Dow soars as investors take in $2 trillion stimulus deal: March 25, 2020

By CNN Business

Updated 6:54 a.m. ET, March 26, 2020
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4:05 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

Stocks end mostly higher

From CNN Business' Anneken Tappe

US stocks finished mostly higher on Wednesday, booking their first back-to-back gains in weeks.

Congress agreed to a deal on the economic relief bill, which eased investors’ fears.

  • The Dow ended up 2.4%, or 496 points. The index had been up more than 1,300 points at its high-point.
  • The S&P 500 closed up 1.2%.

It was both benchmark’s first consecutive session of gains since early February.

  • The Nasdaq Composite didn’t manage to hold onto its gains and ended down 0.5%.
4:30 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

Apple is giving 10 million masks to the US

From CNN Business' Rishi Iyengar

Apple has "sourced, procured and is donating" 10 million masks to the US medical community battling the coronavirus outbreak, CEO Tim Cook announced in a video posted to Twitter. The company will also donate millions more masks to the hardest hit regions in Europe, Cook said in a tweet on Wednesday.

The iPhone maker is the latest tech company to throw its weight behind helping to increase the supply of respirator masks. Cook's announcement comes a day after Japanese conglomerate SoftBank said it would give 1.4 million masks to the state of New York, where the number of coronavirus cases has now crossed 30,000.

4:27 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

Tomorrow's claims for unemployment benefits are expected to soar to a record high

From CNN Business' Anneken Tappe

Tomorrow's jobless claims data will shine a bright light on the ugly economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis.

Economists expect 1 million people to have filed for unemployment benefits in the week ended March 21, which would be the highest figure ever recorded. But the number could be even higher. Goldman Sachs (GS) estimated more than 2 million people have filed claims. Morgan Stanley (MS) and the Economic Policy Institute expect as many as 3.4 million claims.

State labor departments across the the country are struggling to cope with the influx of claims.

The coronavirus outbreak has forced businesses across the country to shut down and lay off workers, at least temporarily.

Following tomorrow’s report, investors will attempt to quantify the total losses to be experienced, and the corresponding impact on the unemployment rate," said Jonathan Golub, chief US equity strategist at Credit Suisse. "While neither is knowable, an extremely rough rule of thumb would be a 1% increase in the unemployment rate for every 1.5 million jobs lost."

The US Department of Labor will release the weekly claims data tomorrow at 8:30 am ET.

3:48 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

Cheap oil could wipe out 1.6 million oil jobs 

From CNN Business' Matt Egan

Pink slips will soon be flying in the oil patch.

The crash in oil prices to 18-year lows is forcing energy companies to slash costs, including by laying off workers.

Rystad Energy estimates that 1.6 million jobs in the oil industry will ultimately get wiped out around the world.

The bulk of those jobs will be in the oilfield services sector, which provides the technology, equipment and manpower to drill for oil. Rystad anticipates 1 million oilfield services jobs disappearing as oil companies rapidly slash spending to cope with cheap oil.

Halliburton (HAL), the largest US oilfield services provider, implemented a mandatory furlough beginning Monday impacting 3,500 employees in Houston.

The oil industry has been hit hard by the combination of shrinking demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic and surging supply because of the price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Chevron (CVX) laid out plans this week to defend its dividend by cutting spending and cutting $1 billion of costs. Occidental Petroleum (OXY) is lowering pay across the board, including for its CEO.

2:58 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

Economic relief bill prevents loan-receiving businesses from paying dividends

From CNN Business' Anneken Tappe and Jeremy Herb

The economic stimulus bill agreed to on Wednesday in Washington will place restrictions on businesses that receive loans as part of the $500 billion loan, investment and liquidity program, according to a draft of the bill obtained by CNN.

The loan recipients won't be allowed to pay dividends for a year after the loan is repaid, and must retain 90% of employment levels as of March 24, "to the extend practicable," through September 30.

$25 billion are earmarked for the airline industry, plus another $4 billion for cargo air carriers and $17 billion for businesses that work in national security.

A new congressional oversight commission will monitor the administration's handling of the loans. Trump's businesses are not eligible for any of them.

2:49 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

The S&P 500 hasn't closed higher for two straight days since February

From CNN Business' Anneken Tappe

Wall Street's broadest index, the S&P 500, is on track for its first back-to-back gains in more than a month.

That's just one way of looking at how wild the past few weeks have been for the stock market.

The S&P gained a whopping 9.4% yesterday, its best performance since 2008, and is up 3.2% this afternoon.

But for the month, things look less rosy. The index has dropped nearly 15% so far in March, putting it on track for its worst month since October 2008 -- the peak of the financial crisis.

2:36 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

State AGs: Online marketplaces must do more to prevent price gouging

From CNN Business' Clare Duffy

A group of 33 attorneys general from called out leading online marketplaces for failing to adequately protect consumers from price gouging amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The attorneys general issued letters asking Amazon (AMZN), Facebook (FB), Ebay (EBAY) and Craigslist to more closely monitor their platforms for price gouging by third party sellers.

As the coronavirus outbreak escalated and consumers stocked up on essential goods, listings for exorbitantly priced face masks, sanitizers and other products began popping up on online marketplaces. Earlier this month, Amazon said it removed more than 1 million products for price gouging or falsely advertising effectiveness against coronavirus.

"As COVID-19 spreads throughout the country, it is especially important unscrupulous sellers do not take advantage of Americans by selling products at unconscionable prices," a letter from the group to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos reads.

The attorneys general from many states, as well as Washington DC and Puerto Rico, recommended several actions:

  • Set policies against price gouging that take into consideration historical seller prices, and enforce restrictions.
  • Trigger price gouging protections ahead of an official emergency declaration; for example, ahead of pending weather events.
  • Create a complaint portal for customers.
12:57 p.m. ET, March 25, 2020

Uber drivers and other 'gig' workers could get relief in the Senate's $2 trillion aid package

From CNN's Brian Fung

Independent contractors and so-called “gig” workers will be eligible to receive federal aid under the $2 trillion emergency package being considered by the US Senate, according to a CNN review of the document

The language in the draft bill could provide additional certainty to millions of part-time workers who drive for Uber (UBER) or deliver for Amazon (AMZN), in what has become a major part of the digital economy.

The provisions are responsive to requests by tech execs including Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who this week wrote to President Donald Trump asking for economic support for Uber drivers. 

"My goal in writing to you is not to ask for a bailout for Uber, but rather for support for independent contractors and, once we move past the immediate crisis, the opportunity to legally provide them with a real safety net going forward,” Khosrowshahi wrote.

Gig economy businesses such as Uber have battled fiercely at the state level, especially in California, to avoid having to classify their drivers as employees who would be eligible for corporate benefits.

The draft bill is not yet final.