Live Market Tracker: Stocks Wobble as New Outbreaks Emerge

Live Market Tracker: Stocks Wobble as New Outbreaks Emerge

The Fed outlines its corporate bond-buying program.

The Federal Reserve said on Monday that it would begin to buy debt issued by individual corporations based on a broad index of corporate bonds in the United States, a new step in the central bank’s efforts to keep credit flowing freely amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials voted unanimously to expand the so-called Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility, which it unveiled in May. The program is meant to allow companies to continue borrowing money at a time of high stress on the financial system following the steep economic decline from the pandemic. Originally, the Fed did that by purchasing exchange traded funds, which trade like stocks but have broad exposure to corporate bonds.

Under the expansion approved on Monday, which Fed officials had foreshadowed in their creation of the program, the Fed will now “begin buying a broad and diversified portfolio of corporate bonds to support market liquidity and the availability of credit for large employers,” officials said in a news release. The purchases, they added, will “create a corporate bond portfolio that is based on a broad, diversified market index of U.S. corporate bonds.” Fed officials had not previously signaled that the individual corporate bond purchases would follow an index approach.

Even before buying a single bond, the Fed managed to achieve its main goal with its primary and secondary bond-buying programs: restarting the frozen corporate debt market. It first announced that it would set up the programs on March 23, and the mere promise of a backstop revived the market, allowing companies to issue debt to raise needed cash amid the coronavirus economic downturn.

Once they are fully up and running, the Fed’s programs will buy both newly issued debt on the primary market and debt that is already being traded on a secondary market. The programs were expanded on April 9 to include some junk bonds.

Stocks rebound as the Fed’s plan outweighs second-wave concerns.

A rout on Wall Street turned into a rally on Monday, with stocks crossing into positive territory for the day after the Federal Reserve said it would soon start to buy debt issued by individual companies in a new effort to keep credit flowing.

The S&P 500 ended nearly 1 percent higher after having spent most of the day in negative territory. Though stocks had already recouped the worst of their losses — the index fell as much 2.5 percent earlier — shares jumped after the Fed’s new plan was released.

The Fed’s earlier intervention in financial markets, aimed at smoothing out the functioning of credit markets, was credited by many investors for driving a 45 percent rally in stocks from their March lows. The expansion of its program to include individual companies is meant to ensure businesses have access to funding during the economic downturn.

The turnaround on Monday came as sentiment in financial markets had grown somewhat unsteady after the run-up from those March lows. Stocks plunged Thursday as warnings that the economic recovery would be slower than hoped for, and the prospect of a second wave of coronavirus infections, seemed to shift the focus back to risks.

On Monday, investors were still contending with bad news. In China, some monthly economic indicators were weaker than expected, and officials are battling a new spate of coronavirus cases.

In the United States, Arizona, Florida and Texas have also reported higher infection numbers, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said that the state might have to reinstate lockdown conditions.

Airlines say they will step up mask enforcement

According to the association, all of four of the largest U.S. airlines — Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines — have agreed to communicate their mask policies to customers before flying; reiterate the requirements in onboard announcements; and enforce them when customers refuse to comply. Southwest issued a separate statement saying that it would “deny boarding” to passengers that refused to comply with its face covering requirement.

The airline association said each airline would establish its own punishment for passengers who refuse to comply, “up to and including suspension of flying privileges.”

Airlines have so far been reluctant to publicly establish clear consequences for failure to wear face coverings, and many passengers have chided the companies on social media with photos of planes filled with people not wearing masks and sitting close to each other.

Tech giants see opportunities in the pandemic to grow even larger.

Facebook has been on a spending spree. It announced this month that it had invested in Gojek, a “super app” in Southeast Asia, which followed a $5.7 billion investment in Reliance Jio, a telecom giant in India.

The social media company also shelled out $400 million last month to buy an animated GIF company and is spending millions of dollars to build a nearly 23,000-mile undersea fiber-optic cable encircling Africa. And on Thursday, Facebook confirmed that it was developing a venture capital fund to invest in promising start-ups.

Other technology giants are engaging in similar behavior. Apple has bought at least four companies this year and released a new iPhone. Microsoft has purchased three cloud computing businesses. Amazon is in talks to acquire an autonomous vehicle start-up, has leased more airplanes for delivery and has hired an additional 175,000 people since March. Google has unveiled new messaging and video features.

For its part, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences said on Monday that its Creative Arts Emmys, at which the majority of Emmys are awarded annually, would be held virtually in September. The main Emmys telecast remains scheduled for Sept. 20 on ABC. The television academy said that discussions were underway “regarding the format.”

The fitness chain 24 Hour Fitness filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Monday, after the coronavirus pandemic forced its clubs to shut for nearly two months.

“Put simply, the Covid-19 pandemic upended the debtors’ operating model, leaving the debtors without a source of revenue to fund their operations,” the filing stated.

The national gym chain said in its bankruptcy filing that it had permanently closed 100 locations across 14 states. But the chain is expected to re-emerge: It has secured $250 million in funding to reopen some of its clubs, and expects a majority of its remaining 300 locations to be open by the end of June.

The pandemic has been particularly devastating to the gym industry. Also on Monday, Town Sports International said that it was considering bankruptcy because of revenue losses as a result of the shutdown. The company, which owns about 200 gyms including New York Sports Club and Boston Sports Club, said in a regulatory filing that the “scope and duration of the interruption to our operations has substantially reduced our cash flow.”

A Federal Reserve official recommended further government spending to help ensure that the recovery from the pandemic-induced recession was faster — and reached vulnerable populations much more quickly — than those that followed previous deep downturns.

“The hardest lesson from both the Great Depression and the Great Recession is that it took a decade or more for the economy to fully recover and for the benefits of growth to reach all of those displaced by the shock,” the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Mary C. Daly, said on Monday.

“A decade is too long,” she added. “We can’t wait 10 years for an economic recovery to reach everyone.”

Ms. Daly said that many of the recent job losses were likely to be permanent and that unless policymakers worked to “build the foundations for a sustained and robust recovery,” the job market was at risk of losing workers.

“We have to commit — now — to not letting this happen,” she said, adding that the Fed should leave interest rates low even as the economy recovered.

“We also need fiscal policymakers to commit to sustained investments in our economic future,” she said, noting that Congress has already approved emergency spending packages but specifically recommended further investments in health, education and digital infrastructure.

“Much more will be needed in order to build a strong economic foundation that will allow a full recovery and sustained expansion,” she said.

Reversing course, Steven Mnuchin says he will add more oversight to a small-business loan program.

Facing backlash for keeping the recipients of a $660 billion small-business bailout secret, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Monday said that he would look for a way to allow for more oversight of where the government-backed loan money was going.

The apparent reversal comes days after Mr. Mnuchin told a Senate committee that information about who was receiving the loan money was “proprietary” and not subject to public release. The lack of transparency threatened to derail future economic relief efforts and was quickly becoming a political problem for the White House, as Democrats and Republicans sought additional information about the loans offered through Paycheck Protection Program.

“I will be having discussions with the Senate Small Business Committee and others on a bipartisan basis to strike the appropriate balance for proper oversight of PPP loans and appropriate protection of small business information,” Mr. Mnuchin said on Twitter on Monday.

Not long after, House Democrats announced that they had started an investigation into how the administration had allocated money under the program. The seven Democrats on a special oversight committee created to scrutinize how the administration is spending pandemic relief money sent letters to the Treasury Department and the Small Business Administration, as well as eight large banks, asking for documents and information about how the funds were distributed and the businesses that received the funds.

“The administration should release the names of all PPP borrowers — as the SBA routinely does for similar loan programs,” the lawmakers wrote in letters to eight banks, including JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Citibank. “Contrary to Secretary Mnuchin’s recent testimony, there is nothing ‘proprietary’ or ‘confidential’ about a business receiving millions of dollars appropriated by Congress, and taxpayers deserve to know how their money is being spent.”

They said they were concerned that a “two-tiered system” for processing applications “may have diverted PPP funds intended for vulnerable small business owners in underserved and rural markets.”

United Airlines raises $5 billion backed by its loyalty program.

United Airlines said Monday it had secured a $5 billion loan backed by its MileagePlus frequent flier program, part of its plans to have up to $17 billion in cash by the end of September.

That amount, about three times the airline’s typical target, would be enough to help United survive a second or third wave of coronavirus shutdowns and sharp drops in ticket revenue. The $17 billion figure includes a $4.5 billion federal loan that United has not yet committed to.

So far, American Airlines is the only large U.S. airline to confirm that it would borrow money from the federal government under a provision of a $2.2 trillion stimulus measure Congress approved this year. American said on Friday that it planned to borrow $4.75 billion under that program, a loan that would be backed by its frequent flier program. Separately, all the large airlines have accepted money from a $25 billion program Congress created to help the industry meet its payroll through September.

Loyalty programs have become a significant part of the airline business. They have helped companies protect themselves against the ups and downs of the economy by creating new income streams. Under the terms of the loan announced on Monday, United will retain control over MileagePlus, which generated more than $5 billion in cash flow last year and about 12 percent of the airline’s revenue.

United also said it expected to average $40 million in daily losses throughout the second quarter of the year. The company said it hoped to reduce that to $30 million in the third quarter. American and Delta Air Lines said last week that they expected to end June with $40 million in daily losses.

BP told shareholders on Monday that the company expected to write off $13 billion to $17.5 billion of the value of its oil and gas holdings when it reports second-quarter earnings on Aug. 4.

The write downs — a reflection that oil and gas fields have fallen in value — come as Bernard Looney, who became chief executive in February, pursues a rapid makeover of the London-based oil giant.

A reorganization led by Mr. Looney is expected to result in a reduction of 10,000 jobs, or nearly 15 percent of the company’s work force. He also wants to change the way BP does business to meet a commitment to become carbon neutral by 2050.

The company said that the write downs of up to 12 percent of the previous book value were partly a result of a reduction in its long-term forecasts of the price of oil by about 30 percent, to $55 a barrel. It is also similarly downgrading its long-term price for natural gas.

The company said it assumed that the pandemic would have “an enduring impact” on the global economy and accelerate a shift to lower-carbon energy consumption as countries seek to rebuild their economies.

The write downs will come both from existing oil and gas fields and from those in places like the Gulf of Mexico and Canada where the company has undeveloped holdings that it may decide not to exploit in the current circumstances.

Catch up: Here’s what else is happening.

Reporting was contributed by Gillian Friedman, Alan Rappeport, Emily Cochrane, Jeanna Smialek, Jim Tankersley, Niraj Chokshi, Jack Ewing, Matt Phillips, Mohammed Hadi, Keith Bradsher, Stanley Reed, Jason Karaian, Carlos Tejada, Brooks Barnes, Nicole Sperling, Paul Sullivan and Kevin Granville.


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