U.S. stock futures hit their 5% "limit down" levels, meaning they can't trade any lower in Wednesday's premarket. However, the exchange-traded funds that track the Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500 and Nasdaq, which have no such curbs, were more than 6% lower. Another volatile night and early morning in the futures comes one day after Wall Street rebounded from its worst day in more than three decades on hopes around Trump administration plans to inject $1 trillion into the U.S. economy to cushion the fallout the coronavirus crisis.
As of Tuesday's close, the Dow was off 28% from its Feb. 12 record high, and the S&P 500 and Nasdaq down 25% from their Feb. 19 peaks. All three indexes were firmly in bear markets as defined by declines of at least 20% from recent 52-week highs. During regular trading, a 7% drop in the S&P 500 would trigger a 15 minute pause, the first of three levels of "circuit breakers" designed to ensure orderly down drafts. Long-term U.S. debt yields, which move inversely to bond prices, leaped higher Wednesday as investors continued to sell 10-year and 30-year Treasurys as costs to combat the crisis continue to grow.
The White House is seeking a coronavirus stimulus package worth anywhere from $850 billion to more than $1 trillion, according to a source familiar with the matter. An administration official said the package could include: $500 billion to $550 billion in direct payments to Americans or tax cuts; $200 billion to $300 billion in small business assistance; and $50 billion to $100 billion in airline and industry relief. Later Tuesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told GOP senators that unemployment could reach 20% if Congress doesn't enact the stimulus package, according to a person familiar with the situation.
U.S. coronavirus cases increased to nearly 6,500 with 114 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The virus has now been detected in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. The number of actual cases in the country is likely significantly higher due to testing delays and a restrictive diagnostic criteria that limited who could get tested. Global cases topped 200,000 with 8,007 deaths and over 82,000 recoveries. Outside China, Italy has the most cases, about 31,500 and 2,503, deaths. China, where the coronavirus originated in December, reported that infections now make up fewer than half the cases around the world. China still has the most deaths at 3,241.
General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler are negotiating with the UAW to "review and implement the rotating partial shutdown of facilities" and other measures in an attempt to keep workers safe and healthy. The actions are expected to be a compromise between the automakers and union after the UAW's president on Sunday urged a production shutdown for two weeks due to the spread of the coronavirus. It appears that Tesla won't be able to keep manufacturing going at its plant in Fremont, California. The sheriff's office of Alameda County, where Fremont is located, tweeted Tuesday night that the electric auto maker's factory is not an "essential business" under the definition of its "shelter in place" order.
Joe Biden has amassed a nearly insurmountable lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders in race for the Democratic presidential nomination. The former vice president swept Tuesday's three primaries in Florida, Illinois and Arizona. Ohio had also been scheduled to hold its primary Tuesday, but polls there were ordered closed as a public health measure. As of Wednesday morning, Biden had 1,132 delegates. Sanders had 817. A total of 1,991 delegates are need to clinch the Democratic nomination. On the Republican side, President Donald Trump on Tuesday officially secured his party's nomination.