Business Maverick

Business Maverick

April 14: Five Things You Need to Know to Start Your Day

An EMS worker decontaminates an ambulance in Yonkers, New York on April 6.

Europe is prepping for extended lockdowns, while some states in the U.S. are gearing up to reopen their economies. Demand for oil has dried up, just after a historic OPEC+ alliance agreement on cutting supply. And the car industry faces troubling months ahead. Here are some of the things people in markets are talking about today. 

Virus Update

States on both U.S. coasts formed coalitions to plan for coordinated reopenings of their economies after President Donald Trump insisted he would have the final say on when the country would reopen. President Emmanuel Macron of France extended the nation’s lockdown to May 11, and the U.K. is also planning to extend its own lockdown this week, according to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab as he said that he expected the daily rate of deaths to continue to rise. Elsewhere, doctors in India are coming under attack as stigma surrounding the virus there grows, and thousands of passengers stuck on the “cruise to nowhere” spent Easter confined to the ship. On the vaccine front, progress is occurring at unprecedented speed, with 70 of them currently in development — three of which are being tested in human trials, the World Health Organization said. The head of the agency said it has a “very good” relationship with Trump, who has threatened to cut off funding to the group. Global cases reached 1.9 million, and deaths topped 118,000. Here are the latest virus developments.

Markets Mixed

Asian stocks looked set for a mixed start to Tuesday ahead of one of the most uncertain earnings seasons on record as the coronavirus pandemic rattles the global economy. U.S. equities retreated. Futures in Japan pointed to a modest rise, while stock markets in Hong Kong and Australia reopen after holidays. The S&P 500 Index closed lower though the Nasdaq managed to gain. Oil slipped as investors weighed whether an unprecedented deal by the world’s biggest producers to cut output could stabilize the market, while treasuries and the dollar retreated.

Backfiring Bets

SoftBank Group forecast a 1.35 trillion yen ($12.5 billion) operating loss for the fiscal year ended in March, a sign of how badly Masayoshi Son’s bets on technology startups have been battered in recent months. The Japanese company expects to record a 1.8 trillion yen loss from its Vision Fund and another 800 billion yen in losses from SoftBank’s own investments. It has written down the value of investments in companies, including office-rental startup WeWork and satellite operator OneWeb, which filed for bankruptcy last month. Son’s conglomerate has taken one blow after another since the implosion of WeWork’s initial public offering last year and SoftBank’s subsequent bailout. It bet heavily on sharing-economy startups, which allow people to split the use of offices or cars, but those investments have been particularly hard hit as the coronavirus pandemic curbs unnecessary human interaction. Needless to say, investors have become increasingly spooked about the stability of Son’s empire and its $100 billion Vision Fund amid the virus outbreak. Shares tumbled at one point more than 50% from their peak this year, and SoftBank’s credit default swaps — the cost of insuring debt against default — spiked to their highest levels in about decade.

Dried Up Demand

Oil in London eked out a modest gain on Monday as investors weighed whether an unprecedented deal by the world’s biggest producers to cut output could stabilize the market reeling from the coronavirus pandemic. Futures rose less than 1% after earlier surging 8% following the OPEC+ alliance agreement to slash production by 9.7 million barrels a day starting in May. West Texas Intermediate fell 1.5%, and the May-June timespread moved deeper into contango, indicating that traders see the physical glut worsening even with the output cuts. The group reached the deal following days of intense negotiations after Mexico declined to endorse the original agreement reached Thursday. The problem is, while the OPEC+ deal amounts to the largest coordinated cut in history, it’s dwarfed by the estimated 20 million barrels a day or greater decline in oil consumption as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Car Crash

The auto industry — already fretting lengthy factory shutdowns and depressed new-vehicle demand — is starting to sound the alarm about a potential used-car price collapse that could have far-reaching consequences for manufacturers, lenders and rental companies. Used-vehicle auctions are for now virtually paralyzed, much like the rest of the economy. The grave concern market watchers have is that vehicles already are starting to pile up at places where buyers and sellers make and take bids on cars and trucks — and that this imbalance will last for months. If that fear is realized and prices plummet, it will be detrimental to automakers and their in-house lending units, which likely will have to write down the value of lease contracts that had assumed vehicles would retain greater value. Rental-car companies also will get less money from selling down their fleet of vehicles, which are sitting idle amid the global pandemic. But on the electric-car front, Tesla rose for a sixth straight session, capping 43% in the longest run since early February.

What We’ve Been Reading

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


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