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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10:06 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Trump administration promises to buy 30 million barrels of crude to aid oil industry

From CNN Business' Matt Egan

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Energy Department promised Thursday to support US oil producers facing "potentially catastrophic losses" by quickly purchasing 30 million barrels of crude.

Those barrels, purchased at dirt-cheap prices, will be used to start filling up America's emergency oil stockpile, known as the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, or SPR.

The initial purchase will be focused on small and midsize US oil producers, the group most at risk from the oil crash to $20 a barrel.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said he will recommend to President Trump that he request funding from Congress to buy even more crude -- enough to fill up the SPR.

"At $22 for WTI crude, we should be filling up the reserve for the next 10 years," Mnuchin said on Fox Business Thursday morning.

Mnuchin said the oil market has "nothing to do with the coronavirus, other than there's just a lot less demand."

That's not exactly right. The demand destruction, caused by mass cancellations of flights and widespread factory shutdowns, is a major driver of the oil crash.

The other huge problem: Saudi Arabia and Russia are flooding the market with too much supply in a bid to crowd out high-cost US producers.

9:52 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Stocks extend slide, Dow falls more than 500 points

From CNN Business' Anneken Tappe

US stocks fell further in the first half hour of trading, sliding sharply after a much less dramatic open.

The Dow is now down 580 points, or 2.9%, while the S&P 500 has fallen 2.5%.

The Nasdaq Composite, which was in the green at the opening bell, is down 1%.

9:50 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Ford to offer six months of payment relief for new car buyers

From CNN Business' Chris Isidore

Ford announced it is offering customers no payments for six months on new car purchases in the face of the coronavirus crisis.

Ford said that under its "Built to Lend a Hand” program it will make three months of car payments for eligible new car buyers and that buyers can defer up to three additional months of payments when financing through Ford Credit.

Ford also announced it is suspending payments of its dividend, and that it will draw down $15.4 billion in cash it had available on two separate lines of credits to give it sufficient cash on hand heading into an economic downturn.

Early indications are that US automakers have ground to a halt in the face of crisis, although firm numbers have yet to be reported. Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler all are shutting production at North American auto plants through the rest of the month to protect workers and because of supply chain issues. But the lack of sales means the shutdown likely won't cause a vehicle shortage at dealerships.

10:07 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Stocks open lower

From CNN Business' Anneken Tappe

US stocks opened mostly in the red on Thursday, adding on to yesterday's losses, as more and more corporations are coming out with revised performance outlooks amid the coronavirus crisis.

That said, Thursday's selloff is looking a little less dramatic compared to previous days. Trading was halted on both Monday and Wednesday this week after the S&P tripped a circuit breaker.

  • The Dow opened 0.4%, or 85 points, lower.
  • The S&P 500 fell 0.4%.

Both indexes extended their losses in the first moments of trading, with the S&P falling as much as 1.9% and the Dow dropping 2.4%.

  • The Nasdaq Composite opened slightly higher, up 0.2%, but pared these gains in the first moments of trading. The index was last down 1%.
9:36 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Fed makes emergency expansion of dollar program to Australia, Brazil and Mexico

From CNN Business' Matt Egan

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The world is a scary place right now. So scary that investors can't get enough US dollars: Demand for the greenback, the world's safe haven currency, is through the roof.

The Federal Reserve responded to the shortage on Sunday by lending out dollars at near-zero rates to five major foreign central banks.

And now the Fed is expanding that emergency program to the central banks of nine other countries: Australia, Brazil, Denmark, South Korea, Mexico, Norway, New Zealand, Singapore and Sweden.

The goal is to prevent a liquidity crunch that chokes off credit to the coronavirus-battered economy.

The Fed said these new lending facilities will provide between $30 billion and $60 billion to each central bank for "at least" six months.

This is on top of the Fed's existing dollar liquidity swap lines with Canada, England, Japan, Switzerland and the European Central Bank.

The Fed said these facilities are "designed to help lessen strains in global US dollar funding markets," lowering the risk that this stress hurts the supply of credit to businesses and households -- at home and abroad.

9:20 a.m. ET, March 19, 2020

Philly Fed manufacturing index drops to lowest level since 2012

From CNN Business' Anneken Tappe

More ugly economic data this morning came from the Philadelphia Fed manufacturing index, which dropped to its lowest level since July 2012.

The index fell by 12.7 points, where economists had expected a 10 point increase.

The index is based on a business outlook survey, and expectations for general activity, new orders and shipments fell across the board as businesses are bracing for the economic impact from the coronavirus outbreak.

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.