Global cases of the coronavirus topped 1.5 million, less than a week after surpassing the 1 million mark. New York, the U.K. and Belgium reported their deadliest days so far. Spain’s fatalities and new cases rose to the highest in four days. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is stable and responding to treatment at a London hospital. The World Health Organization chastised the U.S. and China in unusually stern comments, saying the superpowers should work together to show “honest leadership” or risk transforming the pandemic into a bigger crisis. And debate is starting over when to end lockdowns: Germany and Italy are beginning to debate how to gradually relax some restrictions on public life as Europe slowly inches closer to bringing strict rules designed to contain the spread of the coronavirus to an end. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control warned Europe not to rush into lifting restrictions that are helping slow the spread of the pandemic. The White House is developing plans to get the U.S. economy back in action. Here is a roundup of the latest virus news.
Stocks in Asia were poised for gains after a strong session on Wall Street, with investors assessing how far the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. is away from its peak and when the economy will be able to ramp up again. Oil surged amid expectations for production cuts. Futures rose in Japan, Hong Kong and Australia. The S&P 500 Index jumped 3.4%, sending the gauge up more than 20% from its March 23 low. Oil spiked after Algeria confirmed that the OPEC+ emergency meeting will discuss an output cut of 10 million barrels per day.
Russia is ready to make a deep cut in oil production, putting a global output deal within reach, as pressure mounts on oil-exporting countries to mitigate the worsening demand impact of the coronavirus crisis. An emergency meeting of the OPEC+ coalition on Thursday will discuss a “massive output reduction,” Algerian Energy Minister Mohamed Arkab, who holds OPEC’s rotating presidency, told the state news agency. His statement came as Russia’s energy ministry said Moscow is ready to reduce output by 1.6 million barrels a day, or about 15%, as part of a deal that includes producers in OPEC+ and beyond. On Friday, oil ministers from G-20 countries will discuss whether to make their own contributions. President Donald Trump has put huge diplomatic pressure on Russia and Saudi Arabia, the world’s two largest exporters, to end a monthlong price war and rein in production.
Many Australians have never really experienced recessions due to the country’s enviable record of almost 30 years without one. But that has come with a less desirable record of highly indebted households and sky-high property prices. This raises the risk that the recovery from the coronavirus could taker longer and could increase financial stability concerns if people can’t cover their loans. Household debt is almost double disposable income, twice the level of the U.S., and well over a year’s annual output. Mainstream economists and the central bank have long argued that while people have jobs and can service those loans, the risk of a hard landing is slim. Now many are queueing for welfare to help meet their mortgage payments. Australia’s parliament passed a record A$130 billion ($80 billion) jobs-rescue plan late Wednesday.
Japan’s three biggest automakers are poised to add almost 32,000 people to the unprecedented ranks of North American workers seeking unemployment benefits. While Toyota Motor Corp. isn’t furloughing any of its direct employees in the U.S., Canada or Mexico, the carmaker said Wednesday that it will no longer pay the roughly 5,000 people that temp agencies employ to help staff its idled plants in the region. The company will continue to provide benefits for the time being. Toyota’s North American unit announced the cost-cutting move a day after Japanese peers Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. said they would temporarily stop paying all staff at their idled U.S. plants and ask them to file for states’ unemployment benefits. Honda’s decision affects 16,900 employees, while Nissan said it will furlough roughly 10,000 workers.
What we’ve been reading
This is what’s caught our eye over the last 24 hours.
- Australia passes record $80 billion employment rescue package.
- Hong Kong unveils “unprecedented” $18 billion virus relief.
- Fed bought time with emergency cut while eyeing new programs.
- Wuhan is returning to life. So are its disputed wet markets.
- A red-hot stock picker is turning away billions in new cash.
- Thailand’s resort island of Phuket is now its coronavirus hotspot.
- International travel could be off the table for six months.