"The key at this point is getting a handle on the spread of the virus so that then we can start to think about what (economic) growth looks like for the remainder of the year," said Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at Baird.
The push to deliver financial relief is taking on more urgency as the outbreak continues to widen. The number of cases in the U.S. has now surpassed those in China and Italy, climbing to more than 86,000 known cases, according to Johns Hopkins University. The worldwide total has topped 550,000, and the death toll has climbed to more than 25,000, while more than 127,000 have recovered.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.
Investors have yet to get a clear picture of exactly how badly the crisis has hurt corporate profits, the ultimate driver of stock prices. Very few companies have dared to issue forecasts capturing the damage, though traders are girding for discouraging results in the next few weeks as earnings reporting season begins. Many companies have simply withdrawn their profit forecasts altogether.