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Stock futures lower as coronavirus relief package clears Senate

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Stock futures dipped Thursday morning, after a massive, eagerly awaited coronavirus relief package cleared the U.S. Senate and headed for the House, with investors poised to take a breather after two consecutive days of gains.

During the regular session Wednesday, the S&P 500 and Dow posted their first back-to-back sessions of advances in more than a month. At the highs of the session, the Dow had added 1,315 points.

Yet by market close Wednesday, stocks pared some gains, after the bill with $2 trillion worth of relief for the coronavirus-stricken economy exposed intra-party divisions. Late in the afternoon, Democratic presidential contender and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders suggested he would be willing to hold up the bill amid a dispute with Republican lawmakers who called for changes over unemployment benefits provided in the package.

And others outside of Capitol Hill aired their grievances over the legislation. New York state governor Andrew Cuomo called the legislation “terrible” for his state, and suggested the aid allocated would not make up for the budget gap created by the coronavirus outbreak.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus outbreak continued to escalate domestically and abroad, with the global case count topping 480,000 as of Thursday morning, according to Johns Hopkins data. More than 69,000 of these were in the U.S., with New York state comprising the bulk of domestic cases.

Heading into Thursday’s session, investors will be anxiously awaiting the Labor Department’s weekly report on unemployment claims, which are expected to reflect soaring joblessness as businesses are forced to lay off employees as the coronavirus outbreak continues.

“We now expect the unemployment rate to peak near 8.5%,” JPMorgan Chase economists wrote late Wednesday. Once again, the bank lowered its U.S. economic forecasts for both the first and second quarters, to an annualized rate of -10% and -25%, respectively.

“Whereas normally a downward revision to 1H would be expected to result in an upward revision to 2H, we are leaving our second-half forecast unrevised at 6%, incorporating financial headwinds that should dampen the pace of recovery,” they added.

Though individual firms’ estimates span a wide range, consensus economists polled by Bloomberg project new unemployment claims rose to a seasonally adjusted 1.64 million for the week ending March 21, skyrocketing from the 281,000 during the prior week.

Ahead of the report, states have already signaled steepening rates of unemployment. California Governor Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that one million Californians had filed for unemployment benefits in the country’s most populous state since March 13.

7:20 a.m. ET Thursday: Powell says Fed is ‘not going to run out of ammunition’

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, speaking in a rare televised interview on NBC’s Today show Thursday morning, vowed the central bank would continue using the tools at its disposal to help combat economic turmoil stirred up by the coronavirus outbreak.

When it comes to maintaining credit flows, Powell said the Fed still had room to apply further support to financial markets.

“We’re not going to run out of ammunition,” he said in the interview.

Powell also said he expected economic activity will “resume and move back up in the second half of the year,” noting that the virus will “dictate the timetable” for a rebound.

7:10 a.m. ET Thursday: Stock futures hold slightly lower after two straight days of gains

Contracts on the three major indices remained lower during the pre-market session Thursday morning, a day after the S&P 500 and Dow had posted their first back-to-back sessions of gains in a month.

Here’s where indexes traded Thursday morning, as of 7:10 a.m. ET:

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 2,449.5, -17.5 (-0.71%)

  • Dow futures (YM=F): 20,971.00, -55 (-0.26%)

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 7,425.25, -42.5 (-0.57%)

  • Gold (GC=F): +$0.20 (+0.01%) to $1,633.60 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX) note: yielding 0.811%, or down 4.5 basis points

11:55. p.m. ET Wednesday: Futures fall as Senate clears stimulus bill

Stock futures appeared poised to open lower on Thursday, as the $2 trillion stimulus package was finally voted up by the Senate and headed to the House. The coronavirus relief plan has been mired in partisan politics for days, but investors have pushed stocks to two consecutive days of gains. With the bill heading for passage, markets appear to have bought the rumor, and are now selling the fact.

Here’s where indexes traded just before midnight Eastern:

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): 2,447.50, -19.50 (-0.79%)

  • Dow futures (YM=F): 20,936.00, -90.00 (-0.43%)

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): 7,429.00, -38.75 (-0.52%)

  • Gold (GC=F): +$8.50 (+0.53%) to $1,642.00 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX) note: yielding 0.869%

11:30 p.m. ET: JPMorgan slices economic forecast (again)

Trader Federico DeMarco works at the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, March 18, 2020 in New York. Major U.S. stock indexes closed sharply lower on Wall Street Wednesday as fears of a prolonged coronavirus-induced recession took hold. The Dow industrials lost more than 1,300 points, or 6.3%. After a brutal few weeks, the Dow has now lost nearly all of its gains since President Trump’s inauguration. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

The bank is once again taking the knife to its U.S. recession call, seeing the world’s largest economy plunging by an annualized rate of -10% in the first quarter and -25% in the second. JPMorgan’s economists also expect the unemployment rate to surge to 8.5% by the time it’s all over.

JPMorgan is also slightly less optimistic about the recovery process:

A growing rift between the federal and state approaches to containing or mitigating the spread of the virus suggests the Chinese experience may no longer be an appropriate comparison. At the very least it should further depress sentiment and confidence in the institutions on which the market economy relies.

6:01 p.m. ET Wednesday: Stock futures roughly flat as overnight session kicks off

Futures for each of the three major indices were little changed Wednesday evening as investors hoped for progress toward the passage of a stimulus bill in the face of the escalating domestic coronavirus outbreak.

Here were the main moves in markets, as of 6:01 p.m. ET:

  • S&P 500 futures (ES=F): up 0.06%, or 1.5 points to 2,468.5

  • Dow futures (YM=F): up 0.04% or 8 points to 21,034.00

  • Nasdaq futures (NQ=F): up 0.11% or 8.25 points points to 7,476.00

  • Gold (GC=F): +$8.50 (+0.53%) to $1,642.00 per ounce

  • 10-year Treasury (^TNX) note: yielding 0.869%

A woman walks on a nearly empty street near the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., March 18, 2020. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

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Dow futures point to a more than 700 point Monday opening gain

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A person wearing a face mask walks along Wall Street after further cases of coronavirus were confirmed in New York City, New York, U.S., March 6, 2020.

Andrew Kelly | Reuters

U.S. stock futures rose on Sunday night as Wall Street tried to recover from another decline last week while investors shook off rising tensions between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures traded 696 points higher, implying a gain of about 730 points at the Monday open. S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures also pointed to robust Monday opening gains for the two indexes.

Last week, the major averages posted their third weekly decline in four. The Dow slid 2.7% while the S&P 500 lost 2.1%. The Nasdaq Composite closed last week down 1.7%. Stocks are also deep in bear-market territory as concerns over the coronavirus outbreak have virtually shut down the global economy and have dampened sentiment around corporate profits. 

However, some on Wall Street think the market could start to turn a corner soon. 

Billionaire investor Bill Ackman, founder of Pershing Square Capital Management, said in a series of tweets he is “beginning to get optimistic.” He said cases in New York, a hot spot for the coronavirus in the U.S., “appear to be peaking” while some treatments “appear to help.”

“If this is true, the severity and death rate could be much lower than anticipated, and we could be closer to herd immunity than projected,” Ackman also said. “While it is hard to be positive when we know that tens of thousands more will die and many more will get severely sick, I have no choice but to be more optimistic about the intermediate future based on the data and facts I have seen recently.”

Last month, Ackman called for the U.S. to completely shut down for 30 days as a way to curb the coronavirus outbreak. “Hell is coming,” Ackman told CNBC’s “Halftime Report” on March 18. 

The number of coronavirus-related hospitalizations has fallen slightly in New York while discharges are up, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday. Italy also reported Sunday its smallest daily increase in deaths in two weeks.

To be sure, the number of coronavirus cases continues to increase sharply. More than 1.2 million coronavirus cases have been confirmed, according to Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. is by far the country with the most cases at over 330,000. On Saturday, Trump warned “there will be a lot of death,” noting the U.S. faces its “toughest week” in its fight against the virus.

Marc Chaikin, CEO of Chaikin Analytics, advises investors to remain cautious.

“Until the spread of the COVID-19 virus peaks and we are closer to a reopening of the U.S. economy, sell rallies and sit on your cash,” said Chaikin. “If we are fortunate to see an effective treatment there will be plenty of capital gains opportunities. For me, capital preservation is more important than capital gains.”

Stock futures shook off a massive decline in oil prices as a key meeting between major oil producing countries was delayed. U.S. crude fell more than 4% to $27 per barrel

The meeting between OPEC and Russia was scheduled for Monday, but sources familiar with the matter told CNBC it will “likely” take place Thursday. The delay comes after President Donald Trump told CNBC last week he expected both countries to cut production by up to 15 million barrels.

Trump’s comments helped U.S. crude post its biggest-ever weekly gain. West Texas Intermediate futures rallied 12% last week. WTI also jumped 24% on Thursday for its best day on record, lifting equity prices that day as concern about financial and job losses in the energy sector eased.

Crude has taken a beating this year as Saudi Arabia-led OPEC and Russia failed to reach a deal on production cuts while the global spread of the coronavirus dampens the demand outlook for oil. Year to date, WTI has lost more than half of its value.

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COVID-19 crisis means financial trouble, creative opportunity for London non-profits, leaders say

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Non-profit agencies in London are taking a pounding in the coronavirus fallout, with just some of those groups losing more than $9 million combined in the first two weeks after the global pandemic was declared.

Leaders in the sector say the crisis spells huge trouble for local organizations, but is also opening the door to innovation and creativity.

“This is really difficult. There is that shared grief,” said Michelle Baldwin, head of the Pillar Nonprofit Network, which supports 600 such groups in London.

When Pillar surveyed its members to begin to gauge the devastation of COVID-19, the response was immediate – nearly a third of its members responded within a day – and the numbers stark.

By March 24, about 90 agencies who responded to the survey had lost nearly $9.1 million in revenue, with tens of millions more looming.

One organization said it stands to lose $1.1 million every week. Another predicted an imminent $10 million loss.

Others, about a quarter of those who answered the survey, didn’t yet know how much revenue they’d lost. A smaller portion said they hadn’t lost any revenue.

About a third of those who responded to the survey said their mission was at risk. Forty-four per cent reported staff layoffs, reduced hours or wage cuts. Only two per cent said COVID-19 was having no, or limited, impact in the short-term.

Baldwin said the results underline the value of the work these organizations do locally.

“It is about recognizing the importance of the non-profit sector. We need it here, and afterward,” she said. “Social enterprises are both social and economic drivers.”

In many ways, the dramatic numbers are no surprise.

Western grad Brian Emmett – chief economist for the charitable and nonprofit sector with Imagine Canada, a national umbrella organization – estimated the country’s registered charities will see financial losses between $9.5 billion and $15.7 billion this year, depending on how long social distancing lasts. He predicts somewhere between 118,000 and 194,000 people will be laid off.

And those numbers doesn’t include any of the non-profit groups that aren’t registered charities.

Cancelled events and fundraisers hit bottom lines hard in London, as elsewhere.

Those are often key to bringing thousands of dollars in donations through the door. Individual donations may also have dipped as Londoners watched markets tank and layoffs happen in light of COVID-19.

Much of the losses were also rooted in the sale of goods and services that had to be stopped, quickly, after the provincial government declared a state of emergency. Baldwin said earned revenue usually makes up almost half of expected revenue for non-profits and charities.

United Way Elgin Middlesex has also cut funding to agencies for programs that aren’t operating because of the virus, CEO Kelly Ziegner said.

Given the uncertainty now over its own finances, the United Way has also told agencies that funding for them is guaranteed for three months only, and will be provided in monthly installments, Ziegner said.

“We have a number of agencies where their programs simply aren’t operating, for example, school-based programs. We’ve paused that funding. We can’t fund programs that don’t operate. It’s just a reality.”

Those cuts add up to about $75,000 in funding a month, she said.

Usually, the United Way provides agencies stable funding for a year or more, Ziegner said.

But, now,  “It’s very hard for us to commit long-term to our agency partners.”

At the end of three months, the United Way will assess its contributions to agencies, she said.

That should give agencies some time to make additional funding plans, or pivot to services – such as food supply and delivery — that are essential, Ziegner said.

United Way Elgin Middlesex relies on payroll deductions (from corporate campaigns) for about 40 per cent of its funding, she said.

The organization is still assessing what the impact of businesses closing and layoffs will mean for those contributions, Ziegner said.

“If people are not being paid, those contributions and that source of revenue will erode for us.  So we’re just trying to get a handle on that. That would our biggest concern in the short term,” she said.

“Could more cuts come? Potentially. But until we have a bigger understanding of the financial picture, it’s hard to say.”

Government funding commitments have, so far, remained stable, Baldwin said. And some relief has been announced since the survey was sent to Pillar members. One of the agency’s roles is to advocate for its members at all levels of government.

And many organizations are showing the power of resilience and perseverance, pivoting to new virtual strategies and using innovative ideas to stay alive, Baldwin said.

Pillar has started a support group for executive directors to share ideas, successes and worries with one another, in addition to other support for members.

“We always talk about the cross-sector collaboration,” Baldwin said.

“If ever there was a moment for that to be our focus and our way forward, it is needed now more than ever.”

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Bitcoin’s Correlations With Global Financial Assets Soar Amid Coronavirus Crisis

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Many investors hold Bitcoin (BTC) as a hedge against the global financial system. However, as the numbers show, Bitcoin has not been spared from the recent COVID-19 financial crisis.

This article will analyze the movement of global financial markets and its correlation with Bitcoin during the COVID-19 crisis. We’ll consider the following sources as price measures for the following.

The recent crash has really challenged Bitcoin’s claim as “digital gold” and puts its assertion as a financial “safe haven” to the test.

Related: Is Bitcoin a Store of Value? Experts on BTC as Digital Gold

A 21-day rolling correlation graph shows that Bitcoin has recently become increasingly correlated with other global financial assets. 

This statistic should be worrisome for cryptocurrency investors trying to find a respite in the midst of all the financial chaos.

Has gold fared any better?

Before we give “digital gold” such a hard time, we should note that physical gold hasn’t sheltered investors from this financial storm either. 

Correlations between gold and other financial assets have also soared during this time, signaling that the world’s financial markets are more interconnected than ever before.

The importance of low, or negative, correlation

Harry Markowitz, the father of the modern portfolio theory, postulated that the most important aspect of risk to consider is an asset’s contribution to the overall risk of the portfolio, rather than the risk of the asset in isolation.

Therefore, a portfolio is not riskier if it contains Bitcoin, which is a more volatile asset, and it is uncorrelated or negatively correlated with the other holdings in the portfolio.

Uncorrelated assets are the envy of portfolio managers because they can reduce volatility and improve risk-adjusted returns. Many portfolio managers keep Bitcoin as an alternative asset in their portfolio for this reason alone.

If Bitcoin does not remain uncorrelated with the rest of the financial market, then it may be viewed as a significantly less desirable, risky asset by asset managers and the institutional market. A decrease in institutional interest could mean large sell-offs and fewer fiat inflows into the market.

So far, this is not the case

Despite a recent uptick in its correlation, a portfolio comprising 80% stocks and 20% Bitcoin would have outperformed a portfolio of 100% stocks from a risk-adjusted return perspective within the last three months and also within the last year.

However, if we were to just look at the last month, Bitcoin would have been better off avoided.

It is true that Bitcoin has remained a relatively detached and uncorrelated asset in times of economic prosperity. But that is not enough. For it to be considered a true financial safe haven, it must be robust against shocks reverberating through other financial markets. Especially in times of turmoil, the asset’s performance should be placed under heavy scrutiny.

Hopeful for a rally

Nevertheless, Bitcoin’s recent price rally has shown signs of promise. This may provide hope to cryptocurrency holders — especially if other assets continue to tank.

Do cryptocurrency indices provide better diversification?

The HODL30 index, a portfolio comprising the top 30 cryptocurrencies by market cap, was less correlated to the overall financial market than Bitcoin. The correlation between the index and American stocks was significantly lower than the correlation between Bitcoin and U.S. stocks.

If cryptocurrency investors want to shield themselves from global market fluctuations, indices may become increasingly relevant.

Time will tell whether Bitcoin or any cryptocurrency will live up investors’ lofty expectations as a financial safe haven. In a tight-knit, interconnected financial system, such a thing may prove impossible. 

Perhaps the culling of fickle cryptocurrency investors during a time of crisis will leave only the strong and sturdy, dampening future volatility. Or, this price crash will set a precedent for investors to scramble for cash whenever the next financial crisis brews because Bitcoin can no longer be trusted to shelter them. 

The views, thoughts and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.

Anthony Xie is the founder of HodlBot, a trading tool that enables cryptocurrency investors to automate their trading strategies.



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