Stocks follow up yesterday's rally with further advance
Stocks are following up a strong session yesterday with a further advance as investors appear to be pressing their bets that the COVID-19 peak may be approaching in some areas of the country and the world. Adding to the optimism may be the report from The Washington Post that the Treasury Department intends to ask Congress for an additional $200B for a small business lending program that is a significant part of the COVID-19 economic relief efforts.
ECONOMIC EVENTS: In U.S. data, the NFIB small business index plunged a record 8.1 points in March to 96.4. The JOLTS report showed job openings fell 130,000 to 6.88M in February.
In New York, which has become the "epicenter" of the outbreak in the U.S., Governor Andrew Cuomo announced 138,836 total cases of COVID-19 in the state, up from 130,689 total cases yesterday. Governor Cuomo reported 5,489 total virus deaths in NY, up from yesterday's total of 4,758. While Cuomo said this was "the largest single day increase since this started" he also said during his daily COVID-19 briefing that "we are projecting that we are reaching a plateau."
TOP NEWS: Shares of Exxon Mobil (XOM) are up 6% near noon after the company said it is reducing its 2020 capital spending by 30%, with capital investments for 2020 now expected to be about $23B, down from the previously announced $33B. In response to low commodity prices resulting from oversupply and demand weakness from the COVID-19 pandemic, Exxon is also lowering cash operating expenses by 15%, "driven by deliberate actions to increase efficiencies and reduce costs," the company announced.
Meanwhile, AT&T (T) provided a financial update to investors, stating that it "has a strong cash position" and "attractive liquidity," but has taken a $5.5B term-loan agreement "at competitive rates with 12 banks to provide additional financial flexibility." AT&T added that it expects to be able to support continued network investments, dividend payments and debt retirement, as well as have "the ability to invest in business opportunities that arise as the economies recover."
Kraft Heinz (KHC) pre-announced ahead of its first quarter earnings call later this month that the company's growth has accelerated "in the wake of very strong consumer demand for its products and trusted brands, despite significant declines in Foodservice-related sales around the world." Q1 net sales are now expected to increase approximately 3% and organic net sales are expected to increase about 6%, Kraft Heinz said.
3M (MMM) and the Trump Administration announced plans to import 166.5M respirators over the next three months, primarily from its manufacturing facility in China, to support healthcare workers in the United States. 3M added that the company and the Administration "worked together to ensure that this plan does not create further humanitarian implications for countries currently fighting the COVID-19 outbreak."
MAJOR MOVERS: Among the noteworthy gainers was Two Harbors (TWO), which rose 42% after it lowered its quarterly dividend to 5c per share from 40c per share.
Also lower was NGM Biopharmaceuticals (NGM), which gained 8% after Raymond James initiated coverage of the stock with a Strong Buy rating.
Among the notable losers was Chimera (CIM), which slid 19% after it offered $250M in convertible senior notes.
Also lower was SeaChange (SEAC), which fell 24% after reporting quarterly results.
INDEXES: Near midday, the Dow was up 675.31, or 2.98%, to 23,355.30, the Nasdaq was up 155.90, or 1.97%, to 8,069.14, and the S&P 500 was up 68.23, or 2.56%, to 2,731.91.