war by urging the Saudis to cut production and threatening to impose sanctions against Russia. The countries have flooded the market, depressing prices.

"There's no surprise here with the restaurant industry warning 5 to 7 million workers will lose their jobs in coming months,'' Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at MUFG Union Bank, said in a research note.

"Today's jobless claims statistics provide the confirmation, if it was needed, that the economy has just fallen over the cliff and is turning down into recession."

The increased number of jobless claims due to the coronavirus is a sharp turnaround from a previously healthy economy with robust job and wage growth. Earlier this week, the Labor Department said the number of unfilled jobs on Jan 31 increased by 411,000 to 7 million. This kept unemployment near record lows and drove wages up as employers paid more to attract and retain workers.

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