U.S. stocks rose sharply in volatile trading on March 10 after President Donald Trump met with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill and emerged to deliver a message on a much-anticipated coronavirus relief plan.
All three major Wall Street indexes—the Dow, Nasdaq, and S&P 500—closed nearly 5 percent up. The rebound comes on the heels of a 7-percent slide on March 9 triggered by a crash in oil prices. The decline on March 9 came worryingly close to bear market territory, a condition where prices fall 20 percent or more from recent highs.
Safe-haven bond yields also lifted off March 9’s crushing lows, with the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note yield soaring by over 40 percent after hitting a record low March 9 amid an alarming stock selloff and investor flight to safety.
‘You’ll Be Hearing About It Soon’
Emerging from the March 10 closed-door meeting with senators, Trump urged calm in the face of the outbreak and said there was “tremendous unity in the Republican party” in formulating a response to counter economic fallout from the outbreak.
Trump, who in the past two days has broached a payroll tax cut and relief for companies hit hard by coronavirus fears, offered no specific details on what had been discussed in the meeting, but added, “You’ll be hearing about it soon.”
A steady rise in the number of U.S. cases of COVID-19, a highly contagious and sometimes fatal respiratory illness, has concerned health officials and spurred calls within Congress for action to expand testing and avert an economic meltdown.
“We want to protect our shipping industry, our cruise industry, cruise ships. We want to protect our airline industry,” Trump said after the meeting.
“It will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away.”
On March 9, Trump announced that the White House would ask Congress to approve an assistance package for workers and businesses to deal with the economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis, including “a possible payroll tax cut.”
“We’re also going to be talking about hourly wage earners getting help,” so they don’t worry about missing a paycheck, Trump added.
But the details of the plan remain unclear and since both spending and tax maneuvers need Congressional approval, some time will lapse until the help ends up in the hands of those in need.
Still, the goal is to get more cash into the pockets of workers and companies quickly, according to business groups and economists.
“This isn’t a situation where we need to flood the economy. What we need to do is help anyone who’s adversely impacted navigate and get to the other side of this,” Neil Bradley, chief policy officer for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in remarks to Reuters.
That includes income support for laid-off workers and aid for the travel, tourism, and other sectors impacted by the virus, Bradley said. The Chamber plans to make formal proposals to the administration later this week.
“The way we think about it is, if you have a business that was an otherwise profitable ongoing concern that is impacted by this, you shouldn’t have to go out of business because of this temporary shock,” Bradley said. “Individuals that were otherwise employed should not have to go into default.”
Administration officials went to Capitol Hill on March 10 to discuss the stimulus plan with Senate Republicans, with markets eagerly awaiting further details.
More than 118,000 people have contracted the coronavirus worldwide, with thousands of deaths since it surfaced in China late last year, according to the World Health Organization. It has spread to more than 100 nations. Italy, which has the highest death toll outside of China, has put its entire population of 60 million on virtual lockdown.
Along with the more than 800 U.S. cases, there have been 28 deaths, most of them in Washington state, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
At least 35 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have reported infections of COVID-19.
Washington state has been hardest hit, with a nursing home in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland accounting for the bulk of the state’s 22 confirmed deaths.
Brent crude, the international standard, rose $2.86, or 8 percent, to settle at $37.22 a barrel, while benchmark U.S. crude rose $3.23, or 10 percent, to $34.36 a barrel. Oil prices plunged 25 percent on March 9 amid a price war between producers, who are pulling more oil out of the ground even though demand is falling due to the virus.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially among older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover. In mainland China, where the virus first exploded, more than 80,000 people have been diagnosed and more than 58,000 have so far recovered.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.