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Noah Zivitz

Managing Editor, BNN Bloomberg

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The Bank of Canada unexpectedly stole the spotlight this morning with a surprise half-point rate cut, taking its benchmark down to 0.25 per cent. The central bank cited "serious consequences" from COVID-19, as well as the crash in oil prices, as reasons for the cut. It's also dabbling in QE with a pair of new asset purchase programs. We'll have in-depth coverage throughout the day.

MARKETS LOWER

The TSX came just short of closing in bull market territory yesterday after a remarkable three-day surge, while the Dow Jones Industrial Average managed to exceed that 20 per cent threshold. This morning, at least as of the time of this writing, major European markets and U.S. futures are in the red. Lots of attention on data showing the United States has leapfrogged China with the world’s highest number of COVID-19 cases, at 85,991 as of 5:15 a.m. ET. Canada, meanwhile, is 14th with a little more than 4,000 cases. And this morning, one of the world’s highest-profile cases was confirmed when U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson disclosed via Twitter he tested positive. We’ll gather insight on how investors should brace for the weekend as virus numbers climb.

CANADIAN HEAVY CRUDE CRATERS

The price of Western Canada Select oil sank 30.6 per cent yesterday to US$6.45 per barrel. No need to elaborate. Plenty of need, however, for answers in terms of what the federal government is prepared to do to support Alberta and its oil patch workers at this time of profound economic hardship.

HOW FAR CAN FEDS PRESS THE BANKS?

Haven’t seen any formal statements yet from the banks about the prime minister’s comments yesterday regarding credit card relief. However, analyst commentary is starting to trickle in. Credit Suisse’s Mike Rizvanovic told his clients that card balances, at approx. two per cent of total loans, “punch above their weight in terms of profitability. Not a material impact for any Canadian bank, but would be a modest drag to revenue” if the government convinces banks to lower interest rates. Meanwhile, our Bloomberg News partners are reporting the finance department is also in talks with the banks about potential relief for small businesses. On that front, here's CTV Chief Financial Commentator Pattie Lovett-Reid’s take on what could be done to help that pillar of the economy.

IN CONVERSATION WITH MIRKO BIBIC

The CEO of BCE, BNN Bloomberg's parent company, joins Jon Erlichman this morning to discuss how the telco giant is faring at a time when the value of high-quality networks has probably never been greater, and to look ahead to what the future holds for the company on the other side of the health and economic crisis. Don’t miss it around 9:10 a.m. ET.

OTHER NOTABLE CORPORATE COVID-19 DEVELOPMENTS 

-SNC-Lavalin this morning joined the list of companies announcing cost-saving measures. Not a lot of specifics, but SNC did confirm executives are taking 20 per cent salary cuts and it also referred to an unspecified number of employees being furloughed.

-Lululemon posted 20 per cent growth in total revenue and same-store sales in its fiscal fourth quarter, but uncertainty tied to the virus compelled the retailer to balk at providing a full-year forecast.

-Reitmans announced last night it will temporarily lay off 90 per cent of its retail staff in Canada and 30 per cent of its head office employees while stating all of its 587 stores will remain shuttered until further notice.

-Magna International has withdrawn its financial forecasts while stating “investors should take comfort” in the auto parts maker’s US$4 billion in liquidity.

-Canfor has unveiled the latest curtailments to hit the forest products industry, including a 40 per cent reduction in Canadian lumber production. The company is also shaving $20 million from its capex budget.

-Horizon North Logistics says it’s cutting 2020 capital spending plans by two-thirds and reducing pay for its CEO, senior VPs, VPs, and also lowering compensation for its board of directors.

-Boston Pizza today said it’s temporarily laying off approximately half of its 192 corporate staff members in this country.

-Pearl Jam’s “Gigaton.” Sorry, couldn’t resist. It’s fantastic.

NOTABLE RELEASES/EVENTS

-Notable data: University of Michigan consumer sentiment index

-9:00 a.m. ET: Parliamentary Budget Officer releases report “Scenario Analysis: COVID-19 Pandemic and Oil Price Shocks” 

-Approx 9:00 a.m. ET: U.S. House to consider $2-trillion stimulus bill

-11:15 a.m. ET: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses Canadians from Ottawa

-12:00 p.m. ET: Federal government officials hold COVID-19 briefing in Ottawa

-1:00 p.m. ET: Ontario Premier Doug Ford leads provincial update on COVID-19

-5:00 p.m. ET: U.S. Coronavirus Task Force holds briefing at the White House

Every morning BNN Bloomberg's Managing Editor Noah Zivitz writes a ‘chase note’ to BNN Bloomberg's editorial staff listing the stories and events that will be in the spotlight that day. Have it delivered to your inbox before the trading day begins by heading to www.bnnbloomberg.ca/subscribe.