The Federal Reserve slashed rates to near zero as central banks took sweeping action to blunt the financial impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
U.S. stock futures tumbled and Treasuries jumped as investors worried that central bank actions aren’t enough. The Bank of Japan strengthened stimulus but stopped short of cutting its negative interest rate.
Governments worked to slow the spread of the disease as infections outside China surpassed those on the mainland. New York City and Los Angeles limited restaurants and bars to takeout and delivery service. Carriers from American Airlines to Qantas slashed more flights amid a global travel clampdown.
Cases top 166,000 worldwide, as deaths exceed 6,400Treasuries surge and U.S. equity futures tumble at start of another volatile weekItaly adds 368 deaths in one dayFrom schools to bars, closures mark America’s big shutdownHalt travel to fight coronavirus? The pros and cons: QuickTake
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National Security Council Says Rumors of U.S. Quarantine Fake (12:35 p.m. HK)
The White House National Security Council, in a Twitter post on a verified account, said text-message rumors of a national quarantine “are fake,” adding there’s “no national lockdown.”
There is an ongoing effort to spread misinformation and cause undue panic in the U.S., a senior administration official said. The effort includes text messages with false information being sent to mobile phones across America, the official said.
NYC and LA Close Venues, Limit Restaurants (11:27 a.m. HK)
New York City and Los Angeles said they will close nightclubs and entertainment venues while limiting restaurants and bars to takeout and delivery.
The moves came after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city’s public schools — encompassing some 1.1 million students — will close until at least April 20. The city last week declared an emergency, with Broadway theaters going dark and streets and train stations sparsely populated.
The latest announcements capped a steady barrage of unprecedented decisions across American Sunday to help contain the virus, including moves by the governors of Ohio and Illinois to close bars and prohibit dining in restaurants. They followed sweeping restrictions on crowded venues and gatherings imposed earlier by Italy, Spain and France.
Vaccine Trial to Begin, Official Says: AP (11:17 a.m. HK)
The first participant in a clinical trial for a vaccine against the coronavirus will receive an experimental dose on Monday, the Associated Press reported, citing an unidentified government official.
The report said the trial is funded by the National Institutes of Health, and will involve 45 young, healthy volunteers with different doses of shots co-developed by the NIH and Moderna Inc. It will take at least a year to validate any potential vaccine, the AP said.
Peru, Ecuador Announce Containment Moves (11:11 a.m. HK)
Peru declared a state of emergency for 15 days, closing its borders and ordering a nationwide lockdown to stem the spread of the coronavirus, President Martin Vizcarra said in a televised address. Ecuador’s President Lenin Moreno announced in a nationwide address that individual travel will be restricted to essential activities.
Australia Considers Further Economic Support (HK 11:05 a.m. HK)
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is considering further economic measures and support to buttress the economy, just days after announcing a A$17.6 billion ($10.8 billion) stimulus package.
Morrison met with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann on Monday to consider the measures, and is having rolling meetings with Cabinet ministers in key sectors in preparation for Tuesday night’s national Cabinet meeting.
White House Urges Telework for DC-Area Federal Workers (9:58 a.m. HK)
The White House is asking all federal agencies to offer “maximum telework flexibilities” to their employees in the Washington area, citing concerns about the coronavirus.
“The Administration wants to ensure that department and agency leaders assertively safeguard the health and safety of their workforce while remaining open to serve the American people and conduct mission critical functions,” the White House Office of Management and Budget said in a memo to department heads and agencies Sunday night.
While the memo stops short of ordering federal employees to work from home, it appears to greenlight the idea for workers in the DC metro area.
Qantas, United Plan to Cut More Flights (9:42 a.m. HK)
Qantas Airways Ltd. plans a fourth set of capacity cuts after a global clampdown on travel accelerated and Australia said anyone arriving from overseas must isolate themselves to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Separately, United Airlines Holdings Inc. is slashing capacity by about 50% in April and May, and cutting salaries. The moves follow peers including American Airlines Group Inc., which is reducing long-haul international flights 75%, in chopping services after restrictions on travel.
Universal Music CEO Hospitalized for Virus (9:36 a.m. HK)
Lucian Grainge, chairman and chief executive officer of Universal Music Group Inc., has been hospitalized after testing positive for Covid-19, according to a person familiar with the matter. A representative for Universal Music didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Grainge, 60, joined Universal more than 30 years ago and has been chairman and CEO since 2011. He is widely considered the most powerful record executive in the industry.
South Korea Sees No New Deaths, Adds 74 Cases (9:28 a.m. HK)
South Korea reported no new deaths from coronavirus over the past 24 hours. The country added 74 new cases, the second day in a row that infections came in below 100. South Korea has a total of 8,236 coronavirus cases, with 75 deaths. It released 303 more patients from quarantine.
China Reports 16 More Cases (8:38 a.m. HK)
China reported 16 additional coronavirus cases as of March 15, with 12 of them imported, according to a statement from the National Health Commission. The remaining four cases are from Hubei, the province where the pathogen first emerged.
China now has 80,860 confirmed cases, while infections across the rest of the world total more than 85,000. China’s death toll rose by 14 to 3,213, roughly half the global total.
Discharged patients in China rose by 838 to 67,749.
Biden, Sanders Vow to Fight Coronavirus (8:36 a.m. HK)
Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders sparred over how they would respond to the coronavirus in their first one-on-one debate, arguing about whether Medicare for All is the right solution to fight the health crisis as it explodes across the U.S.
Biden pushed back against the idea of Medicare for All, saying Italy has a similar system and it has not stopped the crisis there. He urged the Trump administration to ramp up testing and quickly build temporary hospitals.
Wynn, MGM to Close Las Vegas Properties (7:35 a.m. HK)
Wynn Resorts Ltd. and MGM Resorts International said they will temporarily close operations at their Las Vegas properties to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Wynn’s Las Vegas and Encore resorts will shut down effective March 17 for two weeks, while MGM’s properties will be suspended from March 17 and casino operations from March 16 until further notice.
The closing of the Las Vegas resorts comes after casino operators shut their Macau businesses for 15 in February.
CDC Warns Against Big Events (7:16 a.m. HK)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended postponing for the next eight weeks any event with 50 or more people.
The CDC cited conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings, and other types of assemblies where more than 50 people will attend.
U.S. Coronavirus Cases Double in Days (7:15 a.m. HK)
Two months since the first documented case in the U.S., there are now at least 3,365 reported cases across 49 states, and 64 have died from Covid-19.
West Virginia remained the only state without a reported case.
The growth rate of the virus escalated in March — cases roughly doubled every few days at the epicenters in Washington, California and New York. That growth reflects a mix of new transmissions and increased testing capacity.
State officials reported the first California cases in late January, and since then, the count has ballooned. On Feb. 2 there were 6 cases, and today the state had 335, according to the California Department of Public Health.
California Asks Seniors to Isolate (6:50 a.m. HK)
California Governor Gavin Newsom asked residents aged 65 and older — an estimated 5.3 million people — to isolate themselves in their homes.
“We are doing so with our eyes wide open at the magnitude of what that means,” Newsom said. The state is working on providing services and supplies to those seniors in need, he said.
More Tests to Produce ‘Spike,’ Aide Says (6:30 a.m. HK)
An expansion of U.S. testing for the virus will result in a “spike in the curve” in the next week as more cases are uncovered, a top White House aide said.
“For those of you who watched China, and China reporting, remember when they changed their definition and all of a sudden there was a blip in their curve? We are going to see that,” Deborah Birx, virus response coordinator, said at a briefing of the coronavirus task force. “We are going to see a spike as more and more people have access” to the tests.
Czech Republic in Quarantine (6:20 a.m. HK)
The Czech government imposed a nationwide quarantine to prevent further spread of the coronavirus by limiting the movement of people, Prime Minister Andrej Babis said in Prague. The lockdown will be in place until March 24.
Exempted from the order: travel to and from work, necessary family visits or medical appointments.
Drive-Through Tests in Place (5:30 p.m. NY)
Vice President Mike Pence said 10 U.S. states have now implemented their own drive-through coronavirus testing, a step that can speed detection of the spreading illness.
Pence, at a White House briefing, said testing is available in all 50 states and 2,000 laboratories will be online by Monday. The priority will be testing health-care workers and first responders, followed by people over age 65 with coughs, fever or other symptoms, he said.
Trump Discourages Hoarding (5:15 p.m. NY)
President Donald Trump said Americans should buy fewer groceries as retailers struggle to keep food and other products in stock because of concern over the spread of coronavirus.
“There’s no need for anybody in the country to hoard essential food supplies,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “You don’t have to buy the quantities because it’s hard to refill the stores.”
Fed Cuts Main Rate to Near Zero (5 p.m. NY)
The Federal Reserve cut its benchmark rate by a full percentage point to near zero and will boost its bond holdings by $700 billion to cushion the U.S. economy from the coronavirus outbreak.
The Fed will keep interest rates near zero “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 Federal Open Market Committee said in a statement.
Travel Limits Roil Airports (3:15 p.m. NY)
Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport was among facilities overwhelmed this weekend with passengers, including many coming from Europe, who faced new screening measures.
As pictures of lines and stories from travelers were shared on social media, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker said the White House failed to prepare for the influx of returning passengers in response to President Donald Trump’s new travel restrictions.
New Zealand Cuts Rates (3 p.m. NY)
The New Zealand central bank slashed its benchmark interest rate by 75 basis points as strict border controls look set to tip the economy into recession. In an emergency move, the Reserve Bank cut its cash rate to 0.25% from 1% and said it will remain there for at least the next 12 months.
Europe Outpacing China at Peak (1:30 p.m. NY)
Europe is reporting more new cases each day than China did when the disease peaked in that country, the head of the World Health Organization said. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also said canceling sporting events can help slow the spread.
The situation will worsen in many countries before it improves, said Maria Van Kerkhove, a WHO epidemiologist. While the situation is improving in Asia, countries where the disease has peaked could experience relapses, she said.
Europe Cases Surge (9:09 a.m. NY)
Spain’s diagnosed cases of the coronavirus jumped 35% to 7,753 on Sunday and the death toll more than doubled to 288, the Health Ministry said. In Switzerland, 2,200 cases marked a 62% increase. The number of deaths in the Netherlands rose by eight to 20, while confirmed cases increased by 176 to 1,135, according to a daily update from the RIVM National Institute for Public Health and the Environment on Sunday. Several countries cautioned that fewer tests are being performed as more people fall ill.
Mnuchin Sees No Recession (9:03 a.m. NY)
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he doesn’t expect the coronavirus pandemic to tip the U.S. economy into recession, even though growth will slow. “Later in the year, obviously the economic activity will pick up as we confront this virus,” Mnuchin said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
–With assistance from Mark Niquette, Joost Akkermans, Joao Lima, Geraldine Amiel, Hanna Hoikkala, Sara Marley, Henry Goldman and Justin Sink.
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