5 things to know before the stock market opens on May 19, 2020

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1. Dow clears most losses after strong Walmart profits

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will testify virtually before the Senate Banking Committee at 10 a.m.ET. This is the first Congress update required by the $ 2.2 trillion coronavirus rescue program approved in March. Senators are expected to question Powell and Mnuchin about the actions that are still needed to keep the world’s largest economy afloat.

Housing construction in the United States fell to its lowest level in five years in April, highlighting fears that the coronavirus crisis will cause the largest economic contraction in the second quarter since the Great Depression. Housing starts fell 30.2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 891,000 units last month. Data for March has been revised to show that residential construction is decreasing at 1.276 million units instead of dropping to 1.216 million units as previously reported.

2. History of two Dow shares

Walmart shares rose more than 3% in Tuesday’s pre-market after retail giant said online investments have helped the company meet growing consumer demand for d groceries, cleaning supplies and other essentials to stay at home during the coronavirus epidemic. The US department store’s online sales jumped 74% and its same-store sales increased 10% in the first quarter. Walmart, like many other companies, has withdrawn its forecast for 2020 due to the uncertainty of the pandemic.

Home Depot shares fell about 1.5% in Tuesday’s pre-market after home improvement chain announced strong first-quarter sales increase, but profits were weighed by additional costs to the coronavirus crisis. The Home Depot has also suspended its outlook for 2020. Last month, The Home Depot canceled the main spring seasonal promotions that are driving pedestrian traffic in stores.

3. Dimon wants to rebuild the economy for everyone

Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase, appears on CNBC’s Squawk Box at the World Economic Forum 2020 in Davos, Switzerland, January 22, 2020.

Adam Galica | CNBC

JPMorgan Chase President and CEO Jamie Dimon said in a memo that the coronavirus crisis should be used to build an economy that provides opportunities for “considerably more people.” Before Tuesday’s annual shareholder meeting, Dimon detailed the measures the bank has taken to support customers and employees since the crisis began two months ago, as well as his thoughts on returning employees to construction sites . In his annual letter from last month, Dimon said he expects the pandemic to lead to a “bad recession” and elements of financial stress similar to the 2008 recession. Dimon, 64, returned to JPMorgan after a heart procedure in March to find an industry at a critical time.

4. Trump threatens to cut funding for WHO, reveals he is taking hydroxychloroquine

US President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with restaurant executives in the White House State Dining Room in Washington, DC, United States, Monday, May 18, 2020. Trump said that he was currently taking hydroxychloroquine, the antimalarial drug he promoted as a treatment to fight coronavirus infections.

Doug Mills | Bloomberg | Getty Images

President Donald Trump has threatened to cut US funding for the World Health Organization permanently if the international health agency does not make “significant substantive improvements in the next 30 days.” Trump cut off US funding for the WHO last month as his administration reviewed the agency’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The president also said that he has been taking hydroxychloroquine daily for more than a week to prevent coronavirus infection, even though the antimalarial drug is not a proven treatment for Covid-19. “I happen to take it,” said Trump at a White House roundtable on Monday. “A lot of good things have come out. You would be surprised at the number of people who take it, especially the front line workers. Before catching it. “

5. White House announces contract to bring back drug manufacturing

White House Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Peter Navarro speaks as President Donald Trump and education secretary Betsy DeVos during a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic in the press room of the White House March 27, 2020 in Washington, DC.

Drew Angerer | Getty Images

The Trump administration plans to announce a $ 354 million deal with a new Virginia-based company, Phlow Corp., on Tuesday to cut manufacturing of generic drugs and pharmaceutical ingredients from abroad, according to the New York Times. . The initial contract is expected to last four years, but could be extended to 10 years to reach $ 812 million. The White House has worked to bring drug manufacturing to the United States, arguing that the coronavirus pandemic has revealed that the nation is too dependent on foreign suppliers.

Ivanka Trump, daughter and advisor to the president, held the first meeting of the American Workforce Policy Advisory Board on Tuesday. Axios said the virtual meeting will feature CEOs, including Tim Cook of Apple. The White House says the discussion will focus on “the need for better digital infrastructure and home connectivity”.

Reuters contributed to this report. Follow all the developments on Wall Street in real time with the CNBC live markets blog.

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