‘It’s okay to feel scared’: Coronavirus brings countries close to standstill

By Doina Chiacu and Guy Faulconbridge

NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) – Bars, restaurants, cinemas and schools were shutting down from New York and Los Angeles to Paris and Dubai in a worldwide effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic, as financial markets tumbled despite emergency action by global central banks.

The U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates for the second time in less than two weeks, but Wall Street opened with a dizzying plunge that set off circuit breakers.

EU finance ministers were planning a coordinated economic response to the virus, which the European Commission says could push the European Union into recession.

Leaders of the G7 countries were due to hold a video conference on Monday to discuss a joint response.

European stocks fell on Monday to their lowest level since 2012, with investors still worried about the threat to the global economy. Wall Street’s S&P 500 index fell more than 9% as trading resumed after an initial automatic 15-minute cutout.

In Italy, hardest-hit country in Europe, there were 368 new deaths from the COVID-19 outbreak on Sunday, a daily toll more dire than even China was recording at the peak of the outbreak that first hit its central city Wuhan.

“Many children think it is scary,” Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg told a news conference, at her office, dedicated to answering children’s questions about the pandemic.

“It is okay to be scared when so many things happen at the same time.”

Several countries banned mass gatherings such as sports, cultural and religious events to combat the disease that has infected over 169,000 people globally and killed more than 6,500.

Just a month ago, financial markets were hitting record highs on the assumption that the outbreak would largely be contained in China. But there have now been more cases and more deaths outside mainland China than inside.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Sunday he was ordering restaurants, bars and cafes to sell food only on a take-out or delivery basis. He also said he would order nightclubs, movie theatres, small theater houses and concert venues to close.

“These places are part of the heart and soul of our city,” he said. “But our city is facing an unprecedented threat, and we must respond with a wartime mentality.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued similar orders.

Spain and France, where cases and fatalities have begun surging at a pace just days behind that of Italy, imposed severe lockdowns over the weekend.

The Middle East business and travel hub of Dubai said it was closing all bars and lounges until the end of March. Thailand plans to close down schools, bars, movie theatres and popular cockfighting arenas.

“The worst is yet ahead for us,” said Dr Anthony Fauci, the top infectious diseases expert in the United States.

GETTING WORSE IN ITALY

U.S. Surgeon General Dr Jerome Adams said it was important to react aggressively.

“Do we want to go the direction of South Korea and really be aggressive and lower our mortality rates or do we want to go the direction of Italy?” he told Fox News.

Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told daily Corriere della Sera that the outbreak was still getting worse, though the governor of Lombardy, the northern region that has suffered the worst, said he saw the first signs of a slowdown.

Britain has asked manufacturers including Ford <F.N>, Honda <7267.T> and Rolls Royce <RR.L> to help make health equipment including ventilators to cope with the outbreak and will look at using hotels as hospitals.

The worldwide financial policy actions were reminiscent of the sweeping steps taken just over a decade ago to fight a meltdown of the global financial system, but the target now is forcing entire societies to effectively shut down.

“The issue for investors that still remains is that the virus’s economic impact is still not known, if this is a one-month event or if this is a one-year event, and how deep the cutback in consumer spending is going to be,” said Rick Meckler, partner at Cherry Lane Investments in New Vernon, New Jersey.

Airlines said they would make more drastic cuts to their flying schedules, shed jobs and seek government aid because of sweeping global travel restrictions.

China said industrial output contracted at the sharpest pace in 30 years in the first two months of 2020.

The International Olympic Committee will hold talks with heads of international sports organisations on Tuesday, a source close to a federation briefed on the issue said, amid doubts the Tokyo 2020 Olympics starting on July 24 can proceed.

The Jewish faithful should avoid kissing the stones of the Western Wall, the chief rabbi of the Jerusalem site said.

And Starbucks <SBUX.O> has moved to a “to go” model in all its company-owned stores in the United States and Canada, the coffee chain said, temporarily abandoning reusable cups.

(Reporting by Doina Choicu, Leela de Krester in New York; Lindsay Dunsmuir, Nandita Bose, Howard Schneider and Ann Saphir in Washington; Guy Faulconbridge and Kate Holton in London; Jan Strupczewski and Francesco Guarascio in Brussels; Francesca Landini and Elvira Pollina in Milan; Kevin Yao in Beijing; Jaime Freed in Sydney; Gwladys Fouche in Oslo; Kay Johnson in Bangkok and Tracy Rucinski in Chicag; Writing by Raju Gopalakrishnan and Nick Macfie; Editing by Stephen Coates, Timothy Heritage and Peter Graff)

Fed cuts rates and NYC, LA close restaurants to fight coronavirus

By Lindsay Dunsmuir and Nandita Bose

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – With panic buying on Main Street and fear-driven sell-offs on Wall Street, the U.S. Federal Reserve cut interest rates to near zero on Sunday in another emergency move to help shore up the U.S. economy amid the rapidly escalating coronavirus pandemic.

The mayors of New York City and Los Angeles ordered restaurants, bars and cafes closed, with takeout and delivery the only options for food sales. Movie theaters, small theater houses and concert venues were also ordered closed as the U.S. death toll from the outbreak hit 65.

“The virus can spread rapidly through the close interactions New Yorkers have in restaurants, bars and places where we sit close together,” said New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We have to break that cycle.”

For the second time since the financial crisis of 2008, the Fed cut rates at an emergency meeting, aiming for a target range of 0% to 0.25% to help put a floor under a rapidly disintegrating global economy.

U.S. President Donald Trump, who had openly pressed the Fed for further action, called the move “terrific” and “very good news.”

Store shelves have been stripped bare of essentials, schools closed and millions of jobs in jeopardy as businesses temporarily shut their doors.

“We’re learning from watching other countries,” Trump said. “It’s a very contagious virus … but it’s something that we have tremendous control of.”

Trump has faced criticism at home and abroad for sometimes downplaying the seriousness of the coronavirus and overstating his administration’s ability to handle it.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, said the United States was entering a new phase of coronavirus testing but tempered the president’s optimism.

“The worst is yet ahead for us,” Fauci said, a warning he has issued frequently in the past week. “It is how we respond to that challenge that is going to what the ultimate end point is going to be.”

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said testing for coronavirus was expanding with more than 2,000 labs across the country ready to process tests and 10 states operating drive-through testing.

The United States has lagged behind other industrialized nations in its ability to test for the coronavirus. In early March, the Trump administration said close to 1 million coronavirus tests would soon be available and anyone who needed a test would get one, a promise it failed to keep.

With limited testing available, U.S. officials have recorded nearly 3,000 cases and 65 deaths, up from 58 on Saturday. Globally more than 162,000 are infected and over 6,000 have died.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control on Sunday recommended that events with gatherings of 50 or more people over the next eight weeks be postponed or canceled.

DON’T HOARD

The White House appealed to Americans not to hoard as the coronavirus spreads, reassuring them that grocery supply chains were strong.

Trump held a phone call on Sunday with 30 executives from grocery stores including Amazon.com Inc’s <AMZN.O> Whole Foods, Target Corp <TGT.N>, Costco Wholesale Corp <COST.O> and Walmart Inc <WMT.N>, the White House said.

“Have a nice dinner, relax because there’s plenty, but you don’t have to … you don’t have to buy the quantities,” Trump said. “We’re doing really, really well. A lot of good things are going to happen.”

Trump tested negative for coronavirus, his doctors said on Saturday, as the president extended a travel ban to Britain and Ireland to try to slow the pandemic.

Trump’s spokesman, Judd Deere, said temperature checks will be conducted on everyone who enters the White House grounds, beginning Monday morning.

Travelers returning to the United States and being screened for the coronavirus were met by long lines and massive delays at some major airports, prompting federal officials to deploy more staff and Trump to appeal for patience.

Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, squaring off in a Democratic debate, blasted Trump’s handling of the coronavirus and touted their own plans to deal with it.

In their first one-on-one debate, the two Democratic contenders to face Trump in the November election said the Republican president had contributed to worries about the pandemic by minimizing the threat before declaring a national emergency on Friday.

CLOSURES EXPAND

The U.S. containment measures have so far been mild compared to the nationwide lockdowns imposed in Italy, France and Spain.

“I think Americans should be prepared that they are going to have to hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing,” Fauci said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Even though Americans are not barred from going to the movies, ticket sales in North America fell to their lowest level in more than two decades this weekend, according to measurement firm Comscore.

Democratic New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that schools in New York City, Westchester, Nassau and Suffolk counties would close from Monday, and he called on Trump to mobilize the Army Corps of Engineers to create more hospital beds.

Cuomo had been criticized for not closing schools as other states have done, given that New York has a large cluster of coronavirus cases.

A clinical trial to evaluate a vaccine designed to protect against coronavirus will begin on Monday, the Associated Press reported, citing an unnamed U.S. government official.

It would take a year to 18 months to fully validate any potential vaccine, the AP added, citing public health officials.

(For an interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus, open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.)

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu, Lindsay Dunsmuir, Andrea Shalal, Nandita Bose, Matt Spetalnick, Humeyra Pamuk, John Whitesides, Steve Holland in Washington; Writing by Lisa Shumaker and Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Diane Craft, Lincoln Feast and Gerry Doyle.)

Life upended for Americans as U.S. scrambles to contain coronavirus threat

By Jonathan Allen and Steve Holland

NEW YORK/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – From Disneyland to the U.S. Supreme Court, from Wall Street to Dodgers Stadium, nearly every facet of American life fell into turmoil on Thursday as the coronavirus outbreak caused sweeping closures and economic disruption.

As concern grew over a rapid spread of the sometimes-fatal COVID-19 respiratory illness caused by the virus, the U.S. stock market cratered anew, professional and college sports leagues suspended play, Broadway theaters went dark and many schools from Ohio to Texas shuttered.

The unprecedented cascade of shutdowns reflected growing fears that the outbreak of the highly contagious pathogen, which has already killed at least 40 people in the United States, could race out of control unless authorities squelch large public gatherings.

As companies locked their offices and sent employees to work from home, fears of a recession rose in step with the number of U.S. infections, which jumped to more than 1,300 on Thursday. The concerns were reflected in U.S. stock markets, with major indexes now in bear-market territory – down at least 20% from their recent high.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a state of emergency, granting him new powers as the number of confirmed cases rose to 95 in the nation’s most populous city.

“We are getting into a situation where the only analogy is war and a wartime dynamic,” de Blasio said, referring to an expected surge in demand for hospital beds.

From California to New York, officials banned large gatherings and closed museums and other institutions without saying how long the directives would stay in place, compounding the uncertainty.

After the Trump administration imposed sweeping restrictions on air travel between the United States and Europe, Gabriella Ribeiro, a Wayne, New Jersey-based travel consultant, said she was fielding a flood of panicked calls from customers.

“We call it the ‘C’ word,” Ribeiro said of coronavirus. “We’ve been through Ebola and SARS, but I haven’t seen this level of panic among travelers since 9/11.”

CANCELED: MARCH MADNESS AND BASEBALL

With cancellations hitting everything from Little League baseball to school fairs, the rituals of American life started to grind to a halt.

The NCAA canceled its annual “March Madness” college basketball tournament. Professional hockey and basketball seasons were halted indefinitely. Major League Baseball ended spring training and suspended the first two weeks of the season.

“Opening day is religion around here,” said Frank Buscemi, a self-described sports junkie and Detroit Tigers baseball fan. “It makes sense, and you’ve got to err on the side of caution – we get that. It doesn’t make it any easier and it doesn’t make it any more fun.”

Officials in hard-hit areas, including New York and Washington states, sought to balance the need to protect the public without crippling economic activity.

New York state banned gatherings of more than 500 people beginning on Friday, Governor Andrew Cuomo told reporters. California placed the cap at gatherings of 250 people.

Hollywood postponed the release of several movies and theaters around the world closed over the health crisis.

The Walt Disney Company shuttered their large U.S. properties, including Disneyland in California and Disney World in Florida.

In Washington, D.C., officials closed the U.S. Capitol complex to the public after a staffer for a senator from Washington state tested positive for the coronavirus. [L1N2B50S4] The Supreme Court closed to the public indefinitely, and the Kennedy Center canceled all performances.

Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks and at least one player in the National Basketball Association announced that they had tested positive for the coronavirus.

“WE’RE NOT SET UP”

The patchwork of state and local directives to stem the tide of infections came as U.S. health officials struggled to expand the country’s limited testing capacity.

“The system is not really geared to what we need right now,” Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. official on infectious diseases, said at a congressional hearing. “The idea of anybody getting it (testing) easily the way people in other countries are doing it, we’re not set up for that.”

Two U.S. senators, Rick Scott and Lindsey Graham, opted for self-quarantine after interacting with a delegation led by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in Florida. One of Bolsonaro’s team has tested positive for the virus.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence also met the Brazilian delegation, but White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham said both of them had “almost no interactions with the individual who tested positive and do not require being tested at this time.”

Republicans initially balked at a sweeping coronavirus economic aid package crafted by Democrats in the House of Representatives. After a day-long negotiating session, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said late Thursday that they were close to a deal with the administration.

The Senate canceled a scheduled recess and will return next week to work on legislation.

The Trump administration spelled out details of new rules on U.S. citizens and permanent residents’ returning from Europe under restrictions that ban most Europeans from entering the United States.

“Americans coming home will be funneled through 13 different airports, they’ll be screened, and then we’re going to ask every single American and legal resident returning to the United States to self-quarantine for 14 days,” Pence said.

Trump defended his decision, which goes into effect at midnight on Friday and lasts for 30 days. He said the ban could be lengthened or shortened.

The restrictions will heap pressure on airlines already reeling from the pandemic, hitting European carriers the hardest, analysts said.

American Airlines Inc <AAL.O> and Delta Air Lines Inc <DAL.N> said they were capping fares for U.S.-bound flights from Europe amid reports of exorbitant pricing as U.S. citizens flocked to European airports trying to return home.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen and Steve Holland; Additional reporting by Susan Heavey, Lisa Lambert, Patricia Zengerle, David Morgan and Richard Cowan in Washington and Maria Caspani, Michael Erman and Dan Burns in New York, Steve Gorman in Culver City, California; Writing by Ginger Gibson and Paul Simao; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall, Cynthia Osterman, Leslie Adler and Daniel Wallis)

Wall Street empties out as New York City declares state of emergency

Reuters
By Imani Moise and Elizabeth Dilts Marshall

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Working from home went from optional to mandatory across Wall Street this week as financial firms reported their first confirmed cases of coronavirus and the outbreak triggered a state of emergency in New York City.

JPMorgan Chase & Co <JPM.N>, Goldman Sachs Group Inc <GS.N> and Morgan Stanley <MS.N> each announced similar programs on Thursday for working remotely to stem the spread of the pandemic. JPMorgan and Goldman told employees the staff would be split roughly in two for a weekly rotation in which half the workers will work from home and half go to the office.

JPMorgan’s plan applies to New York-area employees while Goldman’s plan was for most staff across North America and Europe, excluding some sales, trading and critical staff.

JPMorgan, the largest U.S. lender, informed New York-area employees in an internal memo seen by Reuters. The bank later confirmed the program, set up in response to a request from the state government.

The bank plans that by the end of this month, only 25% to 50% of team members will work from home, the memo said.

The plan applies to most corporate employees based in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Jersey City, New Jersey, but not to branch workers or traders.

Goldman Sachs told employees that most staff across North America and Europe would start working from home or one of the bank’s business continuity centers on a rotating schedule starting Monday, according to another memo viewed by Reuters.

Morgan Stanley told all staff who do not have to work in the firm’s offices to work from home, apart from some sales and trading staff, who are working from secondary trading locations.

The bank also banned all travel, domestic or international, not deemed business critical.

Barclays PLC <BARC.L> and Credit Suisse Group AG <CSGN.S> also informed their investment bankers on Wednesday of a similar rotating schedule, sources said.

A spokesman for Credit Suisse declined to comment and a Barclays representative was not immediately available.

The banks also have ramped up other precautionary efforts like office deep-cleaning after firms like Barclays and BlackRock Inc <BLK.N> reported their first confirmed cases.

On Thursday a Manhattan-based Royal Bank of Canada <RY.TO> employee tested positive, a bank representative said. The Canadian bank has also reported two other confirmed cases in one of its offices near Toronto.

As of Thursday there were more than 129,000 cases of coronavirus globally and 4,750 people have died, according to a Reuters tally.

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio declared a state of emergency in the city on Thursday as the number of confirmed cases climbed to 95, up from 12 at the beginning of the week.

Citigroup has put signs around its New York City headquarters asking visitors and employees not to sit on certain chairs to practice social distancing.

Another Wall Street investment bank ran overnight disaster tests on its remote working systems this week to prepare for having more bankers work from home.

“It’s not a matter of if, it’s when,” said a bank source familiar with the contingency planning efforts.

(Reporting by C Nivedita in Bengaluru and Imani Moise and Elizabeth Dilts Marshall in New York; Editing by David Gregorio and Matthew Lewis)

Dow sheds 800 points as pandemic fears grip Wall Street

By Medha Singh

(Reuters) – The Dow Jones Industrials shed 800 points on Monday as investors scurried to safer assets after a sharp rise in coronavirus cases outside China fueled fears of a bigger impact to global growth.

Gold rose to a seven-year high and the inversion between the 3-month and 10-year U.S. Treasury yields deepened as a rise in cases in Iran, Italy and South Korea over the weekend fanned fears of a pandemic. An inversion of the curve is a classic recession signal. [US/]

All of the Dow’s 30 blue-chip members, as well as the 11 major S&P sectors were in the red. Technology stocks dropped 3.1% and were the biggest drag on the benchmark index. Defensive utilities and real estate posted the smallest declines.

Apple Inc slid 3.5% as data showed sales of smartphones in China tumbled by more than a third in January.

Last week, Wall Street’s main indexes notched record highs, partly on optimism that the global economy would be able to snap back after an initial hit, supported by central banks.

“Some people are re-assessing the extent to which China is being damaged by the spread of the virus and, more broadly, whether other parts of world will get contagion effects of that,” said Nitesh Shah, director of research at WisdomTree.

Chipmakers, which heavily rely on China for revenue, were among the worst performers, with the Philadelphia SE Semiconductor index down 4.2%.

Interest rate-sensitive banks shed 2.7%, while the CBOE Volatility Index, a barometer of expected near-term market volatility, jumped to a six-month high.

At 9:55 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 764.01 points, or 2.64%, at 28,228.40, the S&P 500 was down 83.88 points, or 2.51%, at 3,253.87. The Nasdaq Composite was down 280.96 points, or 2.93%, at 9,295.63.

Health insurers such as UnitedHealth Group Inc, CVS Health Corp and Cigna Corp dropped between 3% and 4.8% as Bernie Sanders, who supports the elimination of private health insurance, strengthened his position for the Democratic presidential nomination with a decisive victory in the Nevada caucuses.

In a rare bright spot, Gilead Sciences Inc, whose antiviral remdesivir has shown promise in monkeys infected by a related coronavirus, rose 5.8%.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 8.29-to-1 ratio on the NYSE. Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 9.47-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded six new 52-week highs and 17 new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded nine new highs and 112 new lows.

(Reporting by Medha Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Arun Koyyur)

Oil, safe havens surge as U.S. strikes kill Iranian commander

By Herbert Lash and Marc Jones

NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) – Oil prices surged as much as $3 a barrel as gold, the yen and safe-haven bonds all rallied on Friday after the U.S. killing of Iran’s top military commander in an air strike in Iraq ratcheted up tensions between Washington and Tehran.

Traders were spooked after the death of Major General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force who was also one of Iran’s most influential figures, and by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s vow of revenge.

Mideast-focused oil markets saw the most dramatic moves, with Brent oil futures leaping as much 4.5% to $69.20 a barrel. That was the highest since the attacks on Saudi crude facilities in September, though the impact hit almost every asset class.

Europe’s broad STOXX 600 index fell as much as 1% and shares on Wall Street almost the same as New Year optimism, which had pushed equity markets to new records, evaporated.

The yen rose half a percent against the dollar to a two-month high, the Swiss franc hit its highest against the euro since September and gold prices  climbed to a four-month peak, racing past the key $1,550 an ounce level.

“Geopolitics has come back to the table, and this is something that could have major cross-asset implications,” said Salman Ahmed, Lombard Odier’s chief investment strategist.

“What is critical is how it pans out in the next few days,” Ahmed said. “Whether it turns into a theme depends on Iran’s reaction and then the U.S. response.”

Iran promised harsh revenge. Soleimani’s Quds Force and its paramilitary proxies, ranging from Lebanon’s Hizbollah to the PMF in Iraq, have ample means to mount a response.

In September, U.S. officials blamed Iran for attacking the oil installations of Saudi Aramco, the state energy giant and the world’s largest oil exporter. Iran has denied responsibility for the strikes and accused Washington of war-mongering.

The Trump administration then did not respond, beyond heated rhetoric and threats, and markets settled down within a week after Brent surged 14.6%, its biggest one-day percentage gain since at least 1988.

The U.S. government and others on Friday urged their citizens in the region either to return home or to stay away from potential targets and public gatherings.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a round of TV interviews that the United States remained committed to de-escalation with Iran but that it had needed to defend itself.

“He (Soleimani) was actively plotting in the region to take actions – a big action as he described it – that would have put dozens if not hundreds of American lives at risk. We know it was imminent,” Pompeo told CNN.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe shed 0.43%, while its emerging markets index lost 0.32%.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average  fell 210.81 points, or 0.73%, to 28,657.99. The S&P 500  lost 18.86 points, or 0.58%, to 3,238.99 and the Nasdaq Composite <.IXIC> dropped 58.26 points, or 0.64%, to 9,033.93.

The global gauge and Wall Street indices set record closing highs on Thursday, extending the year-end rally in equities.

Brent  hit a peak of $69.50 a barrel, its highest since mid-September, though it later traded up $2.40 to $68.65.

West Texas Intermediate  crude  rose $2.20 to $63.38 a barrel, after earlier spiking to $64.09 a barrel, its highest since April 2019.

SCRAMBLE TO SAFETY

Yields on German Bunds and U.S. Treasuries – the world’s benchmark government bonds that are typically seen as the safest assets – fell sharply.

 

The 10-year Bund  yield fell 7 basis points to a two-week low of -0.299%, while Bund futures  were up 0.51 percent, at 172.13 euros.

Benchmark 10-year Treasury notes rose 23/32 in price to yield 1.802%, from 1.882% late on Monday.

The dollar index fell 0.08%, with the euro up 0.06% to $1.1177. The Japanese yen  strengthened 0.59% versus the greenback at 107.94 per dollar.

The focus on geopolitics meant markets paid little attention to stronger-than-expected data from France, where inflation rose 1.6% year-on-year in December, beating analysts’ expectations for a 1.4% rise.

German inflation figures were also higher, although unemployment in Europe’s largest economy rose more than expected.

The U.S. manufacturing sector contracted in December by the most in more than a decade, with order volumes crashing to near an 11-year low and factory employment falling for a fifth straight month, the Institute for Supply Management said.

Investors also were looking forward to the minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s Dec. 10-11 meeting due at 2 p.m. (1900 GMT).

(Reporting by Herbert Lash, additional reporting by Sujata Rao and Dhara Ranasinghe in London and Diptendu Lahiri in Bengaluru; Editing by Dan Grebler)

Wall Street hits new record high on Disney, Best Buy

Wall Street hits new record high on Disney, Best Buy
By Arjun Panchadar

(Reuters) – Wall Street’s three main indexes hit all-time highs on Tuesday, as gains for Disney and Best Buy countered weak consumer confidence data and a slump in shares of discount store operator Dollar Tree.

Walt Disney Co was the top boost to the Dow Jones with a 1.8% rise, after a report its streaming service was averaging nearly a million new subscribers a day. The stock also propped up the benchmark S&P 500.

Rising hopes of a U.S.-China trade truce, upbeat domestic economic data and a third-quarter corporate earnings season that has largely topped lowered expectations have put the market back on an upward track after a torrid summer.

Beijing said on Tuesday negotiators had reached a consensus on “resolving relevant problems”. Hours later, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said Washington was getting “really close” to a deal, but sticking points remained.

“They keep talking about the ‘phase one’ deal being done possibly soon, but every day is sort of a ping pong back-and-forth of will they or won’t they,” said Everett Millman, precious metals expert with Gainesville Coins in Tampa, Florida.

A third interest rate cut by the Federal Reserve this year has also played a role in boosting risk appetite, and Fed Chair Jerome Powell said on Monday monetary policy was “well positioned” to support the strong labor market.

However, doubts over the strength of the U.S. consumer linger and data on Tuesday showed the Conference Board’s U.S. consumer confidence index missed analysts’ projections.

At 10:31 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average  was up 20.16 points, or 0.07%, at 28,086.63, while the S&P 500 <.SPX> was up 2.10 points, or 0.07%, at 3,135.74. The Nasdaq Composite was up 11.59 points, or 0.13%, at 8,644.08.

Best Buy Co Inc  jumped 7.4% as it forecast strong holiday-quarter earnings, while discount store operator Dollar Tree Inc tumbled 15% after the company projected holiday-quarter profit below expectations, signaling the fallout from the trade dispute. The stock was the biggest on the S&P and the Nasdaq.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co fell 7.9% as the enterprise software maker missed fourth-quarter revenue estimates.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.50-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.37-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 25 new 52-week highs and no new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 78 new highs and 35 new lows.

(Reporting by Arjun Panchadar and Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

S&P 500 hits all-time high on trade optimism

FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the main trading floor after the opening bell at New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S. June 20, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

By Amy Caren Daniel and Shreyashi Sanyal

(Reuters) – The S&P 500 touched a record high for the second straight session on Friday as hopes of trade talks between Washington and Beijing were lifted by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s decision to defer a planned speech on China policy.

The decision was taken amid “positive signs” that trade talks with China could be back on track, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a senior administration official.

The benchmark S&P 500 index hit an intraday high of 2,964.15 on Friday, but retreated into a tight range as rising tensions between the United States and Iran kept investors on edge.

The United States and China have said they would restart their trade talks after a lull at the Group of 20 summit in Japan next week.

“Investors are cautiously optimistic about the G20 summit. If they make progress then markets will celebrate that,” said Michael Antonelli, market strategist at Robert W. Baird in Milwaukee.

Stocks are now set to log their third straight week of gains, after posting their worst monthly performance this year in May on fears the prolonged trade war would hit global economic growth.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday he aborted a military strike on Iran in response to Teheran downing a U.S. drone, but the possibility of a U.S. retaliation pushed crude prices higher and helped lift the energy sector by 0.49%. [O/R]

Traders also pointed to higher volatility during Friday’s session on account of “quadruple witching,” as investors unwind interests in futures and options contracts prior to expiration.

At 13:09 p.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 45.72 points, or 0.17%, at 26,798.89 and the S&P 500 was down 0.53 points, or 0.02%, at 2,953.65.

The Nasdaq Composite was down 7.13 points, or 0.09%, at 8,044.21.

The tech-heavy index was weighed down by a 2.02% fall in PayPal Holdings Inc after the digital payments company said its chief operating officer Bill Ready would step down.

CarMax Inc rose as much as 6% to a record high after the used-vehicles retailer posted quarterly results above analysts’ expectations.

Carnival Corp fell for the second day, down 4.53%, and among the biggest decliners. Several brokerages trimmed their price targets after the cruise operator cut its 2019 profit forecast.

Declining issues outnumbered advancers for a 1.47-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and for a 1.71-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&amp;P index recorded 33 new 52-week highs and two new lows, while the Nasdaq recorded 42 new highs and 49 new lows.

(Reporting by Amy Caren Daniel and Shreyashi Sanyal in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)

Fed rate-cut signal sends stocks surging, wounds yields, dollar

FILE PHOTO: Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., June 19, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

By Lewis Krauskopf

NEW YORK (Reuters) – World stock markets surged on Thursday, with the U.S. benchmark S&P 500 hitting a record high, while the 10-year U.S. Treasury yield fell below 2% as investors digested a signal from the Federal Reserve of potential U.S. interest rate cuts as soon as its next meeting.

The U.S. dollar also weakened after the Fed – the U.S. central bank – on Wednesday indicated a marked shift in sentiment even as it left its benchmark rate unchanged for now.

“We have obviously morphed into the Fed taking the pole position as far what&rsquo;s driving the market right now, both domestically and on a global basis as well,” said Mike Mullaney, director of global markets research at Boston Partners.

“It’s risk-on trade again right now for the time being and I don’t see anything on a near-term basis that is going to disrupt that.”

Oil prices also surged, lifted by the Fed as well as by news that Iran shot down a U.S. military drone, raising fears of a military confrontation between Tehran and Washington.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe gained 1.02%. The index hit its highest since May 1.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 203.87 points, or 0.77%, to 26,707.87, the S&P 500 gained 21.98 points, or 0.75%, to 2,948.44 and the Nasdaq Composite added 65.04 points, or 0.81%, to 8,052.36.

Energy, technology and industrials were among the best-performing S&P 500 sectors.

“Cyclicals are definitely getting a big pop today,” Mullaney said.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index rose 0.52%, reaching its highest since early May.

Benchmark government bond yields in the United States and Europe tumbled following the Fed’s decision, with the U.S. 10-year note yield falling below 2% for the first time in 2-1/2 years.

Benchmark 10-year U.S. notes last rose 12/32 in price to yield 1.9855%, from 2.027% late on Wednesday.

“The statement indicated the Fed no longer insists on a pause or patience, providing an open ear to doves at upcoming meetings. Also critical … acknowledgment that inflation pressures are muted,” said Jim Vogel, interest rate strategist at FTN Financial in Memphis, Tennessee.

“As difficult as it might be to imagine, rates are also free to fall further,” he added.

The dollar index, which measures the greenback against a basket of currencies, fell 0.46%, with the euro up 0.6% to $1.1291.

U.S. crude rose 5.73% to $56.84 per barrel and Brent was last at $64.51, up 4.35%.

 

(Additional reporting by Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss in New York and Tom Wilson in London; editing by Larry King and James Dalgleish)

Wall St. takes a breather with all eyes on Fed meeting

By Shreyashi Sanyal

(Reuters) – Wall Street’s main indexes took a pause on Wednesday, after a rally the previous day, as investors held back from making big bets ahead of the Federal Reserve’s policy statement that is expected to lay the groundwork for future interest rate cuts.

Markets have climbed this month, with the S&P 500 index gaining 6% so far and 1% away from its all-time high hit in early May, fueled by hopes of a rate cut.

The Fed’s statement and new economic projections are scheduled to be released at 2 p.m. ET (1800 GMT), providing investors an opportunity to gauge the impact of a prolonged U.S.-China trade conflict, President Donald Trump’s demands for a rate cut and softer-than-expected economic data on monetary policy thinking.

The U.S. central bank will likely leave rates unchanged but the market is factoring in a cut as soon as next month. Fed Chairman Jerome Powell will hold a press conference at 2:30 p.m. ET (1830 GMT).

“I think the potential for the Fed to disappoint today is significantly higher than the market expects,” said Yousef Abbasi, global market strategist at INTL FCStone Financial Inc in New York.

“The Fed has already told us that it’s ready to act but with the metrics we’ve seen in the economy – yes, they’re mixed, but they’re still growing – it just becomes very difficult for someone to say we absolutely need a rate cut.”

U.S. Treasury yields rose on Wednesday, tracking the European market, after steep falls the previous day, as investors rebalanced positions ahead of the Fed decision.

The financial sector gained 0.40%, with bank stocks rising by 0.15%.

At 11:18 a.m. ET, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 39.27 points, or 0.15%, at 26,504.81 and the S&P 500 was down 0.23 points, or 0.01%, at 2,917.52.

The Nasdaq Composite was down 3.74 points, or 0.05%, at 7,950.15.

The healthcare sector rose 0.44%, the most among the 11 major S&amp;P sectors, helped by gains in UnitedHealth Group Inc, Pfizer Inc and Allergan Plc.

Allergan climbed 4.03% after the drugmaker said its constipation drug, jointly developed with Ironwood Pharmaceuticals Inc, improved symptoms of bloating, pain and discomfort in patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome with constipation.

Adobe Inc jumped 4.43% after the Photoshop software provider beat analysts’ estimates for quarterly profit and revenue.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners by a 1.10-to-1 ratio on the NYSE and by a 1.30-to-1 ratio on the Nasdaq.

The S&amp;P index recorded 15 new 52-week highs and one new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 35 new highs and 43 new lows.

(Reporting by Shreyashi Sanyal and Aparajita Saxena in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila)