The $2.2 trillion stimulus bill just passed by the Senate could not come soon enough and may not even be enough to support the suffocating economy, which may already be in a recession, according to Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell.
“We may well be in a recession” but there is “not anything fundamentally wrong with the economy,” he said on the “Today” show Thursday morning. “Confidence will return” when we get the spreading coronavirus under control, he said.
(Related: Senate Passes $2.2T Stimulus Package)
The coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. and globally is not under control. As of Friday, there are more than 550,000 cases globally, including more than 85,000 in the U.S — now No. 1 in cases in the world. More than 25,000 have died globally, including almost 1,300 in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University.
The economic toll, due to the shutdown of all but the most essential activities in much of the world, is also growing. In the U.S., 3.28 million people filed for unemployment in the week ended March 21, more than four times the previous record of 695,000 set in 1982, according to Bloomberg.
U.S. financial markets are reacting to the latest news. The three-month U.S. Treasury bill has a negative interest rate of 8 basis points while the 10-year Treasury yield is at 81 basis points. But U.S. stocks are rising in midday after two straight days of gains for the first time in over a month.
The S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average were up about 5%, boosted by news that the Senate finally passed a $2 trillion stimulus bill, which is more like a lifeboat for the economy and the largest legislative economic support package in U.S. history. The House is expected to vote Friday in a voice vote that won’t require members to return to the Capitol.
It’s uncertain that the $2.2 trillion package will be enough, even coupled with a massive support from the Federal Reserve, which has cut interest rates to near zero, reestablished its quantitative easing program, including purchases of corporate bonds for the first time, and lending programs for small and medium-size businesses and states and municipalities.
“More will be needed,” write Bank of America analysts. “The $ 2 trillion package is the bare minimum needed, in our view. We think Washington will need to ultimately enact close to $3tn in fiscal stimulus, comparable to the response during the Great Recession … Fiscal policy will have to remain expansionary because monetary policy space is much more limited compared to prior downturns.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York was also critical of the stimulus package because the state government will receive just $3.8 billion to help fill its budget gap.
“$3.8 billion sounds like a lot of money, but we’re looking at a revenue shortfall of [as much as] $15 billion,” said Cuomo, whose state is the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. “This virus has probably already cost us $1 billion, and it will probably cost us several billion dollars when we’re done.”
New York City, specifically, Cuomo said, will only receive $1.3 billion in the stimulus deal, which he called “a drop in the bucket, as to need.”
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