Trump Seeks to Support Economy; Pandemic Warning: Virus Update

Italy extended travel restrictions across the country and President Donald Trump promised “very dramatic” actions to support the U.S. economy as the World Health Organization said the threat of a pandemic is “very real.”

Trump said he will seek a payroll tax cut and “substantial relief” for industries that have been hit by the coronavirus, reversing course on the need for economic stimulus after U.S. stocks posted their worst losses in more than a decade.

In Europe, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said he’ll move to extend restrictive measures on travel — currently in force in the north — throughout the rest of the country in a bid to limit the spread after the number of cases soared by 25%.

Cases topped 1,000 each in France, Spain and Germany, bringing global infections to more than 113,000. China added 19 new cases.

Key Developments:

  • Cases surpass 113,000 worldwide; deaths exceed 3,900
  • U.S. confirmed cases top 600; at least 24 deaths
  • China reports 19 new cases, 17 deaths
  • U.S. stock futures see modest gain after the biggest stock rout since 2008
  • Virus-stricken cruise ship docks; two U.S. lawmakers self-quarantine
  • Seattle’s Patient Zero spread virus despite Ebola-style lockdown
  • Trump’s coronavirus claims often contradicted by his own experts

Click VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus and here for maps and charts. For analysis of the impact from Bloomberg Economics, click here. To see the impact on oil and commodities demand, click here.

China Reports 19 New Cases, 17 New Deaths (8:26 a.m. HK)

China reported 19 additional coronavirus cases as of March 9, according to a statement from the National Health Commission, bringing the total number of infections to 80,754.

The death toll in China rose by 17 to 3,136, with all of the latest fatalities occurring in Hubei. Discharged patients rose by 1,297 to a total of 59,897.

U.S. Sports Leagues Limit Locker Room Access (7:53 a.m. HK)

Major U.S. pro sports leagues are banning media and anyone other than necessary personnel from team locker rooms.

Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League will limit locker room and clubhouse access to players and “essential employees” of teams, the leagues said in a joint statement. Media access will be maintained in designated areas outside locker rooms and clubhouses, the statement said.

The move is the latest response by sports organizations to the coronavirus outbreak. But it stops short of some of the more extreme measures that some leagues have imposed around the world, such as canceling games or holding competitions with no spectators.

U.S. to Produce 4 Million Tests a Week: Azar (7:44 a.m. HK)

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that by the end of the week, the U.S. expects to produce 4 million coronavirus tests each week. He said 2.1 million tests have shipped or are ready to be shipped, and that so far no individual that a public health official has said has needed a test has gone without one.

    Trump to Discuss Payroll Tax, ‘Dramatic Actions’ (6:50 a.m. HK)

    President Donald Trump said Monday his administration will discuss a possible payroll tax cut with the U.S. Senate, saying they would seek “very substantial relief” for the economy that has been roiled by the outbreak of coronavirus.

    Trump, speaking at a White House news conference, added his administration plans to speak with lawmakers on Tuesday, seeking the aid to help hourly wage earners “so they don’t get penalized for something that’s not their fault.” The president also said he that he plans to announce “very dramatic” actions to support the economy at a press conference on Tuesday.

    Pressure has been growing on Trump to take more decisive action in response to the coronavirus, as the number of cases in the U.S. and worldwide continues to grow.

    Booking Holdings, Host Hotels Withdraw Guidance (5:45 p.m. NY)

    Booking Holdings and Host Hotels withdrew their guidance as the travel impacts from the virus worsen. Booking, owner of sites such as Kayak and Priceline, said demand has been hit more broadly across Europe and North America since it provided its forecast on Feb. 26.

    Italy to Extend Travel Ban Nationwide (4:52 p.m. NY)

    Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said he’ll move to extend restrictive measures on travel — currently in force in the north — throughout the rest of the country in a bid to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

    WHO Says Outbreak Close to Being a Pandemic (12:53 p.m. NY)

    The spread of the new coronavirus is very close to being a pandemic after the disease has reached more than 100 countries, Mike Ryan, head of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Program, said at a daily briefing.

    “The threat of a pandemic has become very real,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “But it would be the first pandemic in history that could be controlled.”

    Ryan said countries that shift solely to mitigation are conceding defeat and that they shouldn’t give up on containment efforts. The WHO said China and South Korea’s efforts have borne fruit, and that it hopes to see results from Italy’s recent measures in coming days.
    The mortality rate for people 80 and over exceeds 20%, said Maria Van Kerkhove, a WHO epidemiologist, citing figures from
    the WHO’s mission to China.

    N.Y. Ordering 24-Hour School Closing If Student Tests Positive (11:51 a.m. NY)

    New York state health officials will issue a joint resolution with the state Education Department mandating at least a 24-hour shutdown of any school where a student tests positive. Such a move will allow the state time to determine whether the closing should be extended, and if so, for how long, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

    Ireland Set to Cancel St. Patrick’s Day Parades (11:20 a.m. NY)

    Irish authorities are set to cancel the nation’s annual St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, as concern around the coronavirus outbreak escalated.

    The St. Patrick’s parade scheduled for March 17 in Dublin has been shelved, local media reported, on government advice. About half a million people attended Ireland’s national day celebrations last year, with thousands traveling from overseas.

    Cork, Ireland’s second-biggest city, canceled its event because city leaders said they couldn’t provide the “necessary assurances” to guarantee the safety of participants and spectators.

    Riksbank Deputy Governor Infected (9:14 a.m. NY)

    The official, Martin Floden, has been infected with the coronavirus after a visit to northern Italy. He’s feeling well and working from home, a spokesman for the Swedish central bank said.

    Earlier, airport operator Groupe ADP’s Chief Executive Officer Augustin de Romanet tested positive, according to Agence France-Presse. A NATO staff member working in Brussels, who had come back from a holiday in northern Italy, has also been infected.

    Macron Calls for Urgent European Cooperation (8:29 a.m. NY)

    Macron plans to announce initiatives as soon as Monday afternoon to boost coordination on coronavirus. “I call on our European partners to take urgent action to coordinate sanitary measures, research efforts and our economic response,” Macron said on Twitter. He plans to hold a call with EU leaders on Tuesday.

    French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire also highlighted his concerns earlier, saying Europe needs a “call to arms” to defend the already-weakened economy. Separately, The European Council President Charles Michel plans to hold a conference call shortly to coordinate EU efforts against coronavirus.

    Cases Surge in Spain (8:10 a.m. NY)

    As Italy struggles to enforce a lockdown, Spain is facing a dramatic rise in cases. Infections in Spain rose to 999 on Monday from 589. The cases are mostly concentrated in the capital Madrid and the Basque country, an industrial hub.

    While Spain hasn’t adopted the same measures as Italy — which has closed down all schools and imposed travel restrictions in the north of the country — the city of Vitoria in northern Spain ordered a shutdown of all schools for 15 days to try to contain the outbreak.

    FIFA Postpones Asian World Cup Qualifying Matches (7:18 a.m. NY)

    Soccer’s governing body FIFA delayed the Asian qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar due to the coronavirus. Matches originally scheduled to take place in March and June have been postponed to later dates, FIFA said in a statement Monday, adding that it will continue to assess the situation and decide if further schedule changes are needed.

    Iran Cases Top 7,000 (7 a.m. NY)

    New coronavirus cases in Iran continued to drop, with the health ministry reporting 595 infections and 43 deaths on Monday. That compares with a single-day peak of 1,234 cases last Friday. Overall, 7,161 cases have been reported so far in Iran and 237 people have died.

    Elsewhere in the Middle East, Qatar decided to shut schools and higher education institutions from Tuesday. It follows Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait where schools are closed.

    — With assistance by Michelle Fay Cortez

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