Global markets and businesses big and small opened the week to a landscape seemingly altered by the coronavirus pandemic. A host of retail chains have shut their doors or diminished hours of business. Banks are taking steps to keep cash on hand, lots of it. Markets in Asia, Europe and the U.S. are plunging. Following is a quick look at how the outbreak is impacting the financial and business sector, as well as millions of workers and customers.
FINANCE: The biggest banks in the U.S. moved in unison to conserve cash through the first half of the year. The Financial Services Forum, which represents Bank of America, Bank of New York Mellon, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, State Street, and Wells Fargo, said members would suspend stock buybacks for first quarter and the second quarter due to the virus outbreak. In a prepared statement, the group said the decision “is consistent with our collective objective to use our significant capital and liquidity to provide maximum support to individuals, small businesses, and the broader economy through lending and other important services." The financial sector is among the hardest hit Monday. Shares of Citigroup, Bank of America and JPMorgan plunged as billions in bank valuation evaporated. Citigroup, down 17%, led the way.
MARKETS: Global stock markets are plunging as airlines cut service and public facing companies shut their doors. A surprise cut to interest rates by the Federal Reserve on Sunday appeared only to rattle investors. Benchmarks in London and Frankfurt tumbled 7%. Sydney's benchmark plunged 9.7% and Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 4%. Japan's benchmark sank 2.5% after the Bank of Japan announced it was expanding its monetary easing and providing 0% loans for companies that are running short of cash due to the virus outbreak. All trading in U.S. markets has been halted after futures slid 5%, triggering circuit breakers put into place to prevent panic selling.
SUPPLY-DEMAND SHOCKWAVE: A surge of new orders is putting Amazon.com operations under significant pressure. The company told members who are used to two-day shipping to expect that delivery window to grow as millions of people line pantry and storage room shelves with food and supplies. Amazon is struggling to keep items like toilet paper and cleaning solutions in stock. It now says to expect delivery times to at least double. The same supply and demand shockwaves are hitting tech and toy companies, manufacturers and retailers alike.
SORRY, WE'RE CLOSED: Shopping binges are out, social distancing is in. Nike, Patagonia, REI, Urban Outfitters and American Girl have closed the doors on their retail locations. Columbia Sportswear joined the list Monday, shuttering its North American stores until at least March 27. The company is offering "catastrophic paid leave" to employees most affected by COVID-19. The Gap cut store hours in the U.S. and Canada and following government guidance for further action.
HOLLYWOOD: Box office ticket sales plunged to their lowest levels in at least 20 years in North America, leading to one of Hollywood's worst weekends on record. More people went to the movies the weekend after Sept. 11, 2001, than over the weekend. Not since 2000 have weekend box office revenues fallen so far, according to data firm Comscore. Between the previous weekend to the one that just passed, overall ticket sales plunged 45%, according to Comscore.
DISNEYLAND: The entertainment juggernaut shut down more operations as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention releases new guidance on crowds. After closing hours Monday, all Disney stores in North America will remain closed. Disney has already announced the closures of theme parks in California and Florida. On Monday, it added hotels at Walt Disney World in Orlando to the list, including Disney’s Vero Beach Resort on Florida’s Atlantic Coast. Those locations will close Friday evening to give people time to change plans.
ORACLE OF OMAHA: The daughter of billionaire investor Warren Buffett has been exposed to the new coronavirus and has isolated herself at her Omaha home for two weeks. Susie Buffett told the Omaha World-Herald on Sunday that she feels fine and doesn't think she's contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. She has not been around her 89-year-old father since her exposure last week.
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