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8:01 am: Powell’s message to Americans 

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell told Americans on Thursday the central bank is working hard to support them during these unprecedented financial conditions. “The Federal Reserve is working hard to support you now, and our policies will be very important when the recovery does come, to make that recovery as strong as possible,” Powell said on NBC’s “Today.” “Really the message is this: This is a unique situation, its not like a typical downturn. We’ve asked people to step back from economic activity really to make an investment in our public health. They’re doing that for the public good and this bill that’s just passed is going to try to provide relief and stability to those people,” Powell added. 

For the health piece of the crisis, the Fed chair said he defers to the specialists. “We would tend to listen to the experts,” said Powell. “Dr. Fauci said something like, the virus is going to set the time table and that sounds right to me.” — Fitzgerald 

7:54 am: Coronavirus cases near 500,000

The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus could surpass 500,000 today. There are currently more than 480,000 confirmed cases worldwide and at least 21,571 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. In the United States, there are at least 69,197 cases and more than 1,000 deaths.Spain’s health ministry announced on Thursday that it saw more than 8,000 new cases in 24 hours. The country now has over 4,000 deaths due to the virus, putting it ahead of China’s official data. —Pound

7:42 am: Senate passes $2 trillion stimulus bill

The Senate passed a $2 trillion bill aimed at stimulating the economy amid the coronavirus outbreak. The legislation, which now heads to the House, includes direct payments to individuals, stronger unemployment insurance, loans and grants to businesses and more health-care resources for hospitals, states and municipalities. It includes requirements that insurance providers cover preventive services for COVID-19. The bill passed with a unanimous 96-0 vote. —Imbert, Pramuk

7:32 am: Powell says Fed won’t ‘run out of ammunition’

In an interview with NBC’s “Today” show, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said the central bank will have enough tools to mitigate the economic blow from the coronavirus. “When it comes to this lending, we’re not going to run out of ammunition, that doesn’t happen,” Powell said. “The Federal Reserve is working hard to support you now, and our policies will be very important when the recovery does come, to make that recovery as strong as possible.” —Imbert

7:28 am: Jobless claims could be record-breaking

Economists are forecasting between 1 million and 4 million claims were filed last week as businesses around the country are forced to at least partially shut down due to the coronavirus outbreak. A number along that range would be unprecedented, particularly in such a short period of time. However, the numbers could be far worse. California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday afternoon the state alone has seen 1 million unemployment claims since March 13. —Imbert

7:05 am: Stock futures lower, awaiting jobless claims

Stock futures pointed to losses at the open as investors braced for what could be a record-breaking number of Americans filing for unemployment. The Dow Jones Industrial Average futures indicated an opening drop of more than 100 points at Thursday’s open. S&P 500 futures and Nasdaq-100 futures pointed to opening losses of about 1%.

The jobless claims data will be released at 8:30 a.m. ET. The official consensus estimate from Dow Jones is calling for 1.5 million claims but Citigroup believes it may be as high as 4 million. Either way, it is likely to be a record.

On Wednesday, the Dow climbed nearly 500 points on hopes of a coronavirus stimulus bill from congress, which was passed by the Senate late on Wednesday and will now head to the House of Representatives. The S&P 500 also registered a gain, climbing 1.1%. The Nasdaq Composite was the relative underperformer, dipping 0.5%, as the so-call FAANG stocks closed in the red. – Fitzgerald 

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