What's moving markets today: March 20, 2019

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5:12 p.m. ET, March 20, 2019

Walmart's chief technology officer unexpectedly steps down

Jeremy King, who joined Walmart seven years ago and led the company's online transformation against growing pressure from Amazon (AMZN), is leaving the company.

Walmart (WMT) announced King's departure "for a new adventure" in a memo to US employees on Wednesday. Reuters first reported the news.

Walmart's digital sales grew 40% last year as the company expanded online delivery and buy online, pickup in store options.

In a recent interview with CNN Business, King said that when he joined Walmart in 2011, he expected to either stay at the company for six months or spend the rest of his career there.

King will stay on as chief technology officer until March 29. While the company looks for his replacement, Fiona Tan, senior vice president of customer technology at Walmart Labs, will take on an expanded role.

Walmart's stock fell 1% in after-hours trading.

4:21 p.m. ET, March 20, 2019

Fed rally vanishes, with banks leading the way lower

The Fed Day celebration on Wall Street proved short-lived.

The Dow closed down 142 points, or 0.6%, on Wednesday after the Federal Reserve trimmed its growth outlook and signaled no interest rate hikes until 2020.

The S&P 500 declined 0.3%, while the Nasdaq eked out a small gain.

US stocks initially rallied on the Fed decision before reversing course. Bank stocks fell sharply on concerns about the weaker growth outlook and flatter yield curve. KeyCorp (KEY) and Fifth Third Bancorp (FITB) dropped 5%, while Bank of America (BAC) and Goldman Sachs (GS) retreated 3%.

"It would be difficult for the Fed to be more dovish than this," Vanguard chief economist Roger Aliaga-Diaz wrote in a note.

At the same time, Aliaga-Diaz said it will be challenging for the Fed to return to a "more hawkish stance should it be warranted."

Markets were also under pressure from cautious comments made by President Donald Trump about US-China trade talks. Trump said tariffs could stay in place for a "substantial period of time."

US oil prices briefly touched $60 a barrel for the first time since November. Crude closed 1.4% higher to $59.83 a barrel.

7:21 p.m. ET, March 20, 2019

Jerome Powell does not sound happy with Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo shouldn't book its trip out of the penalty box just yet.

The Federal Reserve signaled on Wednesday that officials are not satisfied with Wells Fargo's (WFC) efforts to fix its business after a wave of scandals.

"There is a lot of work to do," Fed chief Jerome Powell said during a press conference.

The Fed slammed Wells Fargo early last year with unprecedented sanctions that prevent the big bank from growing until it cleans up its act.

What happened at Wells Fargo really was a remarkably widespread series of breakdowns," Powell said.

The timing for lifting the so-called asset cap has repeatedly been pushed back. Wells Fargo said in January that it expects to remain under the penalties through the end of 2019.

Powell said on Wednesday that the Fed won't lift the asset cap until it's satisfied Wells Fargo has wrapped its arms around the problem.

That's not where we are right now," he said. "These are deep problems that need to be addressed in a fundamental way."

Powell declined to comment directly about last week's news that Wells Fargo rewarded CEO Tim Sloan with a 5% pay hike.

Wells Fargo said late Wednesday that it "continues to have constructive dialogue with the Federal Reserve to ensure that we not only meet – but exceed – our consent order requirements." 

2:54 p.m. ET, March 20, 2019

No Fed Day party for bank stocks

US stocks shot higher after the Federal Reserve signaled it won't raise interest rates until 2020.

The Dow, which had been down more than 200 points earlier in the day, turned positive on the dovish Fed news.

But bank stocks did not get invited to the party.

Bank of America (BAC) and PNC (PNC) fell to session lows, down 2% on the day, after the Fed statement was released. Wells Fargo (WFC), JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Citigroup (C) were all down about 1%.

The financial sector (XLF) was easily the worst performer on the day in the S&P 500. The SPDR S&P Regional Banking ETF (KRE) slumped 2%.

The divergence makes sense. Banks are very sensitive to swings in the economy. And the Fed just dimmed its growth forecast. That could raise concerns about the ability of Americans to pay back mortgages and loans -- or at least the demand for more loans.

The other problem is the Fed statement caused the yield curve -- the difference between short and long-term yields -- to flatten. Flatter yield curves make it harder for banks to make money.

2:20 p.m. ET, March 20, 2019

The Fed isn't going to raise rates anytime soon

It looks like the Federal Reserve got the message that the markets sent it late last year.

The Fed left rates unchanged Wednesday. That was expected. But more importantly for investors, it seems that the central bank now is likely to keep rates on hold for the rest of 2019.

Rates are currently in a range of 2.25% to 2.5%. The Fed says it now expects rates to finish 2019 at about 2.4% -- down from an earlier projection of 2.9%. What's more, Fed chair Jerome Powell & Co. are now indicating that only one more rate hike is likely over the next few years.

The median forecast from Fed members is for rates to go up to just 2.6% in 2020 and remain there in 2021. That's down from the Fed's expectations of 3.1% in December.

5:24 p.m. ET, March 20, 2019

CEOs still optimistic, but worried about trade

First, the good news.

America's CEOs still think the US economy is in solid shape. And they love the corporate tax cuts and the push for fewer regulations by the federal government. That's according to the latest results of a survey conducted by the Business Roundtable.

Still, corporate leaders are not as upbeat as they were a few months ago, largely because they're concerned about trade policies and a global slowdown. The Business Roundtable noted that plans for hiring, capital investment and sales expectations all decreased from the last survey at the end of the fourth quarter. They remain above historical averages though.

JPMorgan Chase (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon, who is also the chairman of the Business Roundtable, added during a call with reporters that the US government shutdown was a negative for corporate confidence as well.

But Dimon remains upbeat about the economy. He recently said in an interview with CNN's Poppy Harlow that America will be fine in the long run, despite lingering concerns about a trade war between the US and China.

1:14 p.m. ET, March 20, 2019

The Dow drops 200 points after Trump's new trade comments

The Dow dropped 200 points following President Trump's new comments that tariffs on China could be kept on for a "substantial period of time."

"Not what we wanted to hear," Peter Boockvar, the chief investment officer at Bleakley Advisory Group, wrote in a note to clients

Trump added that a trade deal between the two countries is progressing. He added: "We have our top representatives going there this weekend to further the deal."

➡️Follow the Dow live right here.

1:12 p.m. ET, March 20, 2019

Stocks lower ahead of Fed decision

It looks like the markets are eagerly awaiting the Fed's interest rate decision coming at 2:00 pm ET.

  • The Dowis down 150 points, or 0.60%
  • The S&P 500 declined 0.45%
  • The Nasdaqdipped 0.35%

Here's a check of some winners and losers:

  • Viacom (VIAB) is down nearly 6%. The company warned that AT&T (T), which owns CNN, could drop Viacom's channels Friday if a renewal deal isn't reached.
  • General Mills (GIS) is up 4% after it posted a positive earnings report. It's now up 26% for the year.
  • FedEx (FDX) is down 5% after warning of a rough few months ahead.

11:28 a.m. ET, March 20, 2019

Chase targets low-income customers with new checkless accounts

Chase (JPM) has its eye on a new type of customer.

The bank said Wednesday that it's launching checkless accounts for a flat fee of $4.95 per month.

The accounts will not charge overdraft fees and don't require account minimums.

Customers will still have access to Chase's mobile app, ATMs and branches, and will receive a debit card.

The play: Chase wants to reach lower-income populations who may not have qualified for banking services in the past. And ditching overdraft fees could help its appeal.