Coronavirus Crisis, ECB and Fed Take Action, NYSE to Close Trading Floor - 5 Things You Must Know Thursday

The European Central Bank and Federal Reserve launch emergency aid programs to support economies weakened by the coronavirus pandemic; the NYSE will close its trading floor beginning Monday; an Amazon employee at a facility in Queens, New York, tests positive for the virus.
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Here are five things you must know for Thursday, March 19:

1. -- Stock Futures Sink After Central Banks Launch Emergency Aid Programs

Stock futures turn lower Thursday even after the European Central Bank announced it would buy €750 billion of bonds in order to help insulate the region's economy from what investors expect is a likely recession, and the Federal Reserve launched a program to support money markets.

European stocks were mixed after the ECB's unexpected move to soften the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Fed late Wednesday set up the Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility to assist money-market funds “in meeting demands for redemptions by households and other investors, enhancing overall market functioning and credit provision to the broader economy.”

Contracts linked to the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 322 points, S&P 500 futures were up down 38 points and Nasdaq futures slumped 35 points.

Stocks on Wall Street finished sharply lower Wednesday with the Dow losing almost all the gains achieved since Donald Trump was inaugurated in January 2017. The index has declined nearly a third since its Feb. 12 record close of 29,551.42.

The Dow on Wednesday finished down 1,338 points, or 6.3%, to 19,898, the S&P 500 dropped 5.18% and the Nasdaq was down 4.7%.

The selloff during Wednesday's session at one point triggered another trading halt, the fourth in the past two weeks.

President Trump signed an aid package, approved earlier Wednesday by the Senate, to help offset some of the economic damage being caused by the coronavirus shutdowns.

The package provides for expansion of paid sick and family leave, free testing for the coronavirus and increased unemployment insurance.

The aid package clears the path for additional emergency legislation to help get money into the rapidly contracting U.S. economy.

New proposals include a $50 billion airline bailout, $150 billion for other hard-hit economic sectors and direct payments to Americans totaling $500 billion, according to reports.

2. -- NYSE to Close Trading Floor 

The New York Stock Exchange will shift to all-electronic trading starting Monday in response to the coronavirus, said exchange owner Intercontinental Exchange  (ICE) - Get Report.

The move will affect the NYSE equities trading floor in New York, the NYSE American Options trading floor in New York, and the NYSE Arca Options trading floor in San Francisco.

“The decision to temporarily close the trading floors represents a precautionary step to protect the health and well-being of employees and the floor community in response to Covid-19,” the company said in a statement. A NYSE employee recently tested positive for the coronavirus and the exchange has been testing visitors, according to CNBC.

“Our markets are fully capable of operating in an all-electronic fashion to serve all participants, and we will proceed in that manner until we can re-open our trading floors to our members,” said Stacey Cunningham, president of the New York Stock Exchange. “While we are taking the precautionary step of closing the trading floors, we continue to firmly believe the markets should remain open and accessible to investors."

The markets will continue to operate under normal trading hours.

3. -- Coronavirus - The Latest

The number of confirmed global cases of the coronavirus has risen to 218,827, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering, and deaths increased to 8,810.

The U.S. has 9,415 cases of the virus and deaths have climbed to more than 120.

In Hubei, the Chinese province that is the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, no new locally transmitted infections were reported for the first time since the virus was identified two to three months ago.

Imported cases into China, however, continued to rise. The National Health Commission reported 34 new imported cases for Wednesday.

Amazon.com  (AMZN) - Get Report said a worker at a shipping facility in Queens, New York, tested positive for coronavirus Covid-19.

Amazon said it has “temporarily closed the Queens delivery station for additional sanitation and sent associates home with full pay.”

Tesla  (TSLA) - Get Report joined General Motors  (GM) - Get Report and Ford  (F) - Get Report in offering to make hospital ventilators in auto factories that have been shut by the coronavirus outbreak. 

GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler  (FCAU) - Get Report said Wednesday they will close all U.S. factories through March 30 in order to clean and sanitize their plants. The moves came a day after the United Auto Workers union sent a letter to the Big Three Detroit automakers urging them to consider a shutdown to protect workers from contracting the virus.

Two members of the House of Representatives have been infected with the virus. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Republican from Florida, and Ben McAdams, a Utah Democrat, tested positive for the virus and have been working in quarantine.

4. -- Major League Baseball Could Skip Amateur Draft to Save Cash

Major League Baseball is considering skipping its amateur draft this year and putting off the next international signing period as a way to preserve cash while games are affected by the new coronavirus, people familiar with the discussions told the Associated Press.

Talks between management and the players’ association are ongoing and include major league service time, which determines eligibility for free agency and salary arbitration, the AP reported. MLB has proposed crediting full service for 130 games or more and proportional service for a shorter season, the people told the AP.

The union has taken the position that a full season of service should be credited even if no games are played, one of the people said.

Opening day has been pushed back to mid-May at the earliest from March 26.

5. -- Jobless Claims, Darden Restaurants Earnings on Thursday's Calendar

The economic calendar in the U.S. Thursday includes weekly Jobless Claims at 8:30 a.m. ET and the Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook Survey for March at 8:30 a.m.

Earnings reports are expected Thursday from Darden Restaurants  (DRI) - Get Report, Lennar  (LEN) - Get Report, CrowdStrike  (CRWD) - Get Report, Ollie's Bargain Outlet  (OLLI) - Get Report, Accenture  (ACN) - Get Report and Momo  (MOMO) - Get Report