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9:14 am: U.S. stock futures jump as Bernanke says ‘very sharp’ recession will be followed by ‘fairly quick’ rebound

U.S. stock futures moved higher less than 20 minutes before the market opens. The Dow is now poised for a 360 point gain when stocks begin trading, with the S&P 500 and Nasdaq also set to open in the green.

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke sounded an optimistic tone on the longer-term state of the economy, predicting in a CNBC interview that while the U.S. is in the midst of a sharp recession, it shouldn’t last.”It is possible there’s going to be a very sharp, short, I hope short, recession in the next quarter because everything is shutting down of course,” he said.

“If there’s not too much damage done to the workforce, to the businesses during the shutdown period, however long that may be, then we could see a fairly quick rebound,” Bernanke later added. – Stevens, Cox

9:05 am: Bernanke says this is much closer to a natural disaster than the Great Depression

“Some of the field of volatility that you’re talking about, it’s really much closer to a major snow storm or a natural disaster than it is to a classic 1930s-style depression,” the former Federal Reserve Chairman said Wednesday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

“It’s quite different and you know different tools are necessary. I would like to emphasize that nothing is going to work – the Fed is not going to help, fiscal policies are not going to help – if we don’t get the public health right,” he added. – Stevens

8:56 am: Bernanke: Fed has been ‘extremely proactive’

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said that the Fed has been proactive in its efforts to shore up the economy, which has included slashing interest rates to near zero, as well as unlimited quantitative easing. 

“I think the Fed has been extremely proactive and Jay Powell and his team have been working really hard and got ahead of this,” he said. – Stevens, Sheetz

8:52 am: Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke says ‘very sharp’ recession coming

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the coronavirus will tilt the U.S. economy into a recession. “It’s going to be a very sharp, short – I hope short – recession in the next quarter or two,” he said Wednesday on CNBC’S “Squawk Box.” “You’re going to see some really scary numbers.”

That said, the former Fed Chair added that “we came into this with a much stronger banking system” than in 2007. – Stevens, Sheetz

8:42 am: Bill Ackman exits market hedges, uses $2 billion he made to buy more stocks including Hilton

Pershing Square’s Bill Ackman exited his market hedge positions earlier this week and used the more than $2 billion in proceeds to bulk up on his fund’s existing stakes as well as reinvest in coffee chain Starbucks.

In a letter to Pershing stakeholders, Ackman said the fund completed the exit from his bets against the market on March 23 and generated $2.6 billion compared with premiums paid and commissions totaling $27 million. He first announced his market hedges on March 3.

Ackman said he used the influx of cash to add to Pershing’s existing investments in Agilent, Berkshire Hathaway, Hilton, Lowe’s and Restaurant Brands. The fund also purchased “several new investments including reestablishing our investment in Starbucks,” which it had closed in January. – Franck

8:23 am: Target delays store remodels, withdraws forecast

Target is putting some of its ambitious growth plans on hold. The big-box retailer will put on hold plans to remodel hundreds of stores, postponing openings of new stores and delaying the addition of fresh groceries and beer to curbside pickup. Instead, Target CEO Brian Cornell said the retailer will focus on a singular mission: providing food, medicine and other essential items. He said Target is withdrawing its guidance for the first quarter and fiscal year because of the unpredictable business climate. — Repko

8:16 am: Bullard: Second quarter will be the biggest hit, but impact will be short-term

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard said that the coronavirus outbreak will be a large hit to second quarter GDP, but that the impact will be short-term. “This isn’t at all comparable to past events in US macro economic history,” he said, adding “as far as the timeline, no one really knows … for planning purposes, we want to think about the second quarter as the big hit quarter.

“If we can get this to work right, everything will snap back to normal when this is over,” he said. – Stevens, Sheetz

8:11 am: Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard says $2 trillion stimulus package looks right

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis President James Bullard said the $2 trillion stimulus bill that the White House and Congress agreed to early Wednesday morning “looks abought right.” “This is about relief, not stimulus,” he said Wednesday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” He also noted that Q2 real GDP “will be reduced on purpose to meet health objectives.” – Stevens, Sheetz

8:04 am: Markets can rise 15% by year-end, Credit Suisse’s Garthwaite says

Credit Suisse global equity strategist Andrew Garthwaite said in a note to clients that equity markets could gain 15% by the end of the year as global economies move past the coronavirus pandemic. Garthwaite said in the note that the low interest rates from aggressive central bank action, the success of Korea and China in returning to work and the historical patterns of bear markets all support the idea of a strong bounce back for the rest of the year. The investments in medical infrastructure should also limit the potential for a second wave of the virus in the fall, the note said. “We assume a six- to eight-week full lockdown in Europe and the US, before the majority of workers return, on the basis that in two to three months’ time treatments, testing and ventilators will be far more able to accommodate a second spike,” the note said. — Pound

7:55 am: Volatility is the name of the game

During the month of March, the Dow has had a daily average move (up or down) of 5.84%, while the S&P 500 has had a daily average move of 5.48%. That’s roughly 10 times the average daily move for each during 2019. – Schacknow

7:52 am: Gundlach says S&P 500 will rebound to 2,700 on this snap back

DoubleLine Capital CEO Jeffrey Gundlach said he expects the S&P 500 to rally to 2,700 on this market rebound.  “I can see the S&P 500 making it to around 2700 on this snap back,” Gundlach tweeted on Tuesday. This implies about a 10% from Tuesday’s closing level of 2,447.33. Stocks rallied on Tuesday on hopes of stimulus package from the U.S. government, which passed on Wednesday. The S&P 500 rallied 9.4% for its best day since October 2008 on Tuesday. – Fitzgerald

7:39 am: Spain reports record number of coronavirus deaths

Spain recorded a record number of deaths in one day from the virus, with 504 people passing away on Tuesday. Since the pandemic began, a total of 2,991 have died in the second-worst hit country in Europe.

There have been 42,058 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Spain, with the country’s capital, Madrid, home to the highest number of infections.

Given the unprecedented pressure on hospitals, funeral homes and crematoriums around Madrid, an ice rink in the city has been transformed into a temporary morgue. Palacio de Hielo, as it is known, received the first coffins on Monday. The freezing temperatures are expected to protect the bodies until funeral homes have the capacity to bury or cremate them. – Amaro

7:36 am: Cruise line stocks rise on stimulus hopes

Cruise lines, one of the hardest hit industries from the spreading coronavirus, rose in premarket trading on Wednesday after the White House and Senate agreed on a stimulus bill. Shares of Norwegian Cruise Lines jumped 12% premarket, after gaining 42% on Tuesday. Shares of Royal Caribbean Cruises rose 11% after rallying 22% on Tuesday and Carnival jumped 10% following its 14% gain on Tuesday. – Fitzgerald

7:31 am: Mortgage applications tank 29% as coronavirus sidelines homebuyers

An increase in interest rates, combined with a massive shutdown of the economy caused homeowners and potential homebuyers to back away from the mortgage market. Total mortgage application volume fell 29.4% last week from the previous week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association’s seasonally adjusted index. “Several factors pushed rates higher, including increased secondary market volatility, lenders grappling with capacity issues and backlogs in their pipelines, and remote work staffing challenges,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting. – Olick

7:30 am: Airlines surge on coronavirus stimulus package

Airline stocks rallied in premarket trading on Wednesday after the White House and Senate agreed on a $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the bill would “stabilize key national industries” to prevent as many layoffs as possible. Airline stocks have been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus as travel has slowed. Shares of American Airlines jumped 9% in premarket trading, after gaining 34% on Tuesday. United and Delta Air Lines rose more than 9%, after gaining 34% and 25%, respectively, on Tuesday. – Fitzgerald

7:15 am: Stock futures point to mixed picture at the open

The much awaited $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill got the greenlight early Wednesday morning, and the Street cheered the progress, sending Dow futures higher and pointing to an 800-point rally at the open. But gains started to fade around 7 a.m. ET, and futures turned negative. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is set to open 83 points lower. The S&P 500 and Nasdaq are also poised for modest losses at the open.

Stocks staged a historic rally on Tuesday, with the Dow gaining 11.37% in its best day since 1933, and its fifth best day in history. The 30-stock index’s 2,112.98 point gain was its largest on record. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 rose 9.38% in its best day since Oct. 2008.

Driving the gains was the hope that Congress was close to agreeing to a stimulus bill. The deal, which the White House and Senate leaders eventually agreed to early Wednesday, is a massive $2 trillion relief bill — said to be the largest rescue package in American history — to combat the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Senate has yet to release the final terms of the deal. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Senate will vote and pass the legislation later Wednesday. – Stevens

– CNBC’S Diana Olick, Peter Schacknow, Melissa Repko, Thomas Franck, Michael Sheetz and Silvia Amaro contributed reporting.

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