Good morning, team.
1. There's a few Australian supermarket updates to get out of the way, as that dominated the news yesterday. Woolworths announced two measures to get ahead of the demand spikes which have been leaving its stores barren: a special early shopping hour for elderly and disabled shoppers, and an early close this Wednesday night for staff to restock. Woolworths Supermarkets managing director Claire Peters said in a press conference the company “[does] not have a concern about the supply” of product, as most of it is locally sourced.
2. Not to be outdone, Coles announced a raft of measures, including an elderly shopping hour of their own and early closures throughout to allow staff to restock. In addition, the company is set to hire 5,000 additional casual staff, and will suspend home delivery for all except the vulnerable and isolated. Will be interesting to see if Woolies follows suit on that last measure – a news story was circulated by several outlets saying it too would suspend delivery, but the company denied it in a tweet.
3. Now the grocery news is out of the way, to business: the Dow Jones plunged 2,997 points in the biggest drop since 1987, as Us Federal Reserve emergency actions failed to calm coronavirus fears. The S&P 500 plummeted 8.1% at the open, triggering a 15-minute market-wide trading halt. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 9.7%, or 2,250 points, within the first minute. It's a bloodbath, folks.
4. Where the US goes, we follow. The ASX is set to slide, with ASX futures down 209 points or 4.1% to 4839 near at 7am AEDT. This follows a 9.7% fall yesterday. The Aussie dollar got as low as US60.79¢ overnight, and it's likely it will punch into the fifties at some point relatively soon. We'll see how that plays out when markets open.
5. The first stimulus package isn't even out the door and the government is strongly considering a second one. Sources told the SMH that Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg are having rolling meetings about "further economic measures" and support for the sudden escalation of the government's emergency response measures over the weekend.
6. The RBA is all but set to expand Australia's money supply, implementing quantitative easing for the first time ever as the coronavirus bites. For months, RBA governor Philip Lowe has flagged he would consider QE measures – buying up government bonds in secondary markets, essentially 'printing money' – if the situation got bad enough. Well, it has hit that threshold. The central bank said it would also engage in “repo operations” where it will on-sell those bonds to investors before buying them back for a slightly inflated price.
7. QE isn't the only thing left in the RBA's rapidly dwindling toolkit. It also has one last interest rate cut before it scrapes the bottom of the barrel – and many economists think it could happen as soon as Thursday. “As a result of today’s announcement we expect the RBA to cut the cash rate to 0.25% on Thursday,” Commonwealth Bank chief economist Gareth Aird said in a statement issued to Business Insider Australia.
8. Qantas and Jetstar have announced they will give customers travel credit if they cancel their flights because of the coronavirus. The vouchers apply to both domestic and international flights. This all comes as experts tell us the aviation industry is going to suffer a substantial routing thanks to the crisis.
9. France's president has announced a 15-day lockdown to contain the coronavirus, banning public gatherings and walks outdoors. Only those who cannot work from home and those seeking medical care will be allowed to leave their homes. France reported 5,400 cases of COVID-19 and 127 coronavirus-related deaths as of Monday.
10. British people have been told to work at home and avoid all social contact in coronavirus lockdown. “We need people to start working from home where they can and you should avoid pubs, clubs and other venues,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. Those with serious health conditions have been told to isolate themselves for 3 months, with mass gatherings banned. We're likely not too far from the universal work from home order here in Australia, too.
The Huffington Post today has a very interesting investigation up today tracing a very swish private jet which has been flying between San Francisco and the Pacific, including New Zealand, through the escalating coronavirus crisis. Are we watching in real-time a fabled case of a billionaire tech titan retreating to their NZ doomsday bunker?