S&P 500 has its best day since 2008.
Stocks rallied Friday, rebounding from their worst day in more than 30 years, after President Trump said leaders of private companies in the United States had agreed to help with efforts to test for the coronavirus, and declared a national emergency that would free billions in funding to fight the epidemic.
The S&P 500 rose more than 9 percent, making Friday its best day since 2008, with most of the gains coming late in the day as government officials and business executives spoke at a news conference at the White House.
Though he was short on details, Mr. Trump said the administration was working with Google to develop a website to determine whether an individual needs a test — a move aimed at avoiding overwhelming the health system with people who are ill but do not necessarily need to be tested for coronavirus. Google later said the site would initially only be used around San Francisco, “with the hope of expanding it more broadly over time.”
The chief executives of Walmart, Target and Walgreens all said they had agreed to make facilities available for testing. Executives from CVS Health, Roche Diagnostics and Signify Health were also in attendance at the news conference.
Mr. Trump also said he would waive interest on all student loans held by all government agencies, and that the energy secretary would be buying “large quantities of oil” to fill up the country’s strategic reserve — an effort to bolster flagging oil prices. Later Friday evening, Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Democratic lawmakers she had reached an agreement with the Trump administration on a coronavirus relief package. She had already said the House of Representatives would vote on it Friday.
Financial markets have been nothing if not inconsistent for the past three weeks, plunging and then rising, and then plunging again, as each day brought new measures to contain the outbreak and new worries that the economy, workers and businesses would take a hit as a result of them.
On Thursday, stocks had their biggest daily drop since the stock market crashed in 1987, as Mr. Trump’s ban on the entry to the United States from most European countries disappointed investors, who had been waiting for Washington to take stronger steps to bolster the economy. For the S&P 500, Friday’s gains recouped most of those losses.
Here’s how Google is really going to help.
Google is working with Verily, a life sciences unit of its parent company Alphabet, to direct individuals with a high risk of coronavirus infection to testing sites.
President Trump said on Friday that Google had devoted 1,700 engineers to build a website to help people screen for COVID-19 symptoms and then be directed to testing locations.
The description of the website fits with an initiative described by Sundar Pichai, Alphabet’s chief executive, in an internal memo sent on Thursday and obtained by The New York Times. A Google representative was not immediately available for comment, and The Times could not independently confirm the company had devoted 1,700 people to the effort.
“A planning effort is underway to use the expertise in life sciences and clinical research of Verily in partnership with Google to aid in the COVID-19 testing effort,” Mr. Pichai wrote in the memo.
He explained that once more tests become available, the plan is to have public health officials direct people to a Verily website that can steer people at higher risk to testing sites. Mr. Pichai did not lay out how many engineers would be assigned to the project, but he asked for volunteers interested in working on the project.
Adding to oil reserve could help the energy industry, but not a lot.
President Trump said on Friday that he would fill up the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which for decades has been used as a cushion in case of fuel shortages caused by global political events or natural disasters.
The reserve has about 635 million barrels of oil, and is equipped to store another 75 million barrels, which is equivalent to three-quarters of one day’s global oil production. By adding to it, the government would have to buy oil on the market, increasing overall demand and lifting prices. But the reserve can take in only about 500,000 barrels a day, or slightly less than 4 percent of U.S. production. Still, oil prices, which have tumbled in recent weeks as demand has plummeted because of the coronavirus outbreak, shot up about 6 percent after Mr. Trump’s remarks.
“It won’t clean up the market, but it is an important first step,” said Larry Goldstein, a director of the Energy Policy Research Foundation, an industry and government funded research organization.
Interest on millions of student loans is waived.
As part of his emergency declaration on Friday, President Trump said he was waiving interest on tens of millions of student loans held by the federal government until further notice.
How much the waiver saves a particular borrower will vary depending on the interest rate on their loan. The current range of interest rates on fixed-rate loans to undergraduate and graduate students is 4.53 percent to 7.08 percent.
Those borrowers will still have to make payments on their principal, and it was not immediately clear how quickly the loan servicers who send out the bills will be able to recalculate what each person owes.
The waiver will not affect all borrowers. Student loans issued through state agencies and others — including from big private lenders like Sallie Mae — are not covered. Other loans that are not part of the waiver program include the majority of Federal Family Education Loans, which are mostly held by commercial lenders, and school-held Perkins loans.
But the federal government is the biggest holder of student debt with $1.2 trillion in direct loans to more than 35 million borrowers.
Other details were not clear, including how the unpaid interest would be handled.
The entire federal student loan system has grown more complex over time, so changing payments on the fly poses a serious challenge. Many loan servicers have committed errors in recent years and sowed confusion among borrowers, especially those in the public service loan forgiveness program.
Fiat Chrysler and union leaders are in talks over sick pay.
Is isolating yourself because you might have been exposed to the coronavirus the same as calling in sick?
That’s the question that United Automobile Workers union officials are negotiating with Fiat Chrysler, and expect to take up with General Motors and Ford Motor. The union wants to make sure that members who stay away from work to avoid potentially spreading infection are eligible to collect sick pay, even if they have not developed symptoms of illness.
The union and Fiat Chrysler “are working together during this unprecedented and challenging situation,” said Cindy Estrada, a union vice president. “The U.A.W. feels strongly that no member should be disadvantaged in response to the COVID-19 process.”
For now, the question is mostly hypothetical. Fiat Chrysler and Ford said Friday that they knew of no American workers who were infected. That was also true of G.M., though it said “a small number” had quarantined themselves at home because they had traveled to South Korea or other affected areas in the last few weeks.
Even as concern about the virus increases, it has been mostly business as usual at the companies’ factories. Mark Truby, a Ford spokesman, said the company had seen no disruptions to production or parts supplies outside of China. In its U.S. plants, it has made hand sanitizer available and in some cases has repositioned workers farther apart.
Here’s what else is happening.
Delta will cut 40 percent of its flights over the next few months — more than it did after the 9/11 terrorist attacks — and is also parking up to to 300 planes, offering unpaid leaves, freezing hiring, scaling back its use of consultants and contractors and slashing capital spending by at least $2 billion for the year.
Berkshire Hathaway said it would not allow shareholders to physically attend its May 2 annual meeting in Omaha, which will be streamed online. All special events around the meeting were canceled.
American consumers were slightly less confident in early March compared with a month ago, according to the latest University of Michigan consumer confidence index, reflecting early fears about the spread of coronavirus and its impact on the stock market.
Reporting was contributed by Deborah Solomon, Neal Boudette, Ron Lieber, Tara Siegel Bernard, Alexandra Stevenson, Jeanna Smialek, Niraj Chokshi, Jim Tankersley, Cao Li, Matt Phillips, Amie Tsang, Carlos Tejada, Brooks Barnes, Tiffany Hsu, Mohammed Hadi and Katie Robertson.