Coronavirus Crisis, Recession Worries, $1 Trillion Stimulus - 5 Things You Must Know Wednesday

Stock futures slump as markets remain jittery amid the coronavirus pandemic; the Trump administration is expected to seek a fiscal stimulus package of more than $1 trillion; virus infections spread to all 50 states.
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Here are five things you must know for Wednesday, March 18:

1. -- Stock Futures Slump as Markets Remain Jittery

Stock futures slumped to the maximum allowed Wednesday, giving up a portion of the previous session's gains, as efforts by the U.S. government to support the economy during the coronavirus pandemic were deemed a good start but considered not enough. 

Contracts linked to the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 821 points, S&P 500 futures tumbled 92 points and Nasdaq futures were down 328 points.

Stocks finished solidly higher Tuesday after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the Trump administration was looking into sending checks to Americans to help them during the coronavirus outbreak.

“Americans need cash now, and the president wants to give cash now. And I mean now, in the next two weeks,” Mnuchin said at a White House briefing.

The administration is expected seek a stimulus package of more than $1 trillion, which could include $1,000 checks sent directly to individual Americans, to help stimulate the economy as it teeters toward what economists and analysts expect is a likely recession.

“It will likely be a short but sharp contraction,” said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group.

DoubleLine Capital CEO Jeffrey Gundlach said there was a 90% chance the U.S. would enter a recession before the end of 2020.

The Dow rose 5.2% on Tuesday, or 1,048 points, to end at 21,237.31. The S&P 500 gained 6% and the Nasdaq jumped 6.2%.

2. -- Coronavirus - The Latest

The number of confirmed global cases of the coronavirus has risen to 198,178, according to the Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering, and deaths increased to 7,954.

The U.S. has 6,496 cases of the virus and deaths have climbed to 107.

The infection has spread to all 50 states after West Virginia reported its first case of the virus.

A federal government plan to combat the coronavirus indicated the pandemic “will last 18 months or longer” and could include “multiple waves,” resulting in widespread shortages, The New York Times reported.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Republican senators there was a  possibility that U.S. unemployment could rise to 20% without government intervention because of the impact of the coronavirus, Bloomberg reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo dismissed the idea of putting New York City under a shelter-in-place policy, hours after Mayor Bill de Blasio warned residents they should be "prepared right now" for the possibility.

"I don't think shelter in place really works for one locality," Cuomo said in an interview with CNN.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said schools in the state likely will remain closed for the rest of of the year. Almost all - 98.8% - of California schools have closed down.

Tesla TSLA was ordered to halt production at its plant in Fremont, Calif., by the sheriff's office. The electric vehicle company had continued to operate the factory a day after counties in the San Francisco area issued an order that nonessential businesses be shut down.

The International Olympic Committee said the games in Tokyo will go on as planned beginning July 24.

“There is no need for any drastic decisions at this stage,” the IOC said in a statement, but also acknowledged the situation is changing “day-by-day.”

Taiwan said it would close its borders to foreign nationals after imported coronavirus cases spiked over the past few days, while Hong Kong said it might bar all foreigners from entering the city.

3. -- Joe Biden Sweeps Tuesday's Democratic Primaries 

Former Vice President Joe Biden won the Democratic Party’s presidential primaries by wide margins in Florida and Illinois, and also was victorious in Arizona, moving him closer to locking down the party’s presidential nomination.

Biden's wins Tuesday night placed even more pressure on Bernie Sanders to abandon his campaign so the party can develop plans to defeat President Trump. Sander's chances of mounting a comeback are now extremely slim as Biden already has secured more than half of the 1,991 delegates needed for the nomination.

Biden’s once-moribund campaign sprang to life after he won the South Carolina primary in late February and then most of the states voting on Super Tuesday.

Ohio cancelled its primary, also scheduled for Tuesday, because of the coronavirus crisis.

4. -- FedEx Pulls Guidance Because of Coronavirus 'Uncertainty'

Shares of FedEx FDX fell after the shipping company posted quarterly revenue that beat analysts' estimates but pulled its fiscal-year outlook because of uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus outbreak. 

Adjusted earnings in the fiscal third quarter quarter were $1.41 a share, compared with $3.03 a share a year earlier. Revenue of $17.5 billion beat forecasts of $16.89 billion.

“We continue to deliver for our customers and are ready to support increased demand for our International Express export services due to the significant reductions in intercontinental air capacity,” said FedEx Chairman and CEO Frederick Smith. “While the global economic impact from recent social-distancing mandates is uncertain, we remain well positioned to assist our customers as they work to manage their supply chains and inventories. We will continue to support efforts to combat the pandemic.”

FedEx said it was suspending its fiscal 2020 earnings forecast "due to the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic."

The stock declined 2.06% to $93 in after-hours trading Tuesday.

5. -- Housing Starts and General Mills Earnings Highlight Wednesday's Calendar

The economic calendar in the U.S. Wednesday includes Housing Starts for February at 8:30 a.m. ET and Oil Inventories for the week ended March 13 at 10:30 a.m.

Earnings reports are expected Wednesday from General Mills GIS, Nio NIO, Five Below FIVE, Guess GES, PagerDuty PD, Tailored Brands TLRD and Williams-Sonoma WSM.