UNDATED (AP) — Asian stock markets and U.S. futures fell Monday after the Federal Reserve slashed its key interest rate to shore up economic growth in the face of mounting global anti-virus controls that are shutting down business and travel.
The central bank’s decision to expand purchases of stocks, corporate bonds and other assets viewed as riskier than Japanese government bonds fell flat. The BOJ also announced plans to provide up to 8 trillion yen ($75 billion) in 0%, one-year loans to companies facing cash crunches due to the impact of the crisis.
On Wall Street, futures for the benchmark S&P 500 index fell 5% on Sunday night and triggered a halt in trading.
The Fed cut its key rate by a full percentage point — to a range between zero and 0.25% — and said it would stay there until it feels confident the economy can survive a near-shutdown of activity in the United States.
China reports Jan-Feb economic activity worse than expected
BEIJING (AP) — China’s consumer spending and other business activity fell even more than expected in January and February due to its virus outbreak, adding to the ruling Communist Party’s challenges as it tries to revive the world’s second-largest economy.
Retail sales fell 20.5% from a year earlier after shopping malls and other businesses were closed in late January, government data showed Monday. FactChina reports Jan-Feb economic activity worse than expected output declined by a record 13.5% after the Lunar New Year holiday was extended to keep manufacturers and offices closed.
The data were even bleaker than economists expected. They warned manufacturers and others will struggle despite official efforts to reopen factories and other businesses in many areas while preventing a new spike in infections. Economist Iris Pang of ING said in a report “This is not the end of the nightmare. Watch out!”
Bank of Japan holds emergency policy meeting after Fed cut
TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s central bank took emergency action Monday to help support the economy following the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision to cut its benchmark interest rate to nearly 0%.
The Bank of Japan announced after an emergency policy meeting that it will expand its purchases of stocks, bonds and other assets and provide zero interest, one year loans to companies running short of cash to help the economy weather the impact of the virus outbreak.
After the Fed’s move Sunday, Bank of Japan Gov. Haruhiko Kuroda called the meeting for Monday instead of Wednesday and Thursday as originally planned.
Fed takes emergency action
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve took massive emergency action to try to help the economy withstand the coronavirus by slashing its benchmark interest rate to near zero and saying it would buy $700 billion in Treasury and mortgage bonds. The Fed’s surprise announcement signaled its rising concern that the viral outbreak will depress economic growth in coming months, likely causing a recession, and that it’s poised to do whatever it can to counter the risks. It cut its key rate by a full percentage point to a range between zero and 0.25% and said it will keep its rate there until it’s “confident that the economy has weathered recent events.”
By slashing its benchmark short-term rate and pumping hundreds of billions of dollars into the financial system, the Fed’s moves Sunday recalled the emergency action it took at the height of the financial crisis. Starting in 2008, the Fed cut its key rate to near zero and kept it there for seven years.
More bad news for airlines
UNDATED (AP) — United Airlines is laying out a dire situation for airlines. It will cut 50% of its flying capacity in April and May and expects planes to be only 20% to 30% full at best. United will seek unspecified help from the federal government to navigate a sharp downturn in bookings due to the new coronavirus.
The CEO and president told employees the airline handled a million fewer passengers in the first two weeks of March than it did a year ago, and revenue fell $1.5 billion below the year-ago pace. They wrote, “The bad news is that it’s getting worse.”
Adding that they expect both the number of customers and revenue to decline sharply in the days and weeks ahead.
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German tour firm TUI suspends most operations over virus
BERLIN (AP) — German-based tour company TUI says it is suspending most of its operations until further notice in light of the deepening coronavirus crisis and applying for government help.
Travel has decreased sharply as more and more countries apply tough new restrictions to limit the spread of COVID-19. Germany has joined other nations in advising against nonessential travel abroad, warning of a high risk of being unable to get back home.
TUI said late Sunday night it has decided “to suspend the vast majority of all travel operations until further notice, including package travel, cruises and hotel operations.”
It withdrew its earnings guidance for this year and said it was refraining from issuing new guidance in the current circumstances.
CDC calls for 50 person limit at events
UNDATED (AP) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that gatherings of 50 people or more in US be canceled or postponed over the next eight weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic. The dramatic recommendation came as Americans struggled to come to terms with how to change their daily habits. The CDC added that proper precautions should be taken at any event, including making sure people are washing their hands and not getting too close. The death toll from COVID-19 in the United States climbed to 64, while about 3,500 have been infected with the virus that causes it.
But in a sign of the difficulty of striking the right balance, the statement from the CDC also said the recommendation does not apply to “the day to day operation of organizations such as schools, institutes of higher learning, or businesses.”