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The coronavirus recession is a choice: Morning Brief

·Anchor
·6-min read
In this article:
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Thursday, April 30, 2020

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And so is the recovery.

The U.S. economy is in recession.

Take a look outside your window and this reality is plain to see.

Businesses are closed, traffic is nonexistent. Efforts to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus have resulted in a forced stoppage of economic activity.

First quarter GDP data published Wednesday confirmed this slowdown. Economic growth contracted at an annualized rate of 4.8% in the first quarter of the year, a drop in activity that marks the largest since 2008.

Many economists expect revisions to this data will show an even sharper first quarter drop in the coming months. Second quarter GDP will be more shocking, with economists widely forecasting declines in growth in excess of 30% or 40%.

But unlike recessions that result from excesses in the economy, this recession is a choice.

“The forceful measures that we as a country are taking to control the spread of the virus have brought much of the economy to an abrupt halt,” said Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell in a press conference on Wednesday.

“Many businesses have closed, people have been asked to stay home, and basic social interactions are greatly curtailed. People are putting their lives and livelihoods on hold, at significant economic and personal cost.”

“The steep drop in Q1 GDP is not a surprise,” said Neil Dutta at Renaissance Macro. “We can see that cratering the economy is having its desired result now: hospitalizations are falling.” Daily net hospitalizations in New York state, for example, have declined for more than two weeks straight. (New hospitalizations are unfortunately holding steady.)

The tennis court at the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Minneapolis remains closed and locked due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Wednesday, April 29, 2020. Some Minnesota recreation restrictions have been lifted, including golf which requires social distancing. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
The tennis court at the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Minneapolis remains closed and locked due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Wednesday, April 29, 2020. Some Minnesota recreation restrictions have been lifted, including golf which requires social distancing. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)

And how well the economy rebounds from this downturn will also be a choice, one that rests in the hands of policymakers like Powell and his colleagues at Treasury and in Congress.

“As long as policymakers do not lose their nerves, or make a policy mistake such as not providing aid to reeling states and municipalities, there is no reason why the economy should suffer from a deep, extended downturn that meets the definition of a depression,” said RSM chief economist Joe Brusuelas in a note published Wednesday. “It is a choice, not fate.”

For its part, the Federal Reserve has been swift and forceful in trying to stimulate the economy and keep markets functioning.

Though as Powell said Wednesday, the Fed cannot provide all of the answers for the economy and singlehandedly ensure a robust, well-distributed rebound in the months and years ahead.

“This is the time to use the great fiscal power of the United States to do what we can do to support the economy and try to get through this with as little damage to the longer-run productive capacity of the economy as possible,” Powell said in a press conference on Wednesday.

But as Powell emphasized, the Fed’s authority enables it great lending power. It is Congress that approves the spending needed to see us through this crisis.

“Powell re-emphasized that the path of the virus and governmental responses will determine the trajectory for economic activity in the coming months,” said Kathy Bostjancic, chief U.S. financial economist at Oxford Economics.

“[Powell] strongly approved the ongoing large fiscal stimulus that provides financial support to affected households and businesses, and encouraged further federal spending. As he reasserted that the Fed has the power to lend funds to businesses and consumers, but Congress has the ‘spending powers’ to directly assist the private sector.”

By Myles Udland, reporter and co-anchor of The Final Round. Follow him at @MylesUdland

What to watch today

Economy

  • 8:30 a.m. ET: Personal income, March (-1.7% expected, +0.6% in February)

  • 8:30 a.m. ET: Personal Spending, March (-4.2% expected, +0.2% in February)

  • 8:30 a.m. ET: Initial Jobless Claims, week ended April 25 (3.5 million expected, 4.427 million prior)

  • 8:30 a.m. ET: Continuing Claims, week ended April 18 (15.976 prior)

  • 8:30 a.m. ET: Employment Cost Index, Q1 (+0.6% expected, +0.7% in Q4 2019)

  • 9:45 a.m. ET: MNI Chicago PMI, April (36.0 expected, 47.8 in March)

  • 9:45 a.m. ET: Bloomberg Consumer Comfort, week ended April 26 (41.4 prior)

Earnings

Pre-market

  • 6 a.m. ET: Dunkin Brands (DNKN) is expected to report earnings of 62 cents per share on $313.12 million in revenue

  • 7 a.m. ET: Twitter (TWTR) is expected to report earnings of 11 cents per share on $878.11 million in revenue

  • 7 a.m. ET: Comcast (CMCSA) is expected to report earnings of 69 cents per share on $26.93 billion in revenue

  • 7 a.m. ET: McDonald’s (MCD) is expected to report adjusted earnings of $1.57 per share on $4.65 billion in revenue

  • 7 a.m. ET: Kraft Heinz (KHC) is expected to report earnings of 54 cents per share on $6.14 billion in revenue

  • 7:30 a.m. ET: American Airlines (AAL) is expected to report a loss of $2.16 per share on $9.15 billion in revenue

  • Other notable reports: Cigna (CI), Altria (MO), Dow Inc (DOW), Molson Coors (TAP), Tapestry (TPR), Kellogg (K)

Post-market

  • 4 p.m. ET: Amazon (AMZN) is expected to report earnings of $6.31 per share on $73.42 billion in revenue

  • 4 p.m. ET: Gilead (GILD) is expected to report earnings of $1.59 per share on $5.37 billion in revenue

  • 4:05 p.m. ET: Visa (V) is expected to report earnings of $1.35 per share on $5.80 billion in revenue

  • 4:30 p.m. ET: Apple (AAPL) is expected to report earnings of $2.09 per share on $54 billion in revenue

  • Other notable reports: MGM Resorts (MGM), Whirlpool (WHR)

READ MORE

Top News

Apple Q2 2020 earnings will be all about assessing the damage from coronavirus [Yahoo Finance]

Tesla CEO Elon Musk lambasts 'fascist' coronavirus stay-in-place orders [Yahoo Finance]

Facebook sees strong ad revenues, active users as coronavirus crisis widens [Yahoo Finance]

Microsoft's cloud unit jumps 27% year-over-year in Q3 [Yahoo Finance]

Eurozone economy contracts at fastest pace ever [Yahoo Finance UK]

Shell cuts dividend for first time since World War II [Yahoo Finance UK]

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