White House seeks $850 billion stimulus for COVID-19 response - GulfToday

White House seeks $850 billion stimulus for COVID-19 response


Donald Trump. File

The White House was asking Congress on Tuesday to approve a sweeping emergency stimulus package to help businesses and taxpayers cope with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s the most far-reaching economic rescue package since the Great Recession of 2008.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin planned to outline the roughly $850 billion package to Senate Republicans at a private lunch, with officials aiming to have Congress approve it this week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, opening the Senate on Tuesday morning, promised swift action.

“The Senate will not adjourn until we have passed significant and bold new steps above and beyond what the House has passed to help our strong nation and our strong underlying economy weather this storm,” McConnell said.

Bigger than the 2008 bank bailout or the 2009 recovery act, the White House proposal aims to provide a massive tax cut for wage-earners, $50 billion for the airline industry and relief for small businesses.

US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he believes the hard-hit US economy will come back rapidly when the coronavirus spread reduces and that progress is being made against the contagion.

“We’re going to win and I think we’re going to win faster than people think, I hope,” said Trump in the White House briefing room, surrounded by top advisers on the coronavirus crisis.

The new proposal is beyond the House ‘s estimated $100 billion aid package of sick pay, emergency food aid and free virus testing that was approved over the weekend and is pending before the Senate.

At the start of the month, Congress approved $8.3 billion in initial aid. Trump quickly signed into law the measure, which provided federal agencies money for vaccines, tests and potential treatments, and funding to help state and local governments respond to the threat.

The US Treasury Department said on Tuesday it has approved a new Federal Reserve commercial paper funding facility to help American businesses manage their short-term liquidity through the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Steven Mnuchin said in a statement that $10 billion of capital from Treasury’s Exchange Stabilization Fund was being invested in the new backstop facility. A similar facility to buy short-term corporate debt was activated during the global financial crisis in 2008.

Wall Street stocks jumped in late-morning trading on Tuesday following fresh emergency actions by the Federal Reserve, rebounding somewhat from Monday’s rout.

Near 1535 GMT, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 2.3 per cent, or 460 points, at 20,648.09, after slipping below the symbolically important 20,000 level earlier in the morning.

The broad-based S&P 500 gained 3.8 percent to 2,477.86, while the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite Index advanced 4.0 per cent to 7,182.85.

Stocks were choppy early in the session but vaulted strongly into positive territory after the Fed unveiled a new credit facility aimed at the commercial paper market, which finances things like auto loans and home mortgages.

The move came amid reports the Trump administration will seek an $850 billion emergency stimulus package, underscoring the severity of a crisis that has plunged Wall Street into a bear market.

Government data showed US retail sales dropped 0.5 per cent in February, a worse-than-expected result that comes from a time before the coronavirus shut down much of the US economy.

“The economy was not doing particularly well before the virus hit, which is not good news,” economist Joel Naroff said in a note.

Naroff expects to see a drop in March due to the closings, but offset somewhat by gains from panic buying, adding that “April is when we could see the worst drop as it looks like social distancing will last at least the entire month.”

Consumer staples companies were an especially buoyant group Tuesday, with Campbell Soup winning 13.4 per cent, General Mills 10.3 per cent and Clorox 13.4 per cent.

Big box retailers Target and Walmart surged around 10 per cent, while department stores and apparel companies like Macy’s and Gap were much lower again.

Boeing continued to weigh down the Dow, plunging 12.3 per cent after S&P downgraded its debt rating and the company confirmed it was in talks with Washington policy makers about boosting liquidity for the aviation business.

Meanwhile, Brent crude fell below $30 a barrel on Tuesday to its lowest since 2016, as the coronavirus pandemic hits economic growth and oil demand.

Countries including the United States and Canada, along with nations in Europe and Asia, are taking unprecedented steps to contain the virus, curbing demand for crude and products such as gasoline and jet fuel.

Brent crude futures fell 22 cents, or 0.7%, to $29.85 a barrel by 11:42am.


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