Dow falls by 600 points on brutal retail sales report and bank earnings

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by more than 600 points Wednesday, after a brutal monthly retail report and more ugly quarterly earnings reports from some of the country’s largest banks.

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq opened the day down by about 2 percent.

The government’s monthly retail sales report showed sales were down a record 8.7 percent for the month of March, with a 50.5 percent decline in clothing sales and a 26.5 percent drop in sales at restaurants and bars. Customers stocking up on essentials pushed up the numbers for food and beverage, with a 25.6 percent increase.

A rough round of bank earnings continues to weigh on markets, with Bank of America reporting a decline in profits of 45 percent for the first quarter. JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo also released ugly quarterly earnings this week, as banks put aside billions of dollars as provisions for bad loans.

Airline shares were up Wednesday, after 10 of the country’s largest airlines, including American, Delta and United, are to receive a slice of the $25 billion Payroll Support Program, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced Tuesday.

The airlines, which have been hit hard by border closures around the globe, had been working with the Treasury Department to secure relief to keep workers on the payroll. With the majority of their flights axed because of the lack of demand, several airlines have drastically cut staff hours, some have continued service with a single passenger and others have suspended routes.

President Donald Trump continues to move ahead with plans to reopen the economy, announcing at a coronavirus task force briefing on Tuesday he would be speaking to “all 50 governors very shortly” in order to discuss “a very powerful reopening plan of their state at a time and in a manner as most appropriate.”

“It’s going to be very, very close, maybe even before the date of May 1,” Trump said.

The oil market continues to pull on investor confidence, with crude falling below $20 a barrel after the International Energy Agency predicted a record plunge in demand for 2020. The historic OPEC+ production agreement touted by Trump does not take effect until May 1, which has left room for oil-producing countries to pump at their own levels in the intervening period, adding to the supply glut.

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