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Record $2trn virus relief clears Senate hurdle but stocks sink again

Sky News logo Sky News 6 days ago James Sillars, business reporter
Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: Donald Trump is targeting a fightback for the US economy after Easter © Reuters Donald Trump is targeting a fightback for the US economy after Easter

Stock markets are on course for a fresh sell-off, unwinding two days of recovery, despite the $2trn (£1.7trn) US coronavirus relief scheme clearing its first hurdle.

The package of federal government help for the world's largest economy to battle disruption caused by COVID-19 overcame last-minute Democrat opposition to secure passage in a Senate vote overnight.

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More on coronavirus:

Kindness in crisis appeal: Help Britain's most vulnerable beat coronavirus

Virus killer: Why soap is the ultimate weapon in the global pandemic (Guardian)

How to self-isolate: Key steps to prevent the infection spreading (Vox)

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The House of Representatives will get its say on Friday. Donald Trump is then expected to sign the Bill into law.

a group of fighter jets fly through the air: Boeing 737 MAX planes were grounded a year ago after a second fatal crash © Other Boeing 737 MAX planes were grounded a year ago after a second fatal crash

Stock markets had rallied on Tuesday and Wednesday on hopes the measures - the largest programme of support ever initiated - would have a smooth passage as investors eye the prospect of a recession deeper than that caused by the financial crisis in 2008.

The package includes $58bn for the mostly-grounded airline industry - split between grants and loans to cover pay cheques - with companies drawing support unable to cut staff until the end of September or change their labour agreements.

a sign above a store: Intu also owns Manchester's Trafford Centre © Getty Intu also owns Manchester's Trafford Centre

Crisis-hit Boeing, already reeling from the grounding of the 737 MAX, gets $17bn.

It is understood most Americans would qualify for cheques of up to $1,200 each.

Unemployment benefits are also being expanded, with small businesses getting $367bn to help pay their staff as they are forced to stay home.

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Stimulus by governments and central banks globally has had a limited effect on supporting investor confidence - with stock market values more than 20% down, on average, ahead of Thursday's open.

After the jittery finish to trading in the US, the Nikkei in Tokyo was 4.5% down amid falls across Asia.

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In London, the FTSE 100 Index opened 2.7% lower.

A string of UK firms continued to report difficulties arising from the coronavirus crisis:

In a separate development, regulators said listed companies would be given an additional two months from the end of their financial years to publish their audited financial statements.

The Office for National Statistics also published retail sales data for February showing a flat performance.

Wet weather was blamed while there was also a delay to the shipment of popular goods from China as the country fought its battle against COVID-19.

Stay at home to stop coronavirus spreading - here is what you can and can't do. If you think you have the virus, don't go to the GP or hospital, stay indoors and get advice online. Only call NHS 111 if you cannot cope with your symptoms at home; your condition gets worse; or your symptoms do not get better after seven days. In parts of Wales where 111 isn't available, call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47. In Scotland, anyone with symptoms is advised to self-isolate for seven days. In Northern Ireland, call your GP.

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