Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian stocks mixed after US Senate approves virus aid

BEIJING (AP) — Asian stocks were mixed today after the U.S. Senate approved a proposed $2.2 trillion virus aid package following a delay over its details and sent the measure to the House of Representatives.

Tokyo’s market benchmark shed 4.5% and Shanghai and Hong Kong also declined. Australia and Southeast Asian markets gained. Jakarta rose almost 10%.

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On Wall Street, S&P futures were down 1.1% and Dow futures were down 0.8%.

On Wednesday, the S&P 500 rose 1.2% but is down nearly 27% from its peak a month ago.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-CONGRESS-AID PACKAGE

Senate passes aid package

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate has unanimously approved a roughly $2.2 trillion package to rush aid to businesses, workers and a health care system slammed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The measure includes $500 billion for loans and guarantees for businesses and state and local governments.

There are also huge amounts for emergency unemployment insurance, small business, health care and direct cash payments to individuals.

There’s money for mass transit systems, veterans, schools, virus research, farmers, food programs, the Pentagon and efforts to evacuate Americans and diplomats who are overseas. 

UNEMPLOYMENT

Rising claims for unemployment seen, official numbers due out today

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — New unemployment benefit claims are rising to levels unseen in recent U.S. history as a result of coronavirus concerns. States have reported receiving tens of thousands of new claims for unemployment insurance last week. Officials figures are to be released today, and some economists project that new claims could reach 3 million nationwide.

U.S. Department of Labor figures to be released are expected to shatter the old record for the greatest number of new unemployment claims filed in a single week. There are more suddenly jobless Americans than during the Great Recession — and more than in the aftermath of major natural disasters such as hurricanes, fires and floods.

Some laid-off workers have encountered delays in filing claims because of overloaded websites and phone systems. Some states are warning that it could take longer than the normal two to three weeks to receive unemployment payments because of the sudden surge in claims.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-RESTARTING THE ECONOMY

Many businesses cautious about restarting economy amid virus

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — President Donald Trump has called the country to open for business by mid-April, but some experts warn it’s not as easy as flipping a switch.

Economies run on confidence, and that is likely to be in short supply for as long as coronavirus cases in the United States are still rising.

Many public health experts have warned that the current restrictions should only be lifted gradually. They expect efforts to curb the disease will continue for several months at least.

But many businesses are wary of reopening too soon. They are worried that could be seen as irresponsible. And even if they did reopen, would customers come if the virus isn’t under control? 

VIRUS OUTBREAK-HOUSING

Signs emerge of virus effect on housing market

UNDATED (AP) — Mortgage Bankers Association says mortgage applications plunged 29.4% last week. People trying to sell homes have canceled showings during the coronavirus outbreak and because closings are done in person, economists expect sales will decline sharply. But the virus has affected the market in other, unforeseen ways as well.

Despite additional cuts to benchmark interest rates by the U.S. Federal Reserve, mortgage rates have been rising.

And while mortgage applications fall, refinancing, which can be done from home, is soaring. Lending Tree says the economic effects of the virus outbreak have led to unprecedented volatility in mortgage interest rates and an overwhelming surge of borrower demand. The company’s data shows that refinance mortgage applications through its marketplace tripled from a year ago in each of the 50 largest cities and in all but five states. In San Francisco, refinance loan requests skyrocketed 417%.

VIRUS OUTBREAK

Spain extends lockdown, China eases restrictions

UNDATED (AP) — Spain’s Parliament voted in favor of the government’s request to extend the state of emergency by two weeks that has allowed it to apply a national lockdown in hopes of stemming its coronavirus outbreak. The government declared a state of emergency on March 14. It will now last until April 11.

China’s National Health Commission reports 67 new COVID-19 cases and says all were imported infections in recent arrivals from abroad. There were again no new cases reported in Wuhan, the central Chinese provincial capital where the coronavirus emerged in December. 

After a months-long lockdown, Wuhan residents are allowed out of the city but cannot leave Hubei province until April 8. China has started lifting the last of the controls that confined tens of millions of people to their homes.

As outbreaks escalate in the United States and Europe, China’s ruling Communist Party has declared victory over the epidemic and is relaxing restrictions to revive the economy.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-CALIFORNIA

California governor: 5 big banks suspend mortgage payments

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Five of the nation’s largest banks have agreed to temporarily suspend residential mortgage payments for people affected by the coronavirus.

Wednesday’s announcement by California Gov. Gavin Newsom came as he provided yet another grim statistic about the economic devastation from the virus: 1 million Californians have filed for unemployment benefits since March 13 as businesses shut down or dramatically scaled back because of a statewide “stay-at-home” order to prevent the spread of the virus.

Meanwhile, Newsom said California is rapidly expanding its supply of equipment for health care workers and hospital beds in anticipation of the expected surge in patients that will come as more people are infected. Testing for the virus is accelerating quickly as the state adds locations for the public to get checked.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-COLORADO SKI TOWNS

Coronavirus delivers ‘body blow’ to Colorado’s ski industry

DENVER (AP) — Ski resorts across the West that were shut down amid coronavirus fears are grappling with an economic blow at a time they would normally be welcoming hordes of spring break revelers.

March is usually one of the busiest months for Colorado resorts, which tallied a record 13.8 million skier visits last winter. But on Tuesday, the typically bustling resort at Vail was all but empty.

Industry leaders say many resorts generate about a quarter of their revenue from March through the end of the season.

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