The number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. has continued to march higher, with the outbreak ushering in a host of disruptions to individuals’ daily lives and businesses’ operations.
The financial market volatility stemming from the pandemic reached historic levels last week, with each of the S&P 500 and Dow posting their worst percentage declines since since 1987’s Black Monday late in the week. All three major indices are now languishing in a bear market, after sinking more than 20% from their recent record highs.
Amid the outbreak, U.S. officials increased their efforts to combat the economic fallout from the virus, unveiling further stimulus aimed at some of those most hit by outbreak-related disruptions.
In a surprise decision Sunday evening, the Federal Reserve slashed rates to a zero lower bound, bringing the target rate down a full percentage point to a band of between 0% and 0.25%. This came less than two weeks after the Fed decided to slash rates 50 basis points to between 1% and 1.25% earlier in March.
“The Committee expects to maintain this target range until it is confident that the economy has weathered recent events and is on track to achieve its maximum employment and price stability goals,” the Fed said in a statement of its decision.
The Fed also announced Sunday it would be launching $700 billion in large-scale asset purchases, buying at least $500 billion in Treasury securities and $200 billion in agency mortgage-backed securities over the coming months.
The Federal Reserve’s response was lauded by President Donald Trump, a frequent proponent of lower rates who said Sunday that market participants “should be very thrilled” with the decision, according to multiple reports.
Earlier, in a press conference Friday afternoon, Trump stepped up his administration’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, declaring the coronavirus outbreak a national emergency and unlocking some $50 billion in funding that could be given to state and local municipalities to respond to the outbreak.
Trump also waived interest payments on all student loans held by federal government agencies until further notice, and instructed the Department of Energy to purchase large quantities of crude oil for the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve – an effort to help support U.S. shale producers hit hard by the recent precipitous decline in oil prices.
And on Saturday, the House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill to help provide further support in response to the coronavirus. The legislative package, which passed with a vote of 363-40, broadens access to free testing, expands sick leave benefits and helps provides food aid for vulnerable populations, including children whose schools have closed due to the coronavirus.
The Senate is expected to vote on the bill this week, and could take it up as soon as Monday. President Donald Trump wrote in a Twitter post that he “fully support[s]” the bill, saying at the time that he encouraged “all Republicans and Democrats to come together and VOTE YES!”
Elsewhere, investors will also receive another batch of economic data releases, which are largely expected to reinforce the strength of the U.S. economy prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Census Bureau’s February retail sales report will be one such release, capturing the period just before and at the start of the escalation of the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S.
Consensus economists expect retail sales climbed 0.2% month over month in February, slowing slightly from January’s 0.3% month on month rise.
“A price-related drop in gas station sales last month probably mostly offset a recovery in underlying retail spending, even with the latter boosted by panic buying in the last week of the month,” Michael Pearce, senior U.S. economist for Capital Economics, wrote in a note Friday. “
“Excluding gas, autos, food and building materials, control group sales probably increased last month, following no change in January. The latter was linked to a 3.1% m/m decline in clothing sales, which is unlikely to have persisted,” he added. “There has also been some weakness in health and beauty store sales, which may have been given a lift in the last week of February by panic buying of products like hand sanitizer and tissues.”
Monday: Empire Manufacturing, March (4.9 expected, 12.9 in February), Net long-term TIC flows, January ($85.6 billion in December)
Tuesday: Retail sales advance MoM, February (+0.2% expected, 0.3% in January); Retail sales excluding autos and gas MoM, February (0.3% expected, 0.4% in January); Industrial production MoM, February (0.4% expected, -0.3% in January); Capacity utilization, February (77.1% expected, 76.8% in January), JOLTS job openings, January (6,401 expected, 6,423 in December); NAHB Housing Market Index, March (74 expected, 74 in February)
Wednesday: MBA Mortgage Applications, week ended March 13 (55.4% expected); Housing starts, February (1.502 million expected, 1.567 million in January); Building permits, February (1.500 million expected, 1.550 million in January)
Thursday: Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook index, March (10.0 expected, 36.7 in February); Initial jobless claims, week ended March 14 (220,000 expected, 211,000 prior week); Continuing jobless claims, week ended March 7 (1.722 million prior week); Leading Index, February (0.1% expected, 0.8% prior week)
Friday: Existing home sales, February (5.55 million expected, 5.46 million January)
This post was updated on Sunday, March 15 at 6:20 p.m. ET to reflect the Federal Reserve’s interest rate decision. This post was previously published earlier March 15.
Emily McCormick is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @emily_mcck
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