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Volatile day for US shares as industry awaits bailout news

written by Adam Thorn | March 18, 2020

Shares in US airlines endured a volatile day on the markets as businesses awaited the details of a potential government bailout.

United and Delta swung six dollars and American three as events changed on an hour-by-hour basis.

Boeing saw an even more dramatic 24 hours, with shares peaking at $132 at the start of trading but crashing to $105 before recovering to $124 at close. The volatility came a day after rating agency Standard & Poor’s downgraded the planemaker to ‘BBB’ from ‘A-’.

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On Tuesday morning, President Donald Trump tweeted that he would be “powerfully supporting” airlines and the wider industry to beat what he called the “Chinese Virus”.

While the industry looks set for help, it’s unclear over what form it will take and how generous it would be.

On Monday, Airlines for America, a trade body that represents Delta, United and American, called on the US government to provide an immediate bailout.

The organisation said, “This is a today problem, not a tomorrow problem. It requires urgent action.”

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It added the coronavirus crisis “appears to have no end in sight” and urged the government to provide grants, loans and tax relief. It called its impact “staggering”.

Meanwhile, industry analysts the Centre of Aviation (CAPA) went further, dramatically warning that “most” airlines would be bankrupt by the end of May.

The organisation warned, “Co-ordinated government and industry action is needed – now – if catastrophe is to be avoided.

“As the impact of the coronavirus and multiple government travel reactions sweep through our world, many airlines have probably already been driven into technical bankruptcy, or are at least substantially in breach of debt covenants.

“While governments are grappling with the health challenges of coronavirus, it is clear that there is little instinct to act co-operatively. Messages are mixed and frequently quite different.”

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