Update on the latest in business:

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asia shares mixed, eyeing economies reopening, central banks

TOKYO (AP) — Asian shares are mixed today as governments inch toward letting businesses reopen and central banks step in to provide cash to economies.

Japan’s benchmark Nikkei 225 lost earlier gains, finishing less than 0.1% lower. South Korea’s Kospi gained 0.4%, after fluctuating much of the day. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.2%. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose nearly 1.0%, while the Shanghai Composite fell 0.3%.

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Yesterday on Wall Street, the S&P 500 rose 41.74 points to 2,878.48. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 1.5% to 24,133.78, and the Nasdaq climbed 1.1%, to 8,730.16.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-RECESSION

Is the worst over?

UNDATED (AP) — This week is chockablock with potentially market-moving events, including meetings for several of the world’s largest central banks.

Nearly a third of the companies in the S&P 500 are also scheduled to report how profitable they were in the first three months of 2020 and, more importantly, perhaps talk about how they see future conditions shaking out.

With central banks and governments promising overwhelming amounts of aid for markets, some investors are focusing on the potential return of growth as the outbreak levels off in some areas.

Robert Carnell, regional head of research, Asia Pacific, at ING, said of Bank of Japan’s monetary easing Monday, “I can see that yesterday’s Bank of Japan ‘Whatever it takes’ announcement could be viewed positively by investors in risk assets. That basically makes it all the big central banks.” Carnell says, “Basically, the monetary spigots are wide open.”

Joe Seydl (SAY’-duhl), capital markets economist at J.P. Morgan Private Bank, says “We’re in recession, it’s a long recovery from here.” But Seydl says the distance between those two points “is starting to look a little bit better than a few weeks ago because it looks like we’re past the worst of it.”

VIRUS OUTBREAK-WASHINGTON

Trump says virus testing ‘not a problem,’ but doubts persist

WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House has released new guidelines aimed at answering criticism that America’s coronavirus testing has been too slow, and President Donald Trump is trying to pivot toward a focus on “reopening” the nation.

The new testing targets would ensure states had enough COVID-19 tests available to sample at least 2.6% of their populations each month — a figure already met by a majority of states.

Areas that have been hit harder by the virus would be able to test at double that rate, or higher.

Still, there are doubts from public health experts that the White House’s new testing targets are sufficient.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-CONGRESS

Congress looking at new virus package but divided over aid

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress is plunging ahead on a new coronavirus relief package, but a deepening partisan divide and uncertain scheduling could halt the federal response.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Monday it might be time to consider a “guaranteed income” for Americans and insists the next bill must provide aid to state and local governments to pay police, fire and other front-line “heroes.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell countered that his priority is to shield business owners from onerous laws.

Leaders announced Congress will return on May 4, but some lawmakers are being warned that full operations may not be able to resume for a year.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-SMALL BUSINESS RELIEF-DELAYS

Small business loan program restarts, runs into snags

NEW YORK (AP) — The second round of loan applications for the government’s program to aid small businesses hit by the coronavirus has been slowed by computer issues at the Small Business Administration.

Bankers are complaining that they can’t get their applications into the SBA system that processes and approves loans.

The agency says it notified lenders Sunday it was limiting the number of applications any lender could submit at once, but the head of a banking trade group says the change was too last-minute.

The first round of loan applications was also slowed by computer issues at the SBA. 

VIRUS OUTBREAK-COMPANIES LIABILITY

Companies press for limited liability from virus lawsuits

UNDATED (AP) — Business groups are pushing Congress to limit liability from potential lawsuits filed by workers and customers who were infected by the coronavirus.

Last week, President Donald Trump proposed shielding businesses from lawsuits. And his top economic adviser Larry Kudlow has said businesses shouldn’t be held liable to trial lawyers whose cases will likely get thrown out by the courts.

Still, many executives and legal experts call for the right balance.

Businesses can’t be hamstrung with lawsuits that will distract them or worse, lead them to financial ruin.  But customers and workers also need protection. 

AUTO PLANTS-RESTART DELAYED

US auto factories likely to stay closed another 2 weeks

DETROIT (AP) — Fiat Chrysler is backing off a planned May 4 restart at its North American factories because it could conflict with stay-home orders in some states.

The move likely means that factories of all three Detroit automakers will be idled for at least another two weeks as they negotiate reopening terms with the United Auto Workers union.

The companies have pledged to monitor workers’ temperatures, redesign work stations and stagger shifts to minimize contact with others, require masks, gloves and other protection equipment, and frequently sanitize factories in an effort to keep workers safe. But the union wants companies to consider testing workers before they enter factories.

Detroit auto companies employ about 150,000 factory workers mainly in the industrial Midwest, but there are factories from New York to Tennessee and Texas.

FEDERAL RESERVE

Questions swirl as Fed meets amid deepening economic crisis

WASHINGTON (AP) — As it prepares for this week’s policy meeting, the Federal Reserve has largely calmed turbulent financial markets. Yet a far tougher task remains: Helping rescue an economy and job market that appear to be free-falling into the worst catastrophe since the Great Depression.

Fed policymakers will meet against a backdrop of dismal data: More than 26 million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits since the coronavirus forced widespread business closures.

Chairman Jerome Powell isn’t expected to announce any major new initiatives when the Fed’s meeting ends. The central bank may provide more details on its new lending programs.

FEDERAL RESERVE-MUNI BONDS

Federal Reserve expands lending to more cities and counties

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve will allow a much larger number of cities and counties to participate in a lending program that it announced earlier this month.

The program initially allowed only 10 cities and 16 counties to participate. It came under criticism for leaving out many large metropolitan areas with heavy African-American populations. But the Fed said Monday that it will open the program to cities with 250,000 people, and counties with 500,000, down from 1 million and 2 million, respectively.

The program will also provide three-year loans, up from the two-year loans it previously announced.

BOEING SHAREHOLDERS

Boeing CEO sees long road to recovery from virus outbreak

UNDATED (AP) — Boeing’s CEO says it will take years for the airplane-manufacturing industry to return to levels it enjoyed before the coronavirus pandemic.

Travel restrictions to limit the spread of the virus have slowed air travel to a trickle and caused airlines to park 2,800 jets and reconsider plans to buy new ones.

CEO David Calhoun made the comments during Boeing’s annual meeting, which was conducted online.

Shareholders elected the entire slate of 12 company-backed board nominees despite recommendations against five of them by proxy advisory firms, who faulted the board for poor oversight of the 737 Max. That’s the plane that was grounded after two deadly crashes.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-DIGITAL AD RECESSION

Digital-ad downturn may complicate life for Google, Facebook

UNDATED (AP) — Demand for digital advertising is shriveling after a decade of explosive growth amid the pandemic-fueled downturn.

That could complicate things for Google and Facebook, who for the first time may have to contend with revenues that are actually shrinking.

With consumers at home and unemployment soaring, advertisers are slashing promotional spending — in some cases, all the way to zero.

For Google and Facebook, who together account for 70% of the U.S. market for digital ads, that so far has translated into tighter restraints on spending without the layoffs, pay cuts and furloughs that publishers and other industries have already imposed.

TRIBES-CORONAVIRUS RELIEF FUNDING

Judge sides with tribes, limits distribution of virus relief

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — A judge has ruled in favor of tribal nations in their bid to keep Alaska Native corporations from getting a share of $8 billion in coronavirus relief funding — at least temporarily.

U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta in Washington, D.C., issued the decision late Monday.

He says the U.S. Treasury Department can begin distributing money to 574 federally recognized tribes to respond to the coronavirus pandemic but not to the corporations.

In the meantime, he’s considering the larger question of whether the corporations are eligible for any of the funding. The decision comes in lawsuits that at least 15 tribes brought against the Treasury Department.

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