Update on the latest business

FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian stocks rise, backslide after Trump promises virus aid

UNDATED (AP) — Major Asian stock markets fell back after early gains on Wednesday after Wall Street jumped on President Donald Trump’s promise of aid to get the U.S. economy through the coronavirus outbreak.

Benchmarks in Shanghai, Tokyo and Hong Kong all advanced and then fell. Australia’s main index fell 6.4% and smaller Asian markets also were mostly lower.

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The White House proposal could approach $1 trillion in spending to ward off the pressure of business closures to contain the virus. The Federal Reserve announced more measures to keep financial markets operating.

On Wall Street, the benchmark S&P rose by an unusually wide daily margin of 6%, regaining just under half of the previous day’s history-making loss. Professional investors expect more big daily swings in both directions until the spreading virus is brought under control.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Trump wants to send checks to Americans in the next two weeks to help support them while more parts of the economy come closer to shutting down.

The proposal would include $250 billion for small businesses and $50 billion for airlines.

Analysts said that is a good start but investors need to see the number of infections slow before markets can find a bottom.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-BUSINESS FALLOUT

Govts pledge aid as global commerce seizes in face of virus

UNDATED (AP) — A day after Wall Street endured its worst daily drop since the crash of 1987, the S&P 500 recovered about half of its losses.

The Trump administration is expected to propose a roughly $850 billion emergency economic stimulus and the Federal Reserve also announced its latest emergency move to get markets running more smoothly.

But volatility is huge as investors try to understand what will happen to the economy as business and travel is put on lock down around the world. Governments and central banks are scrambling to find ways to keep businesses from going bankrupt.

Big industry and small business are looking at a complete, or nearly complete halt to operations. Restaurants that have been shuttered employ hundreds of thousands of people. Airlines are grounding flights, meaning no crews are needed. The dilemma afflicts every sector of the national and global economy. The risk of frozen economic activity will ripple outward, from the banking and mortgage industry, to services ranging from dog walking to doctor visits.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-FEDERAL RESERVE

Fed launches 2 emergency programs last seen in 2008 crisis

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve has put in motion two emergency lending programs that were last deployed in response to the 2008 financial crisis, aiming to ease the flow of credit to businesses and households struggling amid the viral outbreak.

Both are intended to ensure banks and large companies can access the cash they need.

The first, announced mid-morning, is intended to unclog a short-term lending market for what is known as “commercial paper.” Large businesses issue commercial paper, which is essentially the equivalent of an IOU, to raise cash to meet payrolls and cover other short-term costs.

The second program is also intended to mostly assist the commercial paper market and allows a wider range of financial institutions to access short-term loans from the Fed — in this case investment banks and securities trading divisions of large banks. It also allows them to pledge a wider range of collateral in return for the loans. The funds will then mostly be used to purchase commercial paper.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-CONGRESS LOBBYING

Wide swath of economy seeks share of COVID-19 rescue package

WASHINGTON (AP) — As Congress works on a rescue package to help shore up a U.S. economy hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, a wide range of business, from the solar power industry to casinos and hotels, along with doctors, nurses and educators are urging lawmakers to give them a share of the pie.

The House has passed an estimated $100 billion aid package of sick pay, emergency food aid and free virus testing. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is promising “significant and bold new steps above and beyond what the House has passed.”

And the White House is pitching an $850 billion aid package, with other proposals likely to follow.

VIRUS-OUTBREAK-SUPPLY SHORTAGES

Panic buying leaves retailers scrambling to restock

NEW YORK (AP) — Grocers big and small are hiring more workers, paying overtime and limiting purchases on certain high demand items as they scramble to restock shelves that have been wiped out by panic shopping in response to the global viral pandemic.

Amazon said Tuesday that it will only accept shipments from suppliers of cleaning equipment, medical supplies and household goods at its warehouses for the next three weeks to fill surging demand. It is hiring 100,000 people across the U.S. to keep up with a crush of orders as more people stay at home and shop online. It will also temporarily raise pay by $2 an hour through the end of April for hourly employees.

Many grocers are also limiting purchases of products like Purell sanitizers, Lysol cleaning spray and canned soup so that there is enough to go around. And companies like Walmart, Target and Wegman’s are curbing store hours for the public in order to give workers time to restock shelves.

AUTOWORKERS-PLANT SHUTDOWNS

Detroit 3, UAW agree on measures to keep plants running

DETROIT (AP) — Detroit’s three automakers have agreed to partial factory shutdowns, deep cleaning of equipment and longer periods between shifts to head off union demands for U.S. plant closures due to the coronavirus threat.

The agreements came Tuesday night after union officials spoke individually with General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler.

The companies also agreed to “extensive plans” to avoid member coming in contact with one another, the United Auto Workers union said in a statement.

The United Auto Workers union said earlier in the day that it wanted the automakers to shut down their factories for two weeks to keep its members safe from the spreading coronavirus.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-FACEBOOK-BLOCKED NEWS

Facebook acknowledges a bug that blocked coronavirus news

UNDATED (AP) — Facebook says a bug in its anti-spam system is blocking the publication of links to news stories about the coronavirus

Users are complaining that links to news stories about school closings and other information related to the virus outbreak being blocked by the company’s automated system.

. Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president of integrity, said on Twitter Tuesday that the company is working on fixing the problem. Rosen said the problems are unrelated to any changes to its content moderator workforce. The company reportedly sent its human moderators home this week.

RESULTS-FEDEX

FedEx sees cargo opportunities as virus grounds airlines

UNDATED (AP) — Many passenger airlines that carry freight in their bellies are being grounded by the coronavirus outbreak, and that could create an opportunity for cargo carriers like FedEx.

FedEx CEO Fred Smith says that the delivery giant is capable of handling the increased demand for its for international express-delivery services that’s arising because of the reduction in airliners.

Meanwhile, quarterly profit fell at FedEx as the global economy began slowing even more due to the coronavirus outbreak. The company is also suspending financial guidance for its current fiscal year because of uncertainty around the virus’ impact. 

GULF OIL LEASE SALE

Low prices, virus cited in calls to delay US oil lease sale

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Environmentalists say the U.S. government should put off plans for an oil lease sale Wednesday, citing low prices and concerns about the new coronavirus.

The government has held the Gulf of Mexico lease auctions online since protesters disrupted a sale in 2016.

The group Healthy Gulf says it’s foolish to sell valuable assets when oil and gas prices are low. A group of current, former and retired national park workers and volunteers says oil leases should not be “rushed through” when the government should be focused on health.

A spokesman for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management says the agency is following health and safety guidelines and evaluates all bids for fair market value.

TWIN METALS MINE

Judge backs Minnesota’s Twin Metals mine in lease dispute

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A federal judge in Washington has rejected a challenge by environmental groups against the proposed Twin Metals copper-nickel mine in northeastern Minnesota.

The judge ruled Tuesday that the Interior Department had the authority to reverse itself and renew the project’s federal mineral rights leases.

The Obama administration tried to kill Twin Metals by rejecting the company’s application to renew its leases, citing the risk to the nearby Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. But the Trump administration reinstated those leases.

The project’s opponents, including the Campaign to Save the Boundary Waters and Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, say they’ll appeal. 

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