- The NFIB Small Business Optimism Index for March registered the largest one-month decline in the survey’s 46-year history
- The Producer Price Index and Consumer Price Index fell 0.2% and 0.4%, respectively, in March
- The yield on the ICE BofA US Corporate Bond Index fell from 3.68% to 3.27%
Top Three Market Headlines
Fed Expands Lending to Help Main Street: The Federal Reserve last week unveiled a series of lending programs designed to support businesses, cities, and states affected by revenue declines resulting from COVID-19 containment measures. The programs, which total $2.3 trillion, include increased lending via previously-established credit facilities, plus the creation of two new programs: a Main Street Lending Program that will provide low-interest loans to mid-sized businesses, and a Municipal Liquidity Facility to support lending to states and cities. The Fed’s announcement came on the heels of a disappointing reading for the NFIB Small Business Optimism Index, which fell 8.1 points to 96.4 in March, the largest monthly decline in the survey’s history.
Consumer and Producer Prices Drop: Declining oil prices and COVID-19-related business shutdowns are exerting downward pressure on prices for goods and services, based on reports released last week by the U.S. Department of Labor. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) fell 0.4% in March from the prior month, driven by a 10.5% decline in the price of gasoline, while prices for airfares, hotel rooms, and apparel also fell. Falling gasoline prices also produced a 0.2% drop for the month in the Producer Price Index (PPI), which measures selling prices received by producers. In the 12 months through March, the PPI gained just 0.7%, a notable slowdown from the 1.3% mark reported in February.
U.S. Credit Markets Stabilize: After a tumultuous March, U.S. credit markets have begun to show signs of stabilizing in the wake of Federal Reserve actions to purchase various forms of public debt. Last week, yield spreads—the amount of extra yield that investors demand over comparable maturity Treasury bonds—narrowed across investment grade and high yield corporate bonds, while securitized debt, backed by everything from mortgages and student loans to car loans—has rebounded as well. In addition, the primary issuance market, where companies raise funds from investors, showed signs of thawing with the offering of a select number of deals in the high yield and leveraged loan markets.