Coronavirus fears continue to grip stocks: March 18, 2020

By CNN Business

Updated 12:42 PM ET, Thu March 19, 2020
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10:54 a.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Burger King is giving away free kids' meals

From CNN Business' Jordan Valinsky

Burger King is giving away two kids' meals with any purchase made on its app beginning next week, the fast food chain confirmed to CNN Business.

Restaurant Brands International CEO Jose Cil explained in an interview that the promotion is aimed at helping school-aged kids who may be at home because of the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

He said that children are "one of the hardest hit groups of Americans, because they rely so significantly on school, for lunch."

Burger King is owned by RBI (QSR), which also controls Tim Hortons and Popeyes.

11:16 a.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Ikea closing US stores to prevent coronavirus spread

From CNN Business' Clare Duffy

Ikea is temporarily closing all 50 of its stores in the United States in an effort to stunt the spread of coronavirus, the company said Wednesday.

The decision comes after a March 16 announcement that the furniture retailer would be closing some US stores and reducing hours at others. And Ikea joins a growing list of retailers who have temporarily closing stores in the United States and around the world.

“Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures," Ikea retail US president Javier Quiñones said in a statement. "This is the most responsible way Ikea can continue to care for our co-workers and our customers in a manner that is healthy and safe."

While Ikea's stores will be closed to customers, they will still fulfill online orders and be open for online order pick up.

The company said it will continue to support its 18,000 US workers "through its comprehensive benefits package and paid leave policy."

Ikea has also announced temporary store closures in Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland and China. The company said that as the outbreak in China improves, it is gradually reopening stores in the country.

12:26 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Boeing went from top Dow stock to 13th largest just like that

From CNN Business' Paul R. La Monica

At the start of the year, Boeing (BA) was the biggest weighting in the Dow, which ranks its 30 stocks by their share prices.

At the time, Boeing was trading around $325 a share. Despite the company's numerous problems related to two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019 and the subsequent grounding of its fleet of 737 Max jets, Boeing still had the highest stock price of any Dow component.

Then came the coronavirus outbreak and the global airline industry went into a massive free fall. Boeing is now asking the federal government for assistance, saying late Tuesday that it and the rest of the aerospace industry may need at least a $60 billion bailout.

Boeing's stock plunged 15% Wednesday, and has now plummeted 70% this year. It now trades for just over $100 a share. A dozen other Dow stocks now have a higher price than Boeing. Here's a list of them, ranked from highest to lowest price:

  • Apple (AAPL)
  • UnitedHealth (UNH)
  • Home Depot (HD)
  • Goldman Sachs (GS)
  • Visa (V)
  • Microsoft (MSFT)
  • McDonald's (MCD)
  • 3M (MMM)
  • Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)
  • Walmart (WMT)
  • Procter & Gamble (PG)
  • IBM (IBM)

Dow component Caterpillar (CAT) is only about a dollar below Boeing's stock price.

10:47 a.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Hotel stocks are getting clobbered

From CNN Business' Jordan Valinsky

Shares of major hotel chains are on the decline, only compounding to the increasingly bleak outlook as tourism suffers amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

  • Hilton (HLT) is down 15% and is down 50% for the year
  • Hyatt (H) shares plunged 17% and is down nearly 60% year to date
  • Marriott (MAR) declined 23% and down 62% for the year
  • Caesars (CZR) dropped nearly 15% and is down nearly 70% for the year
  • MGM Resorts (MGM) dipped 14% and is down a whopping 75% for the year

Executives from the hotel industry met with President Donald Trump yesterday at the White House appealing for a bailout.

Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta said he's never seen "anything like it" before in reference to how high levels of occupancy are in his hotels. He said Hilton would be running at about 10% to 15% occupancy worldwide. 

“We’ve never closed a hotel that wasn’t going to be demolished and rebuilt,” he added, “the bulk of our hotels in major cities are closing as we speak.”

10:35 a.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Oil craters to 2002 levels. $20 crude could be next

From CNN Business' Matt Egan

The nightmare in the oil industry keeps getting worse.

Intensifying recession fears drove US oil prices to the lowest level since June 2002 on Wednesday. Crude plunged as much as 9%, touching a low of $24.42 a barrel.

The relentless selling is being driven by a crushing combination of excess supply and shrinking demand. And it's dealing a crushing blow to America's once-booming oil industry.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused global travel to collapse, eating into the world's once-insatiable thirst for oil, which powers the economy. Countless flights have been canceled. The cruise industry is at a standstill. Highways are empty. And many factories are dark.

Read more about the oil selloff here.

10:04 a.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Housing was a bright spot in the US economy. This could fade

From CNN Business' Anneken Tappe

Economic data for America's housing sector looked promising in the past months. With mortgage rates coming down and paychecks rising modestly, the sector was poised for a good 2020.

But everything is different now that the coronavirus pandemic has arrived on America's shores.

Wednesday's data for building permits and housing starts still looks reasonably positive. Building permits rose by nearly 1.5 million in February, broadly in line with expectations, while housing starts were up 1.6 million, slightly more than forecast.

This picture is likely going to worsen over the coming months, as social isolation quarantines that hurt consumer confidence take hold.

9:32 a.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Stocks tumble

From CNN Business' Anneken Tappe

US stocks tumbled at Wednesday’s open, erasing the gains from the prior session’s rebound rally.

  • The S&P 500 opened 5.4% lower. If the index falls 7%, trading will be halted for 15 minutes.
  • The Dow opened 6%, or 1,275 points, lower
  • The Nasdaq Composite was down 5.7%.
9:19 a.m. ET, March 18, 2020

JPMorgan promises $50 million to fight coronavirus crisis

From CNN Business' Matt Egan

America's biggest bank is providing $50 million to help people hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.

JPMorgan Chase (JPM) announced the global philanthropic commitment Wednesday aimed at addressing both the public health and economic challenges posed by the crisis.

An initial investment of $15 million will go toward helping communities hit the hardest by the coronavirus. That includes $5 million toward healthcare, food and other relief; $2 million to nonprofits; and $8 million to small businesses in the United States, China and Europe.

JPMorgan said the remaining $35 million will be delivered over time to help vulnerable communities, focusing on key areas including jobs, skills, small business and financial health.

"We are mobilizing the firm’s resources to support customers, employees and communities – especially the most vulnerable – in this time of crisis,” Peter Scher, JPMorgan's head of corporate responsibility, said in a statement.

9:12 a.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Target is closing its stores earlier

From CNN Business' Jordan Valinsky

Target (TGT) will begin closing its nearly 1,900 stores in the United States at 9 pm. Similar to other major retailers, the reduced hours will give employees more time to restock and clean.

The changes begin Wednesday and will "last until further notice," the company said.

It's also reserving the first hour of a store's opening to "support vulnerable guests," including the elderly.

Customers clearing out stores for necessities, including toilet paper and frozen food, has been a problem for stores amid the growing coronavirus pandemic.