Business Maverick

March 25: Five Things You Need to Know to Start Your Day

By Bloomberg 25 March 2020
Caption
A school student light the 'Fire of Recovery' for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch exhibition in Fukushima, Japan, 24 March 2020. Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe and International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach agreed to postpone the Tokyo 2020 Olympics due to the coronavirus COVID19 pandemic. (Photo: EPA-EFE/JIJI PRESS)

The Olympic Games have officially been delayed, China’s government is facing the worst fiscal situation since the global financial crisis, and stocks in Asia look set to extend the global rally after the best session for U.S. stocks in almost a dozen years. Here are some of the things people in markets are talking about today. 

Olympic Disruption

The Olympic Games are now the biggest global event to be disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, along with the International Olympic Committee, agreed to delay the Tokyo Games by a year, the first postponement since the modern games began in the 19th century. Meanwhile, Singapore and Australia are the latest in a long list of countries to expand on strict social distancing measures designed to stymie the virus by shuttering events, bars, cinemas, religious services and other non-essential services, while India imposed a national lockdown for 21 days. In other virus developments, the U.S. could become a new hub of the outbreak, the World Health Organization warned. Still, President Donald Trump said he’s hoping to have the economy open again by Easter. Also, China prepared to lift its lockdown in Wuhan, the city at the centre of the original outbreak, while symptom-free cases suggest thew country’s problems are not over. Cases around the world have topped 409,000, leaving 18,246 dead, according to Johns Hopkins data.

Markets Rally

Stocks in Asia looked set to extend a global rally after the best session for U.S. stocks in almost a dozen years, with investors rediscovering some appetite for risk with Congress closing in on an unprecedented spending bill to prop up the slumping economy. The dollar dropped, halting a 10-day winning streak. Futures surged in Australia, Hong Kong and Japan, indicating gains could extend to a second day for Asia-Pacific shares. S&P 500 futures opened higher in Asia after the gauge soared more than 9% — the biggest one-day gain since October 2008. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose more than 11%, clocking its biggest advance since 1933. Elsewhere, emerging-market stocks jumped alongside their currencies. Oil added to gains. Still, about $26 trillion has so far evaporated from equity markets since mid-February.

Fiscal Fiasco

China’s government is facing the worst fiscal situation since the global financial crisis more than a decade ago, with revenue falling after the government shut down economic activity in February to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The income of central and local governments contracted 9.9% in the first two months of the year compared to a year ago. That was the deepest fall since February 2009. Tax revenue declined more than 11%, with drops in value-added taxes, corporate income taxes and car purchase taxes undercutting the government’s coffers just as it needs to find extra money to stimulate the economy. Spending also dropped, but a surge in outlays on health-care and social security kept the decline to 2.9% from a year ago. The tight fiscal conditions add to the urgency for the government to raise money from bond sales and allow a higher deficit in 2020.

Loggerheads

President Donald Trump’s “back-to-work’’ push is pitting billionaires against the doctors, where business leaders in the U.S. are getting impatient with the national economic shutdown caused by coronavirus. They’re increasingly echoing Trump, who hopes to open the economy by Easter, April 12. David Neeleman, who founded JetBlue and WestJet, said on Monday that the suffering from a huge economic downturn will outweigh the damage from the disease. “There’s too much confusion — nobody has jobs, people are losing their houses, kids are home from school,” he said by phone. Apple retail stores are planning to reopen nationally in the first half of April on a staggered basis. The thing is, state officials are still moving toward a shutdown. On Monday, governors and health officials in Indiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oregon and West Virginia became the latest to order residents to stay at home.

Stocking Up

SoftBank Group’s Masayoshi Son is continuing to bet on himself, even after he reportedly considered and then abandoned the idea of taking his conglomerate private. Son discussed the idea with investors including Elliott Management and the Abu Dhabi sovereign-wealth fund Mubadala in the past week, the Financial Times reported, before moving ahead with a plan to sell assets instead. But the Japanese billionaire is backing himself in other ways. A regulatory filing Tuesday shows his stake has risen to 26.9% from 25.5% and, with SoftBank’s shares gyrating wildly, he also pledged more stock against his holdings.

What We’ve Been Reading

This is what’s caught our eye over the past 24 hours.

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