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Special Update on COVID-19: Part 2, Economic Actions
Federal Reserve Chair Jay Powell (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
The markets have lived a lifetime in just a few short weeks. As the global COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, we saw severe shocks to the economy and capital markets.
Part 1 of this two-part special update on the coronavirus examined industry efforts to protect personnel and maintain operational resiliency. In Part 2, we explore the unprecedented actions by the Federal Reserve, Department of the Treasury and Congress to buy financial assets, unclog the pipes of the financial system and increase its capacity. We also explain the swift action taken by Congress to pass three phases of stimulus packages to date.
Our team at SIFMA continues to closely monitor COVID-19, and its effect on our industry and the markets. For up-to-the-minute resources and guidance, including instructions for essential critical infrastructure workers, visit www.sifma.org/bcp.
In just a few short weeks, we have seen severe shocks to the economy and capital markets. The Federal Reserve, the Department of the Treasury and Congress have undertaken unprecedented actions to buy financial assets, unclog the pipes of the financial system and increase its capacity. Congress has also taken swift action, passing three phases of stimulus packages as of the time of this discussion. SmartBrief sat down with SIFMA President and CEO Kenneth E. Bentsen, Jr., to examine the actions thus far, what matters most for the financial markets, and what might lie ahead.
The Federal Reserve introduced programs that could offer $2.3 trillion in loans to support cities, states and businesses. In addition, the Fed said it would broaden the scope of corporate lending programs to include certain classes of riskier debt.
Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has mobilized the central bank to address the coronavirus pandemic by deploying tools more quickly and expansively than ever before, cutting interest rates, purchasing unlimited amounts of government debt and directly lending to businesses. "We learned our lesson. Moving early and aggressively is really important," says Patrick Harker, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. "We needed to get the markets functioning."
Stocks advanced Monday as investors digested indications that the coronavirus pandemic was peaking in major areas, including New York City. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed up more than 1,600 points, or 7.7%, while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq composite gained 7% and 7.3%, respectively.
Government leaders are signaling the fourth phase of stimulus to combat the coronavirus pandemic could clear the House this month. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., says a $1 trillion bill including direct payments is required; President Donald Trump also says more financial support is needed; and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says health care needs priority in the next coronavirus bill.
The financial-services industry wants permission from regulators to suspend back-office tasks, many dating to the time of paper stock certificates, that cannot be completed when critical infrastructure workers are urged to stay home. SIFMA has detailed operational requests in a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission, drawing on a 2007 pandemic-response exercise. "All you have to do is change it to 2020, and it's the discussion we are having today," says Thomas Price, managing director of technology, operations and business continuity at SIFMA.