US stocks resume their roller coaster ride: March 19, 2020

By CNN Business

Updated 6:48 a.m. ET, March 20, 2020
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9:13 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Blue Apron stock is going absolutely bonkers

From CNN Business' Paul R. La Monica

Apparently we're all going to become home chefs now that we're stuck indoors due to the coronavirus pandemic. How else to explain the insane surge in the price of meal kit company Blue Apron this week?

Shares of Blue Apron (APRN) started Monday trade at $2.28. They're now hovering around $23. That's a more than 900% pop! Not bad for an unprofitable company that's been pressured by intense competition and is considering a sale or other "strategic alternatives."

But Blue Apron isn't the only food delivery company that's gotten a lift lately. Waitr Holdings (WTRH), which owns Bite Squad and focuses on delivering meals from local restaurants in smaller markets, has skyrocketed from about 32 cents a share to $3.25 this week.

Waitr reported a solid jump in revenue for its latest quarter on Monday -- even as losses grew. The company also said Tuesday it is working with restaurants to offer free delivery, is supplying all drivers with gloves and will continue to pay any hourly worker who is in quarantine or has contracted coronavirus.

9:04 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Microsoft reports huge jump in Teams users over past week

From CNN Business' Paul R. La Monica

More people are working from home as a result of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak -- and that appears to be giving Microsoft (MSFT) a boost.

The software giant announced Thursday that its Team collaborative software tool, a rival to Slack (WORK), had 44 million daily users globally as of March 18. That's an increase of 12 million from just the past week. Microsoft also said it has 20 customers with more than 100,000 users, up from 14 a week ago. The company inked a deal for the NFL to use Teams earlier this month.

"Our customers have certainly turned to Teams during this challenging time, and we've seen usage spikes in markets most impacted by COVID-19. The last seven days, however, have shown the sheer unprecedented nature of the global demand," said Jared Spataro, Microsoft 365 Corporate Vice President, in a statement.

Microsoft made the announcement on what is the third anniversary of Teams and it also revealed several new features to keep the pressure on Slack. Shares of Slack have fallen 20% this year and are down nearly 60% from the high they hit shortly after last year's direct listing. Slack issued a disappointing outlook last week.

8:47 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Jobless claims spike to highest level in 2 1/2-years

From CNN Business' Anneken Tappe

Last week's jobless claims spiked to 281,000 -- the highest level since September 2017.

This data point will get more and more attention in the months to come as it is published on a weekly basis, tracking the real economy much more closely than monthly data, which is always backwards-looking.

Layoffs are expected to worsen significantly as the coronavirus crisis is forcing businesses to readjust.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday that without the Trump administration's economic relief package, which includes loans to businesses so they can make payroll, US unemployment could spike to 20%, from its historically low level of 3.5% at the moment.

8:09 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

The latest recession forecast from JPMorgan is dire

From CNN Business' Julia Horowitz

JPMorgan Chase (JPM), the biggest US bank, has dramatically changed its economic forecast for the next year. And it's bleak.

There is no longer doubt that the longest global expansion on record will end this quarter," Bruce Kasman, the bank's head of economic research, told clients on Wednesday.

"The key outlook issue now is gauging the depth and the duration of the 2020 recession," he added.

JPMorgan now believes that China's economy will shrink by 40% compared to the previous quarter between January and March, the biggest contraction recorded over the past 50 years at least. That will reverberate across Asia.

The shock to the United States and Europe, meanwhile, is expected to be concentrated between April and June as daily life grinds to a standstill. 

The bank thinks US GDP will shrink an annualized rate of 14% in the second quarter, far worse than in the fourth quarter of 2008, which yielded the steepest contraction of the Great Recession.

Read more here.

8:06 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Lufthansa is only flying 63 planes

From CNN Business' Jordan Valinsky

Lufthansa (DLAKY) is grounding 700 of its 763 planes, which amounts to 90% of its fleet, the German airline announced Thursday in a drastic move to ensure its survival.

CEO Carsten Spohr said in a release that the coronavirus "has placed the entire global economy and our company as well in an unprecedented state of emergency." He also warned that the "future of aviation cannot be guaranteed without state aid."

It has slashed capacity and recently raised 600 million euros giving it liquidity of roughly 4 billion euros.

7:29 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Marriott withdraws its full-year financial outlook as coronavirus guts bookings

From CNN Business' Jordan Valinsky

Marriott's stock is set to plummet again Thursday after the world's largest hotel chain withdrew its 2020 full-year financial guidance because of the coronavirus pandemic that is sparking mass cancellations.

Occupancy levels in North America and Europe, where the virus continues to spread, are currently below 25%. They're usually around 70% this time of year because of spring break vacations.

Marriott said it had "historically high levels of cancellations" for the first half of 2020, but it hasn't seen "meaningful group cancellations for 2021."

However, there's a bright spot for China where it has seen "very early signs of improvement" as workers return to their jobs. Marriott has re-opened roughly 60 hotels and said occupancy, while low, is "pointing in the right direction."

Marriott (MAR) shares are down 9% in premarket trading. The stock is down nearly 60% for the year.

7:28 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Darden Restaurants suspends dividend, withdraws full year outlook

From CNN Business' Danielle Wiener-Bronner

Darden Restaurants, which owns Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Eddie V's and other casual dining chains, is suspending its quarterly cash dividend and withdrawing its full year financial outlook because of uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Attempts to stop the spread of the coronavirus include shuttering restaurants and limiting seating. For Darden, the social distancing efforts mean far fewer people visiting its locations.

In the three months ending on March 15, sales at restaurants open at least a year fell nearly 6%. In the first week of the quarter, they were up 3%. In the second week they were down 0.2%, and in the third week they plummeted nearly 21%.

"The health and safety of our team members, their families and our guests remains our top priority," said CEO Gene Lee in a statement discussing the results. "We are committed to supporting our team members during this unprecedented time." Lee added that the company has an emergency pay program for its hourly employees.

6:24 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

New York Stock Exchange trading floor is closing because of the coronavirus

From CNN Business' Clare Duffy

The New York Stock Exchange is temporarily closing trading floors and moving to fully electronic trading next week to prevent the spread of coronavirus, exchange operator Intercontinental Exchange Inc (ICEsaid Wednesday.

The announcement comes shortly after the NYSE sent an update to traders informing them that two people — a member of the trading floor community and an NYSE employee — tested positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

The NYSE had implemented coronavirus screening procedures for anyone wishing to enter the building. Both individuals who tested positive were screened on Monday and not allowed to enter the building.

Read more here.

6:19 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Checking in on European and Asian stocks

Some markets reacted favorably after the European Central Bank announced it would pump $821 billion into keeping the financial system afloat.

The ECB measure is just the latest emergency stimulus plan announced by central banks to help economies in the face of a potentially disastrous worldwide recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

  • In Europe, London's FTSE 100 ticked up 0.6% in early trading
  • The ECB's efforts gave a larger boost to Germany's DAX (DAX), which rose 1.6%
  • France's CAC 40 (CAC40) increased a more robust 3.3%

Those gains followed a rough trading session for stocks in Asia Pacific.

The Korea Exchange briefly suspended trading in Seoul after markets plummeted, tripping a circuit breaker.

  • The benchmark Kospi (KOSPIdropped 8.4%, making it was the region's worst performer
  • Australia's S&P/ASX 200 dropped 3.4%
  • Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index (HSIfell 2.6%
  • China's Shanghai Composite (SHCOMPslid 1%