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Wall St. Caps a Turbulent Week With a Decline

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Wall Street ended a volatile week with a drop, as investors braced themselves for more bad news on the coronavirus pandemic and considered fresh data showing the economic damage that it has already caused.

The S&P 500 fell about 1.5 percent on Friday. Selling at the end of the week has become something of a routine on Wall Street lately, with analysts saying that it reflects caution over what news the weekend might bring. Since the stock market peaked in February, shares have fallen on every Friday, bar one.

The exception was March 13, when President Trump held a late afternoon news conference in which he promised that a number of businesses, from Google to Walmart, would support the efforts to contain the coronavirus.

On Friday, investors were presented with more painful — if no longer surprising — economic data. The monthly employment report from the Labor Department that showed the nearly decade-long run of job growth had ground a halt in March. And a new reading of economic activity in Europe for last month registered its biggest ever drop.

Oil remained a bright spot, with crude futures continuing a rally that began on Thursday on hopes that the world’s major oil producers might cut supply.

A Friday night tradition — crisis-driven bank failures — may be returning to the United States.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation on Friday took control of the First State Bank, based in Barboursville, W.Va. The agency sold the bank’s deposits and most of its assets to a neighbor in the same state, MVB Bank of Fairmount.

First State Bank’s president was the great-grandson of its founder. As of late Friday afternoon, its website still displayed a video that narrated its 115-year history. But its $140 million in deposits were no longer its own.

“The First State Bank has experienced longstanding capital and asset quality issues, operating with financial difficulties since 2015,” the F.D.I.C. said in a news release on Friday.

As economic activity continues to plunge and millions of borrowers struggle to make payments on mortgages and other loans, more lenders are likely to fall.

And there’s a reason the failures become known on Friday nights. When a bank fails, employees from the F.D.I.C. essentially rush the building at closing time, take control of its systems to prevent any illicit money transfers by employees, and begin a preplanned ownership transition that is meant to ensure the bank’s customers never experience an interruption in service.

In January 2008, small banks began to succumb to what was eventually called the Great Recession, and by the following year, there was at least one failure — but often several — every Friday night for months.

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Credit...Zack Wittman for The New York Times

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Friday evening that more than 800 banks participated in the Small Business Administration lending program on its first day and that he expected all of the big banks would be ready to accept loan applications by next week.

By Friday evening, more than 10,000 loans totaling more than $3.2 billion dollars had been processed.

It was all part of a scramble by small businesses around the country to stay alive by grabbing a piece of a Treasury Department program. But business owners found that applying for the money was harder than they had anticipated.

Lenders had received guidance from the Treasury Department only the night before. On top of that, banks imposed their own rules on which businesses could borrow.

For small-business owners, many of whom have run out of cash to pay salaries and rent, time was everything. Fearful that the money will run out, they flooded banks with calls and emails as they tried to get to the front of the line.

Mr. Mnuchin said that people whose applications were not filed and approved yet should not worry about missing out and that the $350 billion fund would be replenished if necessary.

“If we run out of money, we’re going to go back to Congress and get more money for small business,” Mr. Mnuchin said on the Fox Business Network.

It was an abrupt end to a landmark stretch of job creation — 113 months in a row, more than twice the previous record.

Compared with the numbers of people recently applying for unemployment benefits — nearly 10 million in the previous two weeks — the figure announced Friday was modest: a loss of 701,000 jobs. But the data was mostly collected in the first half of the month, before stay-at-home orders began to cover much of the nation.

“This is nothing compared to what we’re going to see,” said Stephanie Pomboy, president of MacroMavens, an independent research firm. Indeed, the March unemployment rate of 4.4 percent may be replaced by double digits as soon as next month. But it was the largest monthly increase in the rate, by 0.9 percentage points, since January 1975.

The Congressional Budget Office said on Thursday that it expected unemployment to top 10 percent for the second quarter of 2020 — as high as the peak in the last recession — and to remain at 9 percent at the end of 2021.

The United States should join with Russia and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in cutting crude oil production to help prop up global oil prices, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said Friday, in a suggestion that would turn upside down decades of American oil policy.

Mr. Putin, speaking in a video conference with directors of Russian oil companies from his country residence, where he has been in seclusion because of the coronavirus outbreak, said Russia was willing to help stabilize the market by joining other countries in a cutting 10 million barrels of oil in output.

“I think we need to unite forces to balance the market and limit, with these coordinated actions, oil production,” he said.

The United States has cheered OPEC, the global oil cartel, when it increases output to lower prices, but as the world’s largest consumer of crude oil, it has never pursued policies to raise prices.

President Trump and major oil executives met on Friday afternoon to discuss industry problems but they came to no public agreement to make production cuts.

Walgreens said on Friday that it would supply face covers to workers in its stores, including pharmacy staff, and in its distribution centers.

It is also installing plexiglass shields at pharmacy and checkout counters in “select markets” and aims to use them across its chain. The company also said that it will conduct health screenings, including temperature checks, at distribution centers and other locations.

The announcement came as pressure has increased on retail chains deemed essential enough to remain open to provide additional protections for their employees, who are working in some of the few places where Americans are still able to congregate.

Masks, in particular, have become a point of contention, with some employees complaining that they are not allowed to wear masks even if they brought their own. Walmart and Target have said in recent days that they will begin providing face coverings to their staffs.

Congress has earmarked $454 billion for Federal Reserve programs that are meant to keep credit flowing to businesses, states and local governments — funding that could help it to fend off a worst-case scenario for the United States economy.

During troubled times, the Fed can lend more or less directly to companies and governments using its emergency authorities. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin must sign off on the programs, and the Treasury Department backstops the programs with a layer of funding meant to absorb losses.

The central bank’s actions so far, taken when the Treasury had far less money to provide backup, offer a rough outline of how it might use the new appropriation.

For individuals: The Fed is rolling out one lending program that gives eligible companies cheap loans in exchange for asset-backed securities — basically, bundles of debt — built on newly issued credit card debt, student loans, auto loans and the like. By creating a big incentive, the program should make loans available and cheaper for consumers.

For small businesses: The main support for small business is coming from the Small Business Administration, but the Fed is also taking bundles of business-related loans as collateral for loans, which could help smaller companies gain access to financing.

For big businesses: The Fed has unveiled several programs to help. One will support a type of short-term funding known as commercial paper, and another will buy company debt secondhand. A third program will buy newly issued debt or make direct loans to corporations.

For local governments: The Fed has unveiled a couple of programs that are helping municipal bond markets by allowing banks to use some types of local debt as collateral to get loans.

Hedge funds and private equity firms are pursuing ways to profit off the current crisis much as they did during the 2008 financial meltdown, as the recent misfortune of American businesses creates new moneymaking opportunities for big investors that have been relatively unscathed by the pandemic.

With hundreds of billions of dollars sitting in reserve, these firms are plotting strategies to extend high-interest loans to companies, especially smaller, already troubled ones that banks have largely shunned over the past decade. Private equity firms, in particular, are also exploring buying minority stakes in public companies, which would provide them with an immediate cash infusion.

But for companies exploring these so-called alternative lending options, the relief may come at a high cost.

“The problem for companies today is everybody has less money, and the cost of capital has just gone up a lot,” said Marc Lasry, co-founder of Avenue Capital Group, a $14 billion investment firm that specializes in distressed assets and loans to medium-size businesses.

Companies that spent big on advertising before the pandemic have hit the brakes.

Facebook has described its advertising business as “weakening.” Amazon has reduced its Google Shopping ads. Coca-Cola, Kohl’s and Zillow Group have stopped or limited their marketing. Marriott’s advertising, in the words of the company’s chief executive, has “gone dark.”

“A lot of advertisers are just pulling back — the tide’s going out,” said Garrett Johnson, an assistant marketing professor at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business.

During the Great Recession, more than $60.5 billion in global ad spending evaporated, according to the WARC research group. It took eight years for the industry to fully recover.

Industry observers say the new crisis may be worse.

“It was a seismic shock, possibly the biggest we have faced, ever,” said Harris Diamond, the chief executive of the advertising company McCann Worldgroup.

  • Disney said on Friday that it would release its big-budget “Mulan” on July 24, and Paramount Pictures said on Thursday that it would roll out “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” on July 31. Disney also announced new plans for a dozen other movies stretching into 2022, including the Marvel film “Black Widow,” now set for November. “Artemis Fowl,” will now be released on Disney Plus, the company’s streaming service, but not date was set.

  • Walmart announced new steps to encourage social distancing in its stores. Starting Saturday, the retailer will limit the number of customers who can be in a store at the same time, and next week, it will put into place a system of one-way movement through the aisles.

  • The chief executive of Delta told employees on Friday that the airline expected revenue in the second quarter to be 90 percent lower than the same quarter last year, a downward revision from just two weeks ago when the company warned of an 80 percent decline. And the chief executive of JetBlue warned that April revenue was expected to be about 95 percent lower than last year. Both companies, along with United Airlines, said they had submitted applications for federal stimulus funds to pay employees through September.

  • Grupo Modelo, the brewer behind Corona, Modelo and other beers, said in a statement on Thursday that it was suspending its beer production after the Mexican government ordered nonessential businesses to close in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

  • Hobby Lobby, which had defied stay-at-home orders by opening some stores, said it would close the remainder of its stores at 8 p.m. on Friday. The retailer also said it would furlough most of its employees without pay.

Reporting was contributed by Clifford Krauss, Emily Flitter, Brooks Barnes, Sapna Maheshwari, Jeanna Smialek, Michael Corkery, Nelson D. Schwartz, Patricia Cohen, Alan Rappeport, Stanley Reed, Peter Eavis, Andrew E. Kramer, Rachel Abrams, Tiffany Hsu, Niraj Chokshi, David Gelles, Daisuke Wakabayashi, Keith Bradsher, Jim Tankersley, Julie Creswell, Mohammed Hadi, Carlos Tejada and Daniel Victor.

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