Stocks Continue To Languish As Small Business Loan Funds Are Depleted

Stock indices are continuing to pull back again on Thursday, trading near Wednesday’s lows, as concerns over the coronavirus pandemic continues, and stimulus money for small businesses has already been exhausted.

The Small Business Administration’s rescue loan program, a part of the stimulus package released recently, already reached its $349 billion limit on Thursday and has now been emptied as the key U.S. Republicans and Democrats struggle to agree on how to replenish its funds.

The SBA website currently states that it is “unable to accept new applications for the Paycheck Protection Program based on available appropriations funding. Similarly, we are unable to enroll new PPP lenders at this time.”

“Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy, employing 47% of all workers. In high-cost cities, the median small business has only enough cash to cover 2-3 weeks of expenses,” wrote Ron Temple, head of U.S. equity at Lazard Asset Management.

“It’s critical for both parties to recognize the unprecedented stress on small business and their employees from this crisis, and pass incremental funding as an urgent priority,” he added.

The announcement from the SBA on Thursday is happening even as a plethora of small American business owners are struggling to make ends meet after closing shop based on nonessential business regulations related to the coronavirus, along with a dearth in demand due to quarantined consumers and customers who are likely hoarding cash.
Markets are also still reeling from disastrous retail sales data that where consumer and manufacturing reports for March showed the damage to the economy from the coronavirus pandemic was even more catastrophic in the early weeks of the shutdown than first anticipated.

March retail sales fell 8.7%, the worst decline in government data, and New York regional manufacturing activity reached a trough as well, falling an eye-watering 78.2%. Industrial production also dropped  5.4% and manufacturing fell 6.3%, which was largely hammered by the 28% decline in auto production as plants closed.

“The economy is clearly in ruins here,” said Chris Rupkey, Chief Financial Economist at MUFG Union Bank. “Nobody is buying cars, down 25.6%, nobody is buying furniture, down 26.8%, and eating and drinking places were down 26.5%.”

Stocks are continuing to languish amid the news and data, with the S&P 500 slipping 0.77% Thursday as of around 1 PM EST. Meanwhile, the Dow Jones Industrial Average is trading around yesterday’s close, off slightly, while the Nasdaq Composite, which has performed the best recently, continues to hold up and is trading up 0.5%.

Stock Index ETFs are following equity markets lower as well, with the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY) and the SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average ETF (DIA) dropping slightly, and the Invesco QQQ Trust (QQQ), which has led the other stock index ETFs recently, up marginally on the day.

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