The Fed Simplifies Capital Rules, a Change Sought by Big Banks

YOUR BEST NEWS ! The central bank will streamline how bank capital requirements are set, despite objections by a Fed governor who said the move would lower the amount of cash banks keep on hand.

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Newsletter: Why It’s the Perfect Time for Governments to Splurge

YOUR BEST NEWS!

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The Fed made an emergency rate cut, the 10-year Treasury dipped below 1% for the first time, and for some U.S. cities a downturn has already arrived. Good morning. Jeff Sparshott here with the latest on the economy.

Emergency!

The Federal Reserve executed an emergency half-percentage-point rate cut and markets slid, reflecting fears the coronavirus epidemic is raising recession risks, Nick Timiraos reports.

  • The Fed reduced the federal-funds rate to a range between 1% and 1.25% in the first rate change in between scheduled Fed policy meetings since the 2008 financial crisis. Stock markets fell anyway and the yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury dipped below 1% for the first time as investors sought havens.
  • The central bank has typically reserved such moves for times when the economic outlook has quickly darkened, as in early 2001 and early 2008, when the U.S. economy was heading into recession.
  • The market’s response showed the extent to which investors worry the central bank can’t on its own prevent a dropoff in confidence and spending.

WHAT TO WATCH TODAY

The ADP employment report for February is expected to show a net gain of 155,000 jobs. (8:15 a.m. ET)

International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and World Bank President David Malpass hold a joint press briefing on the coronavirus at 9 a.m. ET.

IHS Markit’s U.S. services index for February is expected to be unchanged from a preliminary reading of 49.4. (9:45 a.m. ET)

The Institute for Supply Management’s nonmanufacturing index for February is expected to slip to 55.0 from 55.5 a month earlier. (10 a.m. Et)

The Bank of Canada releases an interest-rate announcement at 10 a.m. ET.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin appears before the House Appropriations Committee to discuss his department’s budget request for fiscal 2021 at 10 a.m. ET.

The Federal Reserve releases its beige book report on U.S. economic conditions at 2 p.m. ET.

St. Louis Fed President James Bullard speaks on the economy and monetary policy at 5 p.m. ET.

The White House coronavirus task force holds a press briefing at 5:30 p.m. ET.

TOP STORIES

A Misplaced Faith in the Power of Central Banks

Yes, the Fed cut rates. But the central bank cannot save the U.S. economy from the coronavirus. First, it can’t restart factories that are missing parts as the virus disrupts supply chains, nor can it persuade worried vacationers to fly. Second, and potentially more important, central banks are losing their grip on the business cycle: The Fed had little interest-rate ammunition with which to boost growth even before Tuesday’s cut. The good news is that the same factors that make monetary policy less potent make fiscal policy even more so. With investors rushing to buy government bonds and driving yields down, the U.S. and other rich governments can borrow all they need to fight the virus and recession risk without fear of driving up rates, Greg Ip writes.

The Fed wasn’t alone. Australia and Malaysia also cut rates, Group of Seven nations said they were ready to take action and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the administration looked forward to an emergency funding package from Congress.

President Trump: “I like middle-income tax cuts. I think it would be a good time. If the Democrats would approve it, I’d go along with it.”

The Trump administration is considering using a national disaster program to pay hospitals and doctors for the care of uninsured people infected with the new coronavirus as concerns rise over costs of treating Americans without health coverage, Stephanie Armour reports.

The 33.6 million U.S. workers with no access to sick leave would face a dilemma should they become ill during the coronavirus epidemic: stay at home and see paychecks shrink, or go to work and create health risks. Unlike many industrialized countries, U.S. workers aren’t guaranteed pay when they take off from work due to an illness. Economists and labor experts say that poses challenges—many workers can’t afford not to go to work, and many of the jobs they hold, such as food preparation or retail services, also have a high level of contact with the public. Missing a paycheck could drive many households deep into the red, Harriet Torry and Eric Morath report.

China’s workers are suffering layoffs, slashed pay and shutdowns. More job cuts could further depress consumer spending and weaken an economy that is already projected to slow significantly or contract in the first quarter. Although companies are pushing to restart factories and ramp up business as fast as possible, quarantines and other government restrictions have made it hard to do so. As of late February, only 30% of China’s small and medium-size companies had returned to normal operations, Stella Yifan Xie reports.

World-wide, major conferences and trade shows are getting canceled or postponed at historic rates as the novel coronavirus leads companies to curtail nonessential trips and virus-hit countries restrict travel, leaving organizers with little choice but to call off international gatherings planned for months. From Beijing to San Francisco to Geneva, the cancellations added up to millions of lost visits and tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue for local economies, Collin Eaton, Rebecca Elliott and Elizabeth Findell report.

Follow the WSJ’s live coronavirus coverage here.

My City Was Gone

For a growing number of U.S. cities, the downturn has already arrived. The boom in such metropolitan areas as Denver, Salt Lake City and Nashville is masking fiscal weakness in cities tied to manufacturing and other shrinking industries. Some losses stem from the shifting global economy and disruptions from the U.S.-China trade war. Fallout from the coronavirus disease on the U.S. economy and city budgets is another potential setback, Heather Gillers reports.

TWEET OF THE DAY

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WHAT ELSE WE’RE READING

Japan is hoarding toilet paper because of coronavirus worries. “By last weekend, with shops across Japan sold out of the precious tissue and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe preaching against panic, TV news shows collated more ominous signage from around the country—some snarling that in-lavatory larceny would bring a police response, others closing their restrooms altogether, defeated by the crime spree. But it was the images that appeared on Monday, of toilet paper rolls bound to their dispensers with bicycle locks, that finally told a nation that Japan had descended into Lord of the Flies-style depravity,” Leo Lewis writes in the Financial Times.

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