Asian shares climb on China data, Wall Street rally
BANGKOK (AP) — Shares surged today in Asia after China reported economic data that, while dismal, was better than expected.
Japan’s Nikkei 225 index jumped 3.2% and the Hang Seng in Hong Kong advanced 1.4%. The Shanghai Composite index gained 0.6%, while Australia’s S&P ASX 200 rose 1.3%. South Korea’s Kospi surged 3.1% despite the release of data showing the country lost 195,000 jobs in March from a year earlier, ending a decade-long run in payroll gains.
Other markets in Asia also advanced.
U.S. futures are higher, with the contract for the S&P 500 up 2.9% while that for the Dow industrials gained 3.4%.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-LARGEST ECONOMIES
Coronavirus hits world’s largest economies hard in China, U.S.
BEIJING (AP) — Bleak figures from the world’s two largest economies underscore how quickly the coronavirus is delivering a massive economic blow.
China is reporting that GDP shrank 6.8% from a year ago in the quarter ending March, its worst contraction since before market-style economic reforms began in 1979. And in the U.S., the world’s largest economy, the ranks of the unemployed swelled toward levels last seen during the Great Depression.
Still, the economic data from China was not as bad as some had feared, prompting shares in Asia to surge. That was after Wall Street also rose, powered by buying of Amazon, health care stocks and other market niches that are thriving in the coronavirus crunch.
The recovery for workers is likely to take a long time, however. Some forecasters earlier said China might rebound as early as this month, but they have been cutting growth forecasts and pushing back recovery timelines as negative trade, retail sales and other data pile up.
The U.S. government reported 5.2 million more Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the four-week total to 22 million — easily the worst stretch of U.S. job losses on record. The losses translate to about 1 in 7 American workers.
Trump gives governors road map for economic recovery
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has given governors a road map for recovering from the economic pain of the coronavirus pandemic, laying out “a phased and deliberate approach” to restoring normal activity in places that have strong testing and are seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases.
The new guidelines are aimed at easing restrictions in areas with low transmission of the coronavirus, while holding the line in harder-hit locations. They make clear that the return to normalcy will be a far longer process than Trump initially envisioned, with federal officials warning that some social distancing measures may need to remain in place through the end of the year to prevent a new outbreak. And they largely reinforce plans already in the works by governors, who have primary responsibility for public health in their states.
Places with declining infections and strong testing would begin a three-phase gradual reopening of businesses and schools.
U.N. General Assembly faces Monday deadline to consider draft resolution calling for global action.
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. General Assembly has until Monday to consider a draft resolution calling for global action to rapidly scale up development, manufacturing and access to medicine, vaccines and medical equipment to confront the coronavirus pandemic.
The proposed resolution obtained by The Associated Press requests Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to work with the World Health Organization and recommend options to ensure timely and equitable access to testing, medical supplies, drugs and future coronavirus vaccines for all in need, especially in developing countries.
The measure, drafted by Mexico and co-sponsored by about 75 countries, encourages all countries to work in partnership to increase research and funding for vaccines and medicine, and to strengthen international scientific cooperation to combat the coronavirus.
Boeing to restart airplane production in Seattle
NEW YORK (AP) — Boeing says it will resume all commercial airplane production in phases at its Seattle area facilities next week after suspending operations in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company says 27,000 of its employees will return to work under new measures put in place to keep people safe and fight the spread of the virus.
Employees for the 737, 747, 767 and 777 airplanes will return as early as Monday with most returning to work by Tuesday, officials said. Employees for the 787 will return next Thursday and Friday.
Boeing, which is Washington state’s largest private employer, said it has taken extra precautions and instituted comprehensive procedures at all of its sites to fight the spread of COVID-19. The aerospace giant said its new virus-slowing measures will include the use of face masks and other protective equipment, hand-washing sites and employee wellness checks, among others.
Bangladesh garment workers seek unpaid wages as orders stop
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — Hundreds of garment workers have protested in Bangladesh to demand unpaid wages during a lockdown that has forced thousands of factories to close. The world’s second-largest garment industry is in serious trouble after global brands canceled orders because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The factory owners’ association said almost 87% of workers have been paid despite the industry’s mammoth challenges. The association said it was working on getting the other workers their wages.
The prime minister also has announced low-interest loans so owners of export-oriented factories can pay workers. The association says global brands have canceled orders worth $3.2 billion affecting 2.26 million workers.
VIRUS OUTBREAK-CHINA MEDICAL EXPORTS
China says no plans to limit export of anti-virus supplies
BEIJING (AP) — China won’t restrict exports of medical goods needed to fight the coronavirus pandemic, a government spokesman said, amid tension over scarce masks and ventilators.
China, the biggest maker of surgical masks and other products, announced last week it would start inspecting exports following Western complaints that some Chinese virus test kits, masks and other products did not meet quality standards.
Since then, U.S. officials have expressed frustration with bureaucratic and other hurdles that American companies are facing in trying to export goods made in their Chinese plants and that are considered key to fighting the pandemic.
A Commerce Ministry spokesman said Beijing has taken steps to speed up customs clearance while ensuring the quality of exported epidemic-prevention goods.
With price high, Thais with dwindling incomes sell off gold
BANGKOK (AP) — Many Thais have been flocking to gold shops to trade in their necklaces, bracelets, rings and gold bars for cash, eager to reap profits during an economic downturn.
Gold shop owners are obligated by tradition to buy back the products they sell. But they say they can’t quickly resell the gold abroad because of suspended flights, lockdowns and few buyers in other countries. The sell-off has some gold shop owners claiming they are facing a liquidity crunch, leaving them short on cash to continue purchasing.
The price of the metal is hitting seven-year highs as people shift their wealth into what they believe is a hedge against other financial uncertainties. Many Asians hold gold as savings and investments. Some sellers said they needed cash to support their families after losing their jobs.
Long lines formed all week outside major gold shops in Chinatown in the capital Bangkok.