Coronavirus fears continue to grip stocks: March 18, 2020

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2:11 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Trading halted

From CNN Business' Anneken Tappe

The New York Stock Exchange has halted stock trading for 15 minutes after the S&P 500 fell 7% on Wednesday afternoon.

2:12 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Delta says its sales will fall by $2 billion in March

From CNN Business' Jordan Valinsky

Delta's financial future is getting increasingly dire.

The airline revealed in a regulatory filing Wednesday that its revenue will decline by nearly $2 billion this month expects it to fall even further in April.

Similar to other airlines that are looking to their cut costs, Delta will reduce domestic capacity by 70% and international capacity by 80% over the next three months.

CEO Ed Bastian said that the company is having "constructive discussions" with the White House and Congress about receiving financial support.

Until then, it's enacting "cash preservation" actions including significant pay cuts among its corporate leaders, temporarily closing a majority of its Sky Clubs and reducing its fleet size by half, which amounts to more than 600 planes.

And Bastian warned employees that involuntary job losses may be necessary, even though about 10,000 employees have already taken voluntary unpaid leave.

"I know everyone is concerned about the security of your jobs and pay," he wrote. "Given the uncertainty about the duration of this crisis, we are not yet at a point to make any decisions. And those are very painful decisions to even consider."

He said Delta would only make the staff cuts if its future is at stake.

Delta's (DAL) shares are down 33% and the stock has lost 64% of its value this year.

1:18 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Crude. Keeps. Crashing.

From CNN Business' Matt Egan

The last time crude oil prices traded at these levels, President George W. Bush was in the middle of his first term in the White House.

The crude crash accelerated Wednesday afternoon, with US oil nosediving 18.5% to as low as $21.96 a barrel. Oil hit session lows just after stock market trading was halted on the New York Stock Exchange for 15 minutes.

Crude is on track to finish at the weakest level since at least February 2002. Oil continues to be rocked by shrinking demand caused by coronavirus travel restrictions and the slowing world economy.

"This continues to be a perfect storm from both a supply and demand perspective," said Matt Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData.

Instead of supporting the market by cutting production, Russia and Saudi Arabia are mired in devastating price war that will add supply at the worst possible time.

"The world's largest producers are about to flood the global market in the coming weeks, at a time when demand is cratering due to the coronavirus," Smith said.

The intensifying oil crash drove the energy sector (XLE) down a stunning 12% on Wednesday alone. Noble Energy (NBL), Diamondback Energy (FANG) and Kinder Morgan (KMI) plunged between 18% and 28%.

2:18 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

What needs to happen for these markets to move up?

From CNN Business' Anneken Tappe

Stocks have been selling off for weeks and brief rebound rallies haven't been able to lift weekly performances.

So what needs to happen for the market to improve and break this habit?

"We have not seen a positive headline yet about Corona, the numbers keep expanding," said Jonathan Corpina, senior managing partner at Meridian Equity Partners, told Alison Kosik during the CNN Business' digital live show Markets Now. "Every night, every day, it's the continual same headline, the numbers are increasing,"

As soon as there is some more clarity and some positive news in terms of combating the virus and some positive numbers pointing to a flattened curve of infections or an end to infections, the market will calm down, he said.

12:07 p.m. ET, March 18, 2020

Stocks remain down at midday

From CNN Business' Anneken Tappe

Stocks remain in the red at midday, with investors awaiting a White House press briefing with President Donald Trump and the coronavirus task force.

During yesterday's press briefing, stocks extended their gains.

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.”