The Dow Jones industrial average fell 582 points, or 3 percent, to settle at 18,591. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index skidded roughly 3 percent and the Nasdaq tipped down 0.3 percent.
The markets saw a short-lived surge during futures trading after the Fed said it would purchase Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities “in the amounts needed to support smooth market functioning,” showing the central bank is willing to go far beyond the $700 billion in new purchases announced last week.
But those gains were quickly wiped away. Investors are increasingly concerned about the enormous stimulus bill that aims to respond to the flood of layoffs affecting millions of Americans and the economic pillage felt by businesses in nearly every sector. On Monday afternoon, Democrats blocked the bill for the second day in a row, and lawmakers clashed on the Senate floor as strained negotiations dragged on.
The bill would steer payments of $1,200 to most adults and include $500 for each child. It would also allocate $350 billion to small businesses to address layoffs and send billions more to hospitals and the unemployment insurance system. The measure also would create a $500 billion program for businesses, states and localities.
“Today’s sell-off is a combination of uncertainty in both the health side of the virus and the financial system,” said Sarat Sethi of Douglas C. Lane & Associates. “Markets hate uncertainty. The uncertainty created by Congress not being able to provide a stimulus, and by investors continuing to look for a glimmer of hope on slowing the virus, are causing additional pressure on stocks like we have seen the last couple of weeks.”
On Friday, the Dow shaved more than 900 points, bringing the week’s losses beyond 10 percent and erasing all Trump-era gains. All three indexes are well into a bear-market — which marks at least a 20 percent reversal from their highs.
“We’ve known that the magnitude of help needed has been massive and growing for days now,” wrote Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst for Bankrate. “The Federal Reserve continues to do all it can to keep markets operating. Now, the spotlight is on elected leaders to do their jobs as well.”
March 23, 2020 at 5:33 PM EDT
Instacart is hiring 300,000 workers to deliver groceries
Grocery delivery giant Instacart says it is hiring 300,000 contract workers over the next three months, more than doubling its workforce, to keep up with soaring demand.
Order volume has grown more than 150 percent in recent weeks, the San Francisco-based company said Monday, as Americans look for alternatives to going to the store in the coronavirus era. Instacart delivers groceries from more than 350 chains, including Safeway, Harris Teeter and Costco.
“The last few weeks have been the busiest in Instacart’s history,” Apoorva Mehta, the company’s founder and chief executive said in a statement. The company said it plans to hire new workers all over the country, with a particular focus on its busiest markets. It expects to hire 54,000 contractors in California, 27,000 in New York and 18,000 in Texas.
The bulk of Instacart’s workers are independent contractors, which means they do not receive paid sick leave or benefits. Instacart says it will offer up to 14 days of paid leave for workers diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed in mandatory isolation.
By Abha Bhattarai
March 23, 2020 at 5:27 PM EDT
America has a lot of ICU beds, but they’re not distributed evenly
Many public health experts have warned that the coronavirus will put a tremendous strain on the nation’s intensive care units. Now, new estimates show that the nation’s ICU capacity — as measured by the number of beds per capita — varies greatly, with as much as a tenfold difference region to region.
Sacarny analyzed data from 2016 to 2018, the most recent years available, and found that hospitals reported approximately 93,000 ICU beds in the United States. That figure does not include neonatal or pediatric intensive care beds, which typically would not be available to the adults who make up the bulk of hospitalized coronavirus patients, or beds at government-run facilities such as Veterans Affairs and military hospitals.
Areas with greater populations naturally have more ICU beds than less-populated areas. For a better sense of capacity, The Post calculated the number of beds per capita in each hospital referral region, revealing huge variations in ICU capacity between markets.
By Christopher Ingraham
March 23, 2020 at 3:55 PM EDT
Facebook’s coronavirus challenge: Police the Internet with fewer humans
Early this month, most Facebook employees packed up and readied to work from home as the novel coronavirus spread around the world. Despite a companywide mandate, however, the social networking giant had not figured out how to conduct its most sensitive work remotely: removing pornography, terrorism, hate speech and other unwanted content from across its site.
The people who do that sensitive work — nearly 15,000 contractors at 20 sites globally — continued to come to the office until last Monday, when public pressure, internal protests and quarantine measures around the world pushed Facebook to make a drastic move to shutter its moderation offices. But Facebook’s decision to place that army of moderators on paid leave paves the way for another challenge, forcing the company to police disinformation, medical hoaxes, Russian trolls and the general ugliness of the Internet without them.
While Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other companies have long touted artificial intelligence and algorithms as the future of policing problematic content, they’ve more recently acknowledged that humans are the most important line of defense. Those contractors, who are paid a fraction of what full time workers earn, spend hours a day reviewing material flagged as illegal or disturbing, removing posts that cross the line and often suffering psychological harm from the exposure.
By Elizabeth Dwoskin and Nitasha Tiku
March 23, 2020 at 2:20 PM EDT
CVS to hire 50,000 workers, pay out bonuses
CVS Health is looking to hire 50,000 workers and plans to hand out bonuses to existing retail staff as it contends with a coronavirus-fueled surge in business, the company announced Monday in a news release.
America’s largest pharmacy chain will distribute one-time payouts of $150 to $500 to pharmacists, “front line” health care professionals, store managers and associates, and “other site-based hourly employees,” according to the release.
The 50,000 new jobs will include full-time, part-time and temporary roles as store clerks, delivery drivers, distribution center employees and customer service workers.
By Jacob Bogage
March 23, 2020 at 2:06 PM EDT
Perspective: For retirees, the stock market plunge comes with a particularly potent sting
Unless stocks and stock funds have a miraculous recovery, some seniors are complaining they will be forced to withdraw money from their retirement accounts in a bear market.
Before a recent law change, people turning 70½ had to take required minimum distributions, or RMDs, from their individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and/or workplace retirement plans such as a 401(k). The penalty for failing to take your RMD properly is substantial.
If you don’t take distributions, or if the distributions are not large enough, you’re subject to a penalty equal to 50 percent of the amount that should have been withdrawn.
Thanks to the Secure Act, which stands for Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement, if your 70th birthday is July 1, 2019 or later, you do not have to take withdrawals until you reach 72.
By Michelle Singletary
March 23, 2020 at 2:01 PM EDT
Unemployment, the stock market, the bond market, and the nation’s economic plunge, in 9 charts
The coronavirus crisis is about to blow up a cascade of U.S. economic charts.
If the latest projections are even close to correct, the U.S. economy will see numbers so big and bad in coming months that we’ll be forced to stretch the vertical scale on charts to fit them. The highs and lows of the past decade, which seemed so critical at the time, will recede into relative flatness, dwarfed by the moves of 2020.
Here are nine charts that, taken together, show how we’re entering difficult territory.
By Andrew Van Dam
March 23, 2020 at 1:40 PM EDT
Boeing temporarily suspends Puget Sound work due to coronavirus. Up to 70,000 workers impacted.
Boeing announced a temporary suspension of production operations at its Puget Sound area facilities, where nearly 70,000 workers are employed, citing the need to protect employees from the growing threat of coronavirus.
The company said in a release it plans to begin reducing production activity Monday and that company sites across the Puget Sound area of Washington state will draw down production through Wednesday. The suspension will last 14 days and the company said it would "continue to monitor government guidance and actions on COVID-19 and its associated impacts on all company operations."
“During this time, we will be conducting additional deep cleaning activities at impacted sites and establishing rigorous criteria for return to work,” Boeing’s release states.
“This necessary step protects our employees and the communities where they work and live,” said Boeing President and CEO Dave Calhoun.
The company said employees based in the region who can work from home will continue to do so. Other employees will receive paid leave “for the initial 10 working days of the suspension – double the company policy – which will provide coverage for the 14 calendar day suspension period,” Boeing’s release states.
“We will keep our employees, customers and supply chain top of mind as we continue to assess the evolving situation,” Calhoun said.
By Aaron Gregg
March 23, 2020 at 12:03 PM EDT
GE Aviation will shed 10 percent of U.S. workforce, furlough others
General Electric’s aviation wing will cut 10 percent of its domestic workforce in the coming months because of the novel coronavirus, becoming the latest in a string of companies — especially in the hard-hit aviation sector — announcing massive drawbacks in response to the economic downtown.
In a letter to employees Monday, G.E. Chairman and CEO H. Lawrence Culp Jr., announced that he and David Joyce, the company’s vice chairman and head of its aviation unit, will forgo their salaries for the rest of 2020. He also said the company had instituted a hiring freeze, canceled scheduled merit raises and will furlough half of the company’s maintenance, repair and engine overhaul workers for 90 days.
The layoffs, which will affect 2,600 hourly and salaried workers, and other moves will save the company $500 million to $1 billion, Culp wrote.
By Jacob Bogage
March 23, 2020 at 11:00 AM EDT
Coronavirus hurting economy, but it’s creating demand in some places
The race to beat the coronavirus is reaching into every corner of American business.
Baltimore-based Marlin Steel, which makes specialized metal containers for big names like General Electric, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce, got the call on Friday.
“We got a huge emergency order at 6:15 Friday night for test tube racks to test for Covid-19, racks we never made before,” said Drew Greenblatt, 53, president and majority owner of Marlin. The buyer is a giant health provider based in the Midwest. “We asked for volunteers who worked all week long to stay late and work Saturday and Sunday so we can ship ASAP to save lives,” he said.
“My team is amazing and we finished before 1:45 p.m. Sunday. We then put on truck after the plane was canceled to ship 1,100 miles to get to our client’s facility at 8 a.m. Monday.”
Privately held Marlin has 40 employees and roughly $6 million in revenue. It has been very busy and has all its employees going full-time, Greenblatt said. Its specialty containers are used on assembly lines at Pfizer, Ford Motor Co. and hundreds of other clients in 39 countries.
By Thomas Heath
March 23, 2020 at 10:33 AM EDT
Fed announces unlimited bond purchases in unprecedented move to help U.S. economy
The Federal Reserve announced Monday an unlimited expansion of bond purchasing programs to backstop the U.S. economy, as millions of American households and businesses are getting crushed by the near total shutdown of daily life to fight the coronavirus.
The central bank is taking swift and unprecedented action to ensure businesses, individuals and local governments can get loans to tide them over until the economy bounces back. As part of these efforts, the Fed said Monday it would purchase Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities “in the amounts needed to support smooth market functioning” — effectively putting no limits on how many assets the Fed is willing to buy. This extraordinary move goes beyond the 2008-09 financial crisis playbook.
Economists have dubbed this the “do whatever it takes” moment for the Fed. Some analysts on Twitter compared it to when talk show host Oprah gave everyone in the audience a car.
By Heather Long
March 23, 2020 at 10:11 AM EDT
Japan’s Nikkei the outlier as global markets crater
Monday was shaping up to be a rainy day for global markets amid continuing fears about the novel coronavirus and its logjam on the economy. Then Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told Japan’s parliament that canceling the coming Summer Olympic was “not an option,” and that the Games would be postponed, if necessary.
If the International Olympic Committee’s decision makes it impossible to hold the Olympics in a “complete form” then it may be neces to postpone them, Abe said, according to the Nikkei Asian Review. That sent Tokyo’s Nikkei index soaring 2 percent.
European and Asian markets were otherwise red across the board, though they temporarily beat back some losses after the Federal Reserve announced new steps to shore up the U.S. economy. By midday, Britain’s FTSE 100 was tanking 3.5 percent and the benchmark Stoxx was down more than 3 percent.
Hong Kong’s Hang Seng shed more than 1,100 points, or nearly 4.9 percent. That was led by losses in the energy, IT and real estate sectors. The past 30 days, the index has plunged 4,000 points, or nearly 15 percent. But India’s BSE Sensex took the worst beating, tumbling more than 13.1 percent.
By Jacob Bogage
March 23, 2020 at 8:59 AM EDT
Perspective: A smarter way to save jobs during outbreak
The late senator Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts used to remind fellow Democrats that you can’t be pro-jobs and pro-worker without being pro-business and pro-employer. It’s an admonition that Congress should keep in mind as it considers how to use public resources in the most effective and efficient manner to get the economy through a month or two of virtual shutdown.
When done right, pro-business subsidies can not only be pro worker, but can help avoid triggering the vicious economic cycle of unemployment, defaults, bankruptcies and business failures known as a recession.
The key to “doing it right” is forbearance.
Forbearance is giving businesses that have suddenly lost all or most of their sales a reprieve on paying their landlord and their lenders. Instead, the money owed now — over the next three months, let’s say — would be paid back once business has returned to normal.
So how could the government give lenders and landlords the incentive and the liquidity to offer widespread forbearance? The quickest and most efficient way is by offering them tax credits, sending them enough money to make them whole if they are willing to do the socially responsible thing.
By Steven Pearlstein
March 23, 2020 at 8:42 AM EDT
Justice Dept. brings its first fraud case tied to coronavirus outbreak
The Justice Department this weekend brought its first fraud allegation tied to the coronavirus crisis, persuading a federal judge in Texas to issue a restraining order to block a website that claimed to be distributing vaccines.
In court documents, the department alleged the operator of the site, coronavirusmedicalkit.com, was facilitating a wire-fraud scheme, “intentionally making false statements” about the vaccines, which do not exist.
“The website falsely claims that the World Health Organization is giving away free vaccine kits and that individuals who visit the website can order such a kit by paying $4.95 for shipping,” the Justice Department wrote. The WHO is not offering such kits for covid-19, the agency said, nor is there a vaccine known to be effective against the disease caused by the coronavirus.
U.S. District Judge Robert Pitman granted the temporary restraining order against the site and the entity that registered it on Sunday.
By Matt Zapotosky