Stocks jump, Fauci optimism, Howard Marks buying

Stocks jump, Fauci optimism, Howard Marks buying

A man wears a mask on Wall St. near the New York Stock Exchange, March 3, 2020.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Stocks rose out of the gate on Wednesday as positive comments from Dr. Fauci helped spark investor optimism, even as the number of U.S. cases topped 400,000. Areas of the market that have been hit the hardest since the coronavirus pandemic began, including energy, airline and cruise companies, fueled the major averages’ gains.

This is a live blog. Here’s the latest:

10:45 am: NYC sees slowing in coronavirus hospitalizations, city needs to ‘double down’ on suppression, Mayor de Blasio says

New York City has seen a slowing need for ventilators and a stabilized hospitalization rate for coronavirus cases — but the city should “double down” on efforts to suppress the pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday. De Blasio said there is a risk that coronavirus cases could begin to increase at a faster rate if residents do not adhere to social distancing and shelter-in-place policies. “We’re now seeing some leveling off,” de Blasio said at a press conference. “Something has started to move.” De Blasio added, “We have to be careful not to take this initial information and make more of it than we should.” New York City and surrounding counties in New York state have been the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. — Mangan, Higgins-Dunn, Feuer

10:40 am: Retail ETF on pace for best week since 2008

  • The retail ETF (XRT) is up 1.5% Wednesday and up 15.5% this week, on pace for its best week since Nov. 28, 2008 when the XRT gained 16.13%.
  • Kohl’s is up 58% this week, on pace for its best week ever back to its IPO in 1992.
  • Wayfair is up 51.7% this week, on pace for its best week since Mar. 27 when Wayfair gained 69.97%
  • Nordstrom is up 49% this week, on pace for its best week ever back to its IPO in July 1971, and its first positive week in 7. – Francolla, Fitzgerald

10:20 am: Landry’s owner seeks critical funds for casinos and restaurants

Tilman Fertitta is seeking a loan for his restaurant and casino chain Landry’s, according to CNBC’s David Faber. The billionaire investor is seeking between $250 million and $300 million with a rate of 13-14%. Raters were previously 4.5% in February. This is the first deal of significant in the high-yield market since the coronavirus pandemic began. It is expected to close today. – Stevens

10:18 am: Home builders up for third straight day

The iShares U.S. Home Construction ETF (ITB) is up 4.2% on Wednesday, on pace for its third straight day of gains. The ETF has risen 20.8% this week, headed for its best week since March 2009. Almost 89% of the ITB is up 11% or more this week. PulteGroup climbed over 28% this week, while KB Home and Lennar are up 27% and 25%, respectively. – Francolla, Li

10:15 am: Sec. Mnuchin: Small businesses shouldn’t worry about access to US relief funds

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC on Wednesday that small businesses in the U.S. shouldn’t worry about their ability to access some of the $350 billion in federal relief earmarked for firms with less than 500 employees. “I want to assure all small businesses out there: We will not run out of money,” he said. “If you don’t get a loan this week, you’ll get a loan next week or the following week. The money will be there.” Some small business owners worry about being left out of the Paycheck Protection Program, part of the massive $2 trillion relief package approved last month that aims to help small businesses cover salaries, wages and benefits. — Franck

10:06 am: Oil & Gas ETF on track for longest win streak in more than one year

Oil & Gas ETF (XOP) is up over 3.7%, on pace for its fifth straight positive day for the first time since Feb. 2019. Today’s leaders include Apache, Noble Energy and Hess, all of which are up more than 5%. – Stevens, Francolla

9:44 am: Carson Block shorts online health marketplace eHealth

Carson Block’s Muddy Waters Research announced Wednesday on CNBC that the firm is short eHealth Inc., which owns a digital health insurance exchange. “It’s a perfect storm of a new management that really wanted, in our view, to pump the stock,” Block said in a “Squawk Box” interview. “From a legal perspective it’s not a fraud. Intellectually, it’s fraudulent.” CNBC reached out to eHealth for comment but didn’t hear back. Shares of eHealth fell about 17% after Block’s disclosure. — Stankiewicz

9:34 am: Dr. Fauci says coronavirus deaths look less than expected

Dr. Anthony Fauci told Fox News on Wednesday that expected coronavirus-related deaths could be fewer than previously forecast, and the beginning of a turnaround should occur after this week. Fauci is a top infectious disease expert who serves on the White House coronavirus task force. He added the task force is preparing plans to ease back into normal activity if coronavirus mitigation efforts are successful. – Li

9:30 am: Stocks jump at the open, Dow gains more than 300 points

Stocks opened higher across the board, more than making up for Tuesday’s slight losses. The Dow rose 349 points for a gain of 1.5%, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite were up 1.4% and 1.4%, respectively. – Stevens

9:18 am: Dividends safer now than in last crisis, says Bank of America strategist

The dividend yield for S&P 500 stocks is safer during this crisis than in 2008, Bank of America’s Savita Subramanian said on “Squawk Box.” Subramanian currently has the lowest target for the index in CNBC’s Market Strategist Survey, projecting a year-end level of 2,600. — Pound

9:14 am: McDonald’s global same-store sales down 22% in March amid coronavirus pandemic

McDonald’s said Wednesday that its global same-store sales fell 22% in March as the coronavirus pandemic led the fast-food chain to close its dining rooms. In the two months ended Feb. 29, U.S. same-store sales grew by 8.1%. But thanks to domestic same-store sales plummeting 13% in March, the company expects first-quarter same-store sales growth in the U.S. of 0.1%. McDonald’s international markets were hit even harder by the pandemic. Its international operated markets segment saw same-store sales plunge 34.7% in March. Shares slid about 1% during Wednesday’s premarket trading.  – Lucas

9:09 am: Barclays is the biggest bear on Wall Street and says there’s a chance of an ‘L-shaped’ recovery

Barclays cut its year-end target on the S&P 500 to 2,500 from 3,000, representing the most bearish forecast on Wall Street, warning the coronavirus pandemic will cause economic damage worse than the financial crisis. “Equities have rallied significantly off their lows in late March as the growth rate of new infections continues to decline but estimates of economic damage are now worse than the 2008 GFC,” said Maneesh Deshpande, head of equity derivatives strategy at Barclays. The bank’s new target would translate into a 6% decline from current levels and a 22% loss for 2020. The strategist said the global shutdown and quarantine will likely take some time to be lifted even though signs are emerging that the pandemic could be abating. He sees a 10% probability for an L recovery and a 40% chance for a U recovery. – Li

8:55 am: Battered stocks surging toward the open

8:39 am: Fed to release minutes from meeting where it took rates to zero

Investors will get a better idea why Federal Reserve officials last month voted to slash their benchmark interest rate to near zero. Minutes from the March 15 emergency Federal Open Market Committee meeting will be released Wednesday at 2 p.m. and will detail the decision-making behind the move. The original meeting date was March 17-18 but was moved up due to the coronavirus crisis. In addition to that meeting the FOMC also has held a series of unscheduled votes on other measures it has taken to aid markets and the economy during the period. – Cox

8:31 am: Oil moves higher, lifting energy stocks in premarket trading

Oil prices moved higher on Wednesday, one day before OPEC+ is set to hold a virtual meeting to discuss possible production cuts. U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude gained 1.65% to trade at $24.02 per barrel, while international benchmark Brent crude rose 21 cents to $32.08. The move higher lifted the energy sector during Wednesday’s premarket trading. The Energy Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLE) gained 1.56%, with Devon Energy, Diamondback Energy, Marathon Oil and Apache all more than 4% higher. Exxon and Chevron, the U.S.’ largest oil companies, were 2.1% and 1.3% higher, respectively. – Stevens

8:16 am: Investors hunt for positives, but strategists warn about a return to the lows

As the market has traded in mostly positive territory this week, investors are picking over the hardest hit sectors. Airline stocks were higher Wednesday, and there’s been a trend this week where the sectors that had been hardest hit during the shutdown of the economy have been doing better than some of those that did best during state stay at home orders, like consumer staples. But as investors look for improvements in virus cases, strategists warn the market is likely to retest the lows of March 23. – Domm

8:04 am: Coronavirus latest updates

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. has surpassed 400,000, according to figures provided by NBC, with 12,864 fatalities nationwide. NBC’s count is slightly higher than that of Johns Hopkins University, which counted 399,929 cases as of Wednesday morning.

The number of daily coronavirus deaths rose in Spain for the second day as 757 people died over the past 24 hours, the health ministry said. On Tuesday, the death toll had risen by 743 from the previous day. The total number of fatalities has risen to 14,555, the ministry said. The overall number of confirmed cases in the country rose to 146,690 up from 140,510 on Tuesday, it added.

There are now more than 1,446,500 cases worldwide, and at least 82,992 deaths. – Stevens

7:47 am: Tesla will slash employee pay and furlough employees

Tesla will cut pay for all of its salaried employees and will furlough hourly workers until May 4, when it intends to resume production of electric cars, according to an internal e-mail that multiple employees shared with CNBC. The pay reductions are expected to be in place until the end of the second quarter.

Health orders, implemented to curb the spread of COVID-19, forced Elon Musk’s electric car company to wind down production at its main vehicle assembly plant in Fremont, California. Shares of Tesla gained 1.5% in Wednesday’s premarket trading. – Kolodny

7:43 am: Billionaire investor Howard Marks says it’s time to stop being defensive

Billionaire investor Howard Marks, who a few months ago warned peers to use extreme caution, now thinks it’s time to ease up on defense. The Oaktree Capital co-founder said that a number of conditions in the market have changed in recent weeks that make risk assets more attractive. “Given these new conditions, I no longer feel defense should be favored,” Marks said in one of his widely-read memos. He adds: “The risks in the environment are recognized and largely understood.” — Franck

7:22 am: Stock futures point to modest gains at the open

U.S. stock index futures are pointing to modest gains at the opening bell, after a volatile overnight trading session that saw swings between gains and losses. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is set to open 88 points, or 0.37%, higher, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq-100 are set to rise 0.2% and 0.4%, respectively.

Stocks closed little changed on Tuesday, but the numbers themselves disguise the action in the session. The Dow swung nearly 985 points from its high to low, before closing 26 points lower. Investors cheered positive coronavirus headlines and some of the sectors that have been hit the hardest since the pandemic began — such as airlines and cruise lines — moved sharply higher. But by the final hour of trading sentiment shifted and stocks gave back their gains.

Given Monday’s rally, the major averages are all still up more than 6% for the holiday-shortened week. – Stevens

– CNBC’s Maggie Fitzgerald, Patti Domm, Yun Li, Kevin Stankiewicz, Gina Francolla, Nate Rattner and Jeff Cox contributed reporting. 

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