Donald Trump will declare a national emergency over the coronavirus in a bid to pacify markets and allay public fears.
According to many (“most” is probably a better word by now) analysts and economists, the worsening epidemic will likely push the US into recession. The president’s once high-flying stock market crashed the most since 1987 on Thursday, and is now in a bear market. Sporting events have been canceled, lockdowns are in place, travel restrictions are proliferating and it seems like just a matter of time before America’s infection total rises sharply as more people get tested.
A generalized sense of angst now hangs over the nation, and the fallout from the oil price war between Riyadh and Moscow may force some weak hands in the US energy sector to fold. Signs of stress in dollar-funding markets point to the possibility of systemic risk, and it is entirely possible that a mini-credit crisis is in the offing.
Some New York hotels are facing bankruptcy, according to an industry group, and an estimate from the World Travel and Tourism Council says up to 50 million tourism jobs are at risk.
All of this comes during an election year for Trump, and although the president clearly cannot be faulted for the outbreak of a virus in a wet market in China, voters will surely be upset if the government’s response is seen as inadequate. And yet, it’s a Sophie’s choice: As The Lancet wrote last week, “governments will not be able to minimize both deaths from coronavirus and the economic impact of viral spread”.
The emergency declaration “would allow the government to martial additional resources to combat the virus, and also marks a symbolic turning point for the president, who has repeatedly compared the coronavirus to the seasonal flu and insisted that his administration had the outbreak under control”, Bloomberg writes, adding that “Senate Democrats have urged Trump to invoke the Stafford Act and other disaster declaration requests they say would free up more than $42 billion in funding for states available in the Disaster Relief Fund”.
No matter what he does, it’s now likely that Trump will head into the general election with an economy in recession. The preliminary read on consumer sentiment from the University of Michigan for March showed confidence dropping materially, although not quite as much as feared.
“Consumer sentiment fell in early March due to the spreading coronavirus and the steep declines in stock prices [but] the initial response to the pandemic has not generated the type of economic panic among consumers that was present in the run-up to the Great Recession”, the survey’s chief economist Richard Curtin said Friday. “Nonetheless, the data suggest that additional declines in confidence are still likely to occur as the spread of the virus continues to accelerate”.
ISM earlier this week released the results of a new survey which found 75% of companies saying they’ve experienced supply chain disruptions “due to coronavirus-related transportation restrictions”. Here’s what else those companies said:
Democrats are set to release their own virus relief plan on Friday, negotiated in conjunction with Steve Mnuchin. Once the House votes, the Senate will take it up next week. Mitch McConnell said Thursday the chamber would be in session in the week ahead.
Trump, meanwhile, wants cuts. Any cuts. Payroll tax cuts. Rate cuts. Just… you know, cuts.
“If you want to get money into the hands of people quickly and efficiently, let them have the full money that they earned, APPROVE A PAYROLL TAX CUT until the end of the year, December 31”, the president shrieked, in a morning tweet.
As a reminder, the reason he’s so keen on December 31 is that it would carry him through the election. He went on to insist that of all the measures floated to address the epidemic, “only that will make a big difference!”
Well, that, and more Fed cuts, apparently.
“The Federal Reserve must FINALLY lower the Fed Rate to something comparable to their competitor Central Banks”, Trump declared. “Jay Powell and group are putting us at a decided economic & physiological disadvantage”, he went on to assess. It wasn’t immediately clear whether he understood the meaning of the word “physiological”.
As far as whether the US will simply close the stock market, Mnuchin told CNBC he hopes not.
“We intend to keep the markets open — that’s a sign of confidence for people”, he said.