Morning Brief

What to watch today: Dow set for sharp drop after worst first quarter ever

BY THE NUMBERS

Dow futures pointed to a drop of more than 700 points at Wednesday's open on the first day of April and the second quarter on Wall Street. White House officials are projecting 100,000 to 240,000 U.S. deaths from COVID-19, with fatalities peaking over the next two weeks. The Dow Jones Industrial Average on Tuesday closed out its worst first-quarter ever with a 410-point decline. The Dow's plunge in March was the worst of any month since October 2008 during the financial crisis. (CNBC)

Cramer reveals second-quarter playbook, says the quarter is 'going to be so ugly' (CNBC)

ADP issues its March report on private sector employment at 8:15 a.m. ET. On Thursday, the government's look at weekly jobless claims is expected to show a second week of over 3 million people filing for unemployment insurance for the first time. On Friday, the government releases its monthly employment report for March. (CNBC)

Start-ups cut nearly 4,000 jobs in March as coronavirus impact ripples through tech (CNBC)

The Institute for Supply Management is out with its March manufacturing index at 10 a.m. ET. Economists expect a contraction. February construction spending, also released at 10 a.m. ET, is expected to show an increase of 0.7% following January's 1.8% advance. The nation's major automakers, with the exception of Ford (F), deliver first quarter sales figures today. Ford's numbers come out tomorrow. (CNBC)

More borrowers are refinancing their mortgages to save money on monthly payments, while potential homebuyers are backing away fast. Driven entirely by refinancing, total mortgage application volume increased 15.3% last week. Mortgage applications to purchase a home fell 11% last week. Refis surged 26%. (CNBC)

Macy's (M) is being removed from the S&P 500 index and will be placed in the S&P SmallCap 600 as of April 6. Macy's has a market cap of about $1.5 billion, the smallest in the S&P 500. Carrier Global, which will become a publicly traded company as of Friday following its spin-off from United Technologies (UTX), will replace Macy's in the S&P 500.

IN THE NEWS TODAY

President Donald Trump, in a grim news conference Tuesday evening, sought to prepare Americans for a coming surge in coronavirus deaths, calling COVID-19 a plague and saying the America faces a "very, very painful two weeks." The president said that according to modeling, a U.S. death toll of 100,000 is a "very low number." (CNBC)

Confirmed cases across the nation rose to nearly 190,000 — nearly double the next worst country — with 4,081 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. New York state's over 76,000 known cases are the most in the U.S. by far. The Empire State's death toll of 1,714 accounts for over 40% of all fatalities in the country.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio orders investigation of Amazon's firing of strike organizer (CNBC)

Global coronavirus cases surged to over 870,000 with 43,287 deaths and about 176,000 recoveries. The U.S. has the most cases of any country and the third-most deaths. Italy's over 105,000 infections were second highest, but the death toll of 12,428 was the worst. Fatalities in Spain were the world's second worst at 9,053. Its 102,000 infections ranked third highest. (CNBC)

* US, Italy and Spain have the most coronavirus cases. These charts show their infection curves (CNBC)
China starts to report asymptomatic coronavirus cases (Reuters)

In its first report looking at underlying health conditions that could make COVID-19 worse, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said people with diabetes, chronic lung disease, heart disease or those who smoke may be at increased risk of developing severe complications if they were to get infected. (CNBC)

Becton Dickinson and BioMedomics launch test to detect past and current coronavirus exposure (Reuters)

STOCKS TO WATCH

Xerox (XRX) dropped its $35 billion hostile bid for HP Incorporated (HPQ), saying it was prioritizing its response to the coronavirus outbreak over all other considerations. Xerox had planned to put up its own slate of directors for election to HP's board but has now dropped that effort as well.

Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), HSBC (HSBC), Barclays (BCS) and other big UK bank shave canceled their dividends to shore up their balance sheets amid an expected increase in bad loans due to the virus outbreak.

Caterpillar (CAT) will withhold annual salary increases for executives, managers, and salaried employees, in an effort to hold down expenses amid the coronavirus outbreak. The heavy equipment maker will also not pay out bonuses to employees next year.

Quest Diagnostics (DGX) has pulled its previous financial guidance for 2020, as it tries to determine the impact of the coronavirus on its results. The medical lab operator said that even with a surge of COVID-19 testing, overall testing volume dropped more than 40 % during the last two weeks of March.

Sysco Corp. (SYY) is cutting out fresh food sales for its customers and focusing on frozen products, according to a report in the New York Post. The food distributor is also said to be cutting out Saturday deliveries, product returns, and guaranteed delivery times.

WATERCOOLER

NFL icons Tom Brady and Peyton Manning will join superstars Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in a golf match organized by AT&T's WarnerMedia and the PGA Tour, a person familiar with the negotiations confirmed to CNBC. The match pitting Mickelson-Brady against Woods-Manning would be a rare sporting event in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which has spurred game and match cancellations and suspensions across professional sports.