Stocks were unsteady on Tuesday as Wall Street attempted a rebound from its sharpest drop since the outbreak of the coronavirus while investors waited for Washington lawmakers to protect the economy from a recession that may have already begun.

After early gains faded, the S&P 500 rose again and was up more than 3 percent at 11 a.m. in New York. Stock benchmarks in Europe were mostly higher Tuesday.

The S&P 500 had fallen 12 percent on Monday in what was also its biggest decline since the stock market crash of 1987.

Financial markets have been reeling as investors sharply ratchet down their expectations for the economy and look to the White House and Congress to help businesses and workers threatened by efforts to contain the pandemic.

There are few historical parallels for the shock waves created by the outbreak. From still-closed factories in China, to Western nations where millions of people are living in a state of semi-house arrest, most of the engines that keep the global economy aloft have simultaneously sputtered to a halt.

So far, the biggest measures have come from the Federal Reserve, which has slashed interest rates to near zero and announced other emergency measures to ensure the financial system keeps functioning. On Tuesday, the central bank said it would use its emergency lending powers to try to keep credit flowing to households and businesses by buying up commercial paper, short-term promissory notes companies use to fund themselves.

But the Fed hasn’t calmed investors’ nerves, and Washington has yet to authorize a large-scale plan to help.

“The Fed has a lot of tools in its tool kit. A vaccine isn’t one of them,” said Rick Rieder, chief investment officer of global fixed income at BlackRock. “And I think the markets are realizing that it’s going to be uncertain for a period of time.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is expected to make a pitch to Republican senators for additional fiscal firepower on Tuesday, with the Trump administration preparing to ask for about $850 billion in additional stimulus to support the economy.

The Federal Reserve announced Tuesday that it will try to keep credit flowing to households and businesses by buying up commercial paper, short term promissory notes companies use to fund themselves.

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The program, enacted using the Fed’s emergency lending powers, pulls a page from the central bank’s financial crisis playbook. Putting it into action required the signoff of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Treasury will provide $10 billion of credit protection to the Fed, using Treasury’s Exchange Stabilization Fund.

“Commercial paper markets directly finance a wide range of economic activity,” the Fed said in a statement, noting that it supplies “credit and funding for auto loans and mortgages as well as liquidity to meet the operational needs of a range of companies.”

The program will use a special vehicle to buy unsecured and asset-backed commercial paper from eligible companies, according to the release.

A group of Senate Democrats, led by Michael Bennet of Colorado, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, is proposing legislation to send as much as $4,500 to nearly every adult and child in the United States this year, as part of a sustained government income-support program to counter the economic slowdown from coronavirus.

The plan would start with a $2,000 payment to individuals that would be made as quickly as possible, phasing down for only the highest-income taxpayers. Each individual would receive another payment of $1,500 in July and further payments in October if the virus was continuing to hurt the economy, as measured by the unemployment rate or by declarations from the Treasury and Health and Human Services Departments.

Senators in both parties have rapidly coalesced in recent days around the idea of direct cash assistance to help Americans weather the shutdowns spurred by the spread of the virus. On Monday, Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, proposed an immediate $1,000 payment to individuals.

Airlines around the world are facing an unprecedented cash crunch and are in desperate need of government aid, the International Air Transport Association said Tuesday.

“We are in a very, very tough liquidity crisis, so we ask the governments to act urgently,” Alexandre de Juniac, the chief executive of the group, said.

While a few large carriers stand out, the typical airline started the year with about two months of cash on hand and many could face near-term bankruptcies, the group warned. To save the industry, governments may need to spend between $150 billion and $200 billion on airline bailouts, Mr. de Juniac estimated.

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In the United States, all four major airlines have taken out sizable loans in recent weeks, with Southwest Airlines announcing a $1 billion loan on Monday. A domestic industry group, Airlines for America, has called for more than $50 billion in grants, loans and tax relief, for U.S. carriers, a request for which the Trump administration has expressed support.

The speed and severity of the economic downturn means other industries are likely to follow in asking for bailouts, argues today’s DealBook newsletter.

Amazon said it would hire 100,000 new workers and raise pay by $2 an hour for many employees in response to a surge in delivery orders from people staying at home to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Amazon said the new jobs would include both full and part-time positions across the United States to staff its warehouses and make deliveries. The company encouraged people who lost work as a result of coronavirus-related shutdowns and cancellations to apply.

“We also know many people have been economically impacted as jobs in areas like hospitality, restaurants, and travel are lost or furloughed as part of this crisis,” the company said in a news release. “We want those people to know we welcome them on our teams until things return to normal and their past employer is able to bring them back.”

Amazon said it would also spend $350 million to raise pay by $2 or more an hour for workers staffing its enormous logistics operation in the United States, Britain and parts of Europe. The raises would last at least through April. In the United States, such workers start at $15 an hour.

Companies that power the supply chain are taking steps to make sure food keeps flowing to Americans in the coming weeks and months.

United Natural Foods Inc., one of the nation’s largest distributors of food to supermarkets, is planning to hire potentially thousands of out-of-work warehouse workers to staff its 59 distribution centers, the company’s chief executive, Steven L. Spinner, said.

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The distributor has been crushed by demand from grocery stores, but other food distributors like US Foods and Sysco, which supply restaurants and schools, are likely to experience significant layoffs as cities and states shut down public places.

UNFI, as the company is known, is making plans to hire the displaced workers to help relieve its employees, many of whom have been working 60 to 70 hours a week to keep up with the panic buying in supermarkets across the country. The hiring could take place as soon as next week.

  • Facebook announced a $100 million grant program for small businesses around the world that are impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. The company said in a blog post that it would begin accepting applications in the coming weeks.

  • Nordstrom said on Monday evening that it planned to temporarily close its stores — including Nordstrom Rack and Trunk Club — for two weeks starting on Tuesday. It will provide pay and benefits for store employees during that time. Sephora also said that it would close its retail stores in the U.S. and Canada through April 3, and pay employees for their scheduled shifts.

  • Volkswagen said Tuesday it would close most of its European factories because of the coronavirus. The aircraft manufacturer Airbus also said Tuesday it would suspend manufacturing in France and Spain for the next four days while it takes measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

  • The Philippine Stock Exchange on Tuesday became the first market to close over the coronavirus. In a memorandum on its website, it said trading would stop until further notice.

  • Laura Ashley, the British brand known for feminine prints and home furnishings inspired by the English countryside, has filed for administration, a form of bankruptcy protection. The company blamed the coronavirus pandemic.

Alexandra Stevenson, Jack Ewing, Jeanna Smialek, Jim Tankersley, Niraj Chokshi, Sapna Maheshwari, Liz Alderman, Michael Corkery, Jack Nicas, Daniel Victor, Kevin Granville and Carlos Tejada contributed reporting.



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