Gregg Jarrett: Coronavirus crisis — Trump must assemble economic recovery task force, before it’s too late

All across America, the fear of contracting the dreaded coronavirus is compounded by another crippling illness –acute financial despair as business closures and rampant joblessness grip the nation in a vise of economic hardship. It is welcome news, then, that President Trump is contemplating the creation of a second task force dedicated to devising a comprehensive plan to reopen the U.S. economy and rebound from the debilitating consequences of a pandemic that has all but ground businesses to a halt. Such a task force is not just imperative, it is indispensable if our country is to recover its economic vitality as rapidly as conditions reasonably permit. The idea, suggested by my Fox News colleague Dana Perino, is every bit as essential as the medical task force assembled by the president to battle the COVID-19 plague. That team advising the White House has done commendable work, but its sole objective of reducing transmission is understandably myopic. It was neither assigned nor qualified to consider the dire macroeconomic impact of widespread lockdowns that have ravaged and reversed the engine of commerce and growth. Pervasive unemployment, empty bank accounts and mounting debt are choking Americans in the wake of all the shuttered businesses that are the lifeblood of our economy. The result is a pecuniary pandemic that is just as frightening as the virus itself –perhaps more so. Trump well recognizes that human suffering has more than one dimension and that physical welfare is invariably intertwined with personal economic health. On Saturday, the president reiterated his earlier expressed belief that well-intended remedies must not be fatal. He told reporters, “The cure cannot be worse than the problem itself. We’ve got to get our country open.” If, as a nation, we ignore or minimize the unintended consequences of shutdowns designed to arrest the virus yet fail to craft a blueprint for a speedy recovery, we are quite like the surgeon who announces that “the operation was a success but the patient died.” Congress recently passed a $2 trillion economic aid package that offers some immediate, albeit limited, relief. But this is little more than palliative care. Perino has recommended an economic task force composed of “a nonpartisan/bipartisan mix of experts across industry sectors.” These are people who are more practiced than politicians on what is needed to resuscitate economic activity by restarting businesses and putting Americans back to work. This new task force should not compete with the White House team of medical professionals. Both should work in concert to weigh the economic exigencies against the health risks in determining when and where businesses can reopen while taking every precaution to safeguard the well-being of employees and the public at large. Reporters who incessantly remonstrate with Trump and clamor for him to declare a nationwide shutdown are (no surprise) mistaken. The coronavirus does not constitute the identical threat everywhere because the number of infected cases differs dramatically by region. City and state officials are better equipped to make those decisions, as the president has correctly explained. A one-size-fits-all approach would be inappropriate and counterproductive. An economic task force could provide needed guidance. In doing so, it should consider input from doctors on the frontlines of treating virus patients, like UCLA’s Joseph A. Ladapo who penned a column in USA Today arguing persuasively that it is too late for shutdowns. Dr. Lapado, who also holds a Ph.D. in economics, statistics and decision making, warned that “we will always be vulnerable to the virus spreading rapidly again as soon as shutdown measures are lifted, unless they are immediately reimplemented –over and over and over again.” As we await the production of an effective vaccine in the next 12 to 18 months, Americans may have to accept that the virus cannot be controlled and that our notion of shutdowns as a panacea is wrong, as well as destructive. According to Dr. Lapado, none of the economic models (nor common sense) supports shutdowns. He sums it up this way: “Can you imagine a United States in which children are forced to forgo proper schooling, unemployment and poverty decimate millions more lives and our economy is strangled into a persistent depression? And all for a virus that, when all is said and done, most people will recover from –even the elderly (death rates are highest in adults older than 80, at 10-20%)? The lockdown cost will be staggering –far more costly than COVID-19’s horrific wrath. Here is my prescription for local and state leaders: Keep shutdowns short, keep the economy going, keep schools in session, keep jobs intact, and focus single-mindedly on building the capacity we need to survive this into our health care system.” President Trump should move expeditiously to mobilize this new economic task force to tackle the financial calamity of business closures that, however well-intentioned, may cause lasting damage to America’s economic health. Viable solutions and a comprehensive plan for recovery is desperately needed now. Time is of the essence.

Indeed it is..  Thanks Gregg!  Gregg Jarrett is a Fox News legal analyst and commentator, and formerly worked as a defense attorney and adjunct law professor. He is the author of the No. 1 New York Times best-selling book “The Russia Hoax: The Illicit Scheme to Clear Hillary Clinton and Frame Donald Trump.” His latest book is the New York Times bestseller “Witch Hunt: The Story of the Greatest Mass Delusion in American Political History

Dow pops over 1,600 points on coronavirus slowdown, new stimulus hopes

U.S. equity markets soared late Monday on chatter that a new round of fiscal stimulus valued at $1.5 trillion could come by mid-May, as reported by FOX Business’ Charlie Gasparino. The report fueled a late-day surge that added to the strong gains that developed early in the session after new data showed COVID-19 could be slowing in some of the hardest-hit areas. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 1,627 points or 7.7 percent, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite were higher by 7 percent and 7.3 percent, respectively. It was the third-largest point gain for each. The number of new cases over the weekend in New York City, the U.S.’s epicenter for the virus, rose by 30.4 percent versus last week, down from a 46.1 percent jump the week prior. As of Monday afternoon, the number of fatalities was effectively flat for the past two days. President Trump said at a press conference on Sunday that while there was “light at the end of the tunnel” the next two weeks are going to be difficult. A daily update is set for 5 p.m. ET. COVID-19 has infected nearly 352,546 people in the U.S. and killed 10,335, according to the latest figures provided by Johns Hopkins University & Medicine. More than 18,999 people have recovered as of Monday afternoon. Looking at stocks, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon said in the company’s annual shareholder letter released Monday that suspending the dividend for 2020 cannot be ruled out as the bank looks to conserve cash amid the pandemic. The big banks kick off earnings season next week. Boeing announced production at plants in the Seattle area would remain suspended until further notice. Work was scheduled to resume later this week after being halted on March 23. Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines were in focus after Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway said in a filing late Friday that it unloaded significant portions of its stakes in the two companies. Elsewhere in the space, American and United airlines cut more flights to the New York City area. Apple CEO Tim Cook announced Sunday evening that the tech giant has sourced 20 million masks to help aid in the fight against COVID-19. The company is also working to produce face shields for medical workers. Zoom Video Communications was sharply lower after Credit Suisse downgraded shares, saying their current price was too optimistic for the amount of paid services that will be won from the recent spike in usage. West Texas Intermediate crude oil for May delivery pulled back 7.9 percent to $26.08 per barrel after Russia and Saudi Arabia postponed a virtual meeting to discuss production cuts. The energy component gained 31.75 percent last week, the most since recordkeeping began in March 1983, according to Dow Jones Market Data Group. Meanwhile, gold climbed 2.6 percent to more than $1,677 per ounce. U.S. Treasurys were under pressure, running the yield on the 10-year note to 0.675 percent. Germany’s DAX led European markets higher, up 5.77 percent, while France’s CAC and Britain’s FTSE gained 4.61 percent and 3.08 percent, respectively. Asian markets ended mixed as Japan’s Nikkei jumped 4.24 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 2.21 percent. China’s Shanghai Composite was closed for holiday.

U.S. Consumer Confidence Holds Up Better Than Expected

The U.S. economy entered the era of coronavirus on a strong footing but consumers are worried about the short-term future, a survey of consumers showed Tuesday. The Conference Board’s index of consumer confidence fell sharply in March but the decline was nearly all attributable to the expectations portion of the survey. The present situation component fell from 169.3 to 167.7, a small decline to a still historically elevated level, indicating that U.S. consumers felt comfortable with their jobs and business conditions even as many parts of the economy began to shut down in March. The expectations gauge, however, crashed. This fell from 108.1 last month to 88.2 in March, the lowest level of the Trump presidency. “Consumer confidence declined sharply in March due to a deterioration in the short-term outlook,” said Lynn Franco, Senior Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. “March’s decline in confidence is more in line with a severe contraction – rather than a temporary shock – and further declines are sure to follow.” The resilience in the current conditions was evident in views of both general business conditions and the labor market. The share of consumers claiming business conditions are “good” was relatively unchanged at 39.6 percent, while those claiming business conditions are “bad” increased, from 10.8 percent to 11.4 percent. Those saying jobs are “plentiful” decreased from 46.5 percent to 44.9 percent, while those claiming jobs are “hard to get” was unchanged at 13.9 percent. The outlook for the next six months is where the coronavirus had its biggest impact. The percentage of consumers expecting improved business conditions over the next six months fell from 20.6 percent to 18.2 percent, while those expecting business conditions will worsen more than doubled, from 7.2 percent to 14.9 percent. The share expecting more jobs slipped from 16.6 percent to 15.5 percent, while those anticipating fewer jobs jumped, from 12.0 percent to 17.1 percent. Regarding their short-term income prospects, the share expecting an increase fell from 22.7 percent to 20.7 percent, while the share expecting a decrease rose from 6.1 percent to 8.8 percent. All of those figures are likely to get significantly worse in the next few months. The measures of the present situation will catch up with the expectations for the future, while the expectations gauge will likely not improve until real progress against the virus is evident. As of March, far too many consumers expect improved business conditions and far too few anticipate fewer jobs, implying that consumers will encounter downside economic shocks in the months ahead.

Oil sinks to 18-year low but holds $20 level

West Texas Intermediate crude oil tumbled to an 18-year low after President Trump extended COVID-19 social distancing guidelines until at least April 30. WTI futures for May delivery fell 6.6 percent to $20.09 per barrel, closing at their lowest level since February 2002. The contract hit a session low $19.27 a barrel, down 10.4 percent. The losses came despite President Trump telling “Fox & Friends” on Monday that he would hold a phone call later in the day to discuss low energy prices with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Monday’s slide comes after prices plunged Friday in response to Saudi Arabia saying it has not held talks with Russia regarding a “joint agreement to balance oil markets.” Crude oil prices have crashed 68 percent this year as the price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia has added to a supply glut at the same time the COVID-19 pandemic has caused demand destruction.

Stocks jump building on best week since 1938

U.S. equity markets locked in gains Monday as traders digested the news that social-distancing guidelines were extended until at least April 30 and as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reiterated details on how small businesses can obtain loans quickly in an interview on FOX Business. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 690 points or 3 percent. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite gained 3.3 percent and 3.6 percent, respectively. Last week, the Dow added 13 percent, making for its best week since 1938. The markets also absorbed news of worker furloughs in the retail sector. Macy’s plans to furlough the majority of its 130,000 employees and while The Container Store said it has furloughed some corporate staff. Shares of both companies fell on the news. Airlines slid as they awaited the release of tens of billions of dollars of aid from the federal government. Additionally, cruise operators remained under pressure after receiving a downgrade from Berenberg Research. General Motors was in focus after President Trump praised the automaker, saying it was doing a “fantastic job” ramping up ventilator production. Abbott Laboratories surged after the company’s five minute COVID-19 test received Food & Drug Administration approval. Johnson & Johnson announced testing for its COVID-19 vaccine would begin by September and that it could be available for emergency use authorization in early 2021. Regeneron and Sanofi said Monday that their rheumatoid arthritis drug Kevzara treated its first patient with severe COVID-19 in a global clinical trial. Elsewhere, Apple gained despite Reuters reporting iPhone demand was likely to be down 18 percent from a year ago. Jefferies CFO Peg Broadbent died over the weekend due to complications related to COVID-19. On the commodities front, West Texas Intermediate crude was trading down 6.6 percent at $20.09 per barrel, closing at its lowest level since February 2002. Meanwhile, gold futures for April delivery fell 0.2 percent to $1,622 an ounce. U.S. Treasurys gained, pushing the yield on the 10-year note down 7.7 basis points to 0.667 percent. In Europe, Germany’s DAX gained 1.9 percent while Britain’s FTSE and France’s CAC were up 1 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively. Asian markets fell, with Japan’s Nikkei falling 1.6 percent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng sliding 1.3 percent and China’s Shanghai Composite shedding 0.9 percent.

This is great news!  Let’s pray this trend continues.    🙂

Trump signs $2 trillion economic rescue plan to rush aid to businesses, workers hurt by pandemic

President Trump signed a $2.2 trillion economic rescue package into law Friday to provide direct payments to most Americans and aid to workers and businesses idled by the coronavirus outbreak. “I want to thank Democrats and Republicans for coming together and putting America first,” the president said at the White House. Among the five congressional Republicans with the president in the Oval Office were Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. There were no Democratic lawmakers in attendance at the signing ceremony “It’s a proud moment for all of us,” Mr. McConnell said. Vice President Mike Pence said the new law means that “today, every American family, every American business can know that help is on the way.” The president’s signature capped a frantic week of deal-making between the White House and congressional Democrats as major portions of the economy ground to a halt to stop the spread of the virus. The measure provides $500 billion in loans for distressed companies, beefed-up unemployment insurance for 39 weeks in most states, $350 billion in loans and grants for small businesses and direct payments of $1,200 to most Americans.

Senate Unanimously Passes Historic Coronavirus Relief Package

The Senate passed a substantial emergency relief bill on Wednesday night that would provide aid to small businesses, hospitals, and Americans suffering from the impact of the coronavirus outbreak. The Senate passed H.R. 748, the CARES Act, with 96 votes in favor of the bill and no senators opposed to the legislation. The legislation featured unanimous support from Republicans and Democrats. The legislation required 60 votes to pass through the Senate. The Senate coronavirus package costs roughly $2 trillion and is approximately 880-pages long. The Senate shot down an amendment to the bill sponsored by Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), which would reverse the bill’s generous unemployment benefits. Sens. Sasse, Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Tim Scott (R-SC), and Rick Scott (R-FL) contended that the legislation would incentivize Americans not to work. The amendment required 60 votes to pass through the chamber. Sasse’s amendment was shot down with 48 votes in favor and 48 against the measure. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin rebuffed the Republican senators’ concerns over the bill, contending this will help those who involuntarily lost their jobs. “I don’t think it will create incentives. Most Americans, what they want, they want to keep their jobs,” Mnuchin said. “We need to get this money into the American economy and American workers, that’s the importance of this,” he added. The Senate Cares Act would provide most Americans $1,200 per individual, $500 for most children, and establish a several hundred billion dollar lending aid program for businesses, cities and states, as well as aid for small businesses. The bill also omits many Democrat requests such as mandatory early voting, ballot harvesting, requirements that federal agencies analyze their use of “minority banks,” and provisions to curb airline emissions. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said on the Senate floor before the vote that the chamber “will stay nimble” to combat the coronavirus. He added that there would be no more votes in the Senate until April 20.

Think about this..  The vote was 96-0 in the Senate!  What a credit to Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) leadership.  Great job Mitch!!  Now, the bill is back to the House where Nancy Pelosi, who can’t spell the word leadership and doesn’t give a damn about American workers, will dilly dally and drag this thing out, while Americans are suffering.  Hopefully, she’ll can get off her pompous ass tonight, or tomorrow latest, and get this thing passed in her chamber, and get it to President Trump’s desk for his signature.