Many kinds of businesses, from airlines to restaurants, are staring into an abyss as commerce comes to standstill. The US Federal Reserve yesterday announced its most aggressive measures to date, aiming to prevent a credit crunch by slashing interest rates and giving banks the green light to support clients even if it eats into their capital holdings. The Fed’s efforts could buy time and reduce defaults until other measures are activated to stem the crisis.

Even so, Fed chair Jerome Powell acknowledged that health authorities and government spending will be much more potent than the central bank for getting society through the crisis. Based on the market’s reaction—with the fear gauge rocketing and stock markets plunging—traders seem to agree.

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