Stimulus Keep Expanding With Economies Contracting: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) — The U.S. Senate approved a $2 trillion package and the European Central Bank will scrap limits on bond purchases, giving it almost unlimited firepower to fight the economic fallout. Singapore and India also unveiled measures, while self-employed Britons will be promised a rescue package later on Thursday.

Singapore estimated that its economy contracted the most in a decade, an early sign of what’s in store for many. Japan slashed its assessment of the economy, characterizing it as “extremely depressed,” and French business confidence plunged at a record pace in March.

Key Developments:

Cases reach 472,109; 21,308 dead, 114,870 recovered: Johns HopkinsU.S. death toll tops 1,000; confirmed cases in Canada surge 72%Kudlow says jobless claims to show a big increase on ThursdayFauci warns of potential for another cycle of coronavirus infectionsChina’s Wuhan lockdown may delay feared second wave, study showsSpanish doctors are forced to choose who to let die from virus

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Iran Reports 157 New Deaths (5:38 p.m. HK)

Iran reported 157 new deaths and an additional 2,389 cases. About 29,400 people have been infected in total, of which 2,234 have died and more than 10,000 recovered.

Austrian GDP Seen Down 2.5% if Economy Back to Normal in Summer (5:30 p.m. HK)

Austrian output of goods and services will contract 2.5% this year if lockdown measures lift gradually from May and the economy returns to normal over the summer, researcher Wifo said.

Irish Unemployment Rate May Surge to 18% (5:20 p.m. HK)

Irish jobless rate could surge from 4.8%, the ESRI said, as the labor market is set to face the largest one-quarter shock in living memory. The economy would shrink by 7.1% in 2020 if current restrictions remain in place for 12 weeks, ESRI said, and added that the current scenario “may turn out to be too benign.”

EU Leaders to Hold Virtual Summit (5:15 p.m. HK)

European Union leaders will on Thursday pledge to protect companies from foreign takeovers, discuss an exit-strategy from the looming recession, and likely agree on credit lines to help keep borrowing costs low while governments go on a spending spree. As EU nations move to tackle the fallout, leaders will tacitly admit that they were unprepared for the “unprecedented challenge” of the rapidly spreading disease, according to the latest draft of a joint statement to be issued following a video conference.

Their discussion is expected to highlight divisions, especially when it comes to possible joint debt issuance and the conditions attached to any borrowing from the euro area’s bailout fund.

Self-Employed British Workers Promised Help (4:58 p.m. HK)

Millions of Britons who work for themselves will be promised a rescue package as the coronavirus pandemic threatens their incomes. U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will announce assistance to the self-employed on Thursday in what will be his fourth set of emergency measures to cope with the economic fallout from the coronavirus crisis.

It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government battles growing criticism of its response to the spread of the virus, which has been slower than some other countries.

Cases Rise in Indonesia, Malaysia and HK (4:51 p.m. HK)

Fatalities from novel coronavirus infection in Indonesia jumped to 78, the most in Southeast Asia, as the world’s fourth-most populous nation continues to see a surge in fresh cases. The total number of peopled infected rose to 893 on Thursday from 790 a day earlier. The number of new infections topped 100 for a third consecutive day.

Malaysia added 235 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, the biggest daily jump so far, after Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin decided to extend the lockdown until April 14. And Hong Kong reported 43 additional cases, the second biggest daily jump in confirmed cases.

Virus Repose Topples First European Government (4:30 p.m. HK)

Kosovo lawmakers voted to remove Prime Minister Albin Kurti, becoming the first nation in Europe to vote out a government over the way it handled the coronavirus outbreak. The government collapsed late on Wednesday, just months after it took office. The vote was called by a junior coalition partner who criticized steps taken to curb the contagion.

Romanian Health Minister Victor Costache resigned on Thursday as the country struggled to contain the spread.

Powell to Make Rare TV Appearance (4:22 p.m. HK)

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell will make a rare televised interview appearance in a Thursday broadcast, as the U.S. central bank deploys an unprecedented array of tools to prevent the health crisis from becoming a financial one. Powell will be interviewed on the NBC Today show — one of the country’s main morning television programs — at 7:05 a.m. New York time, according to an advisory released by the Fed.

It will mark the Fed chief’s first public remarks since he held a Sunday evening press briefing by teleconference on March 15.

Stocks Retreat, Bonds Rally (4:16 p.m. HK)

European stocks dropped with U.S. equity futures and most Asian shares on Thursday as investors looked past stimulus packages to the mounting human impact of the coronavirus outbreak. European sovereign debt rose after the ECB said it plans to scrap limits on bond purchases for its 750 billion-euro ($819 billion) emergency program in a landmark decision that gives it almost unlimited firepower to fight the economic fallout.

India Unveils $22.6 Billion Stimulus (4:10 p.m. HK)

The measures will include cash transfers as well as steps on food security, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in New Delhi Thursday. The package will benefit migrant workers, she said. India is on a total lockdown for three weeks from Wednesday in the world’s biggest isolation effort, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks to prevent the virus from spreading locally.

Faster Virus Tests (4 p.m. HK)

Robert Bosch GmbH said it developed a test that can diagnose Covid-19 in less than 2.5 hours and might help efforts to fight the coronavirus outbreak. The new test uses the Vivalytic molecular diagnostics platform made by Bosch’s healthcare division, used in hospitals, laboratories and medical practices. Patients typically must wait one or two days before they get test results.

Separately, U.K.-based Mologic Ltd. has sent prototypes of a 10-minute coronavirus test to laboratories for validation before it can begin full-scale manufacturing. The company and its partner, the Senegalese research foundation Institut Pasteur de Dakar, have developed a finger-prick test to determine whether a person had the illness and the state of his or her immune system. The company is also working on a separate saliva test to detect the presence of the virus.

British Land, Intu Hurt By Virus (3:57 p.m. HK)

British Land Co., has deferred more than $48 million of rental payments from its retailer and restaurant tenants. The company said it would waive rents entirely for the smallest restaurants, bars and stores in its portfolio for three months through June, while allowing larger retailers to spread their payments over six quarters. British Land will also suspend its next dividend payment and pause several construction projects, the company said in the statement.

Earlier, Intu Properties said it is in talks with its creditors to waive some of its loan terms after the spread of the deadly Covid-19 forced all of its malls into a state of partial closure. The landlord, which owns nine of the U.K.’s largest malls, collected just 29% of the rent that was due Wednesday for the next quarter, according to a statement on Thursday. That’s less than half as much of the amount it had collected at the same time a year earlier.

Singapore Boosts Virus Package as Economy Shrinks (3:53 p.m. HK)

Singapore delivered a second stimulus package of S$48 billion ($33 billion) to fight the coronavirus outbreak, drawing on national reserves for the first time since the global financial crisis to support an economy heading for recession.

The city-state’s gross domestic product fell an annualized 10.6% in the first quarter from the previous three months, far worse than the median forecast for an 8.2% contraction in a Bloomberg survey. The government said it now sees a sharp contraction in the economy of 1% to 4% for the full year.

Singapore was among the first outside of China to be hit with coronavirus cases earlier this quarter, and it is often seen as a bellwether for global trade given the openness of its economy.

U.K. Companies Get More Time to Publish Accounts (3:50 p.m. HK)

U.K. listed companies struggling with deadlines because of the coronavirus outbreak will get an extra two months to publish their financial statements, regulators said in a series of coordinated measures designed to reassure Britain’s businesses. Companies will have until six months after their financial year end to deliver their statements, the Financial Conduct Authority said on Thursday.

Moscow to Shut Restaurants, Stores, Parks (3:37 p.m. HK)

Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin ordered a sweeping shutdown in Europe’s biggest city Thursday after infections in the Russian capital spiked. Restaurants, parks and stores except for pharmacies and food shops will shut down from Saturday for a week. Moscow reported a sharp increase in the number of cases, with the total jumping by a third over the last day to 546. The national total rose to 840.

Russia is taking the illness increasingly seriously, with President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday declaring a next week a non-working one nationwide in a bid to reduce contagion and the government halting all international flights, effective March 27.

Tokyo’s Cases Climb by a Record as Cherry Blossom Season Hits (3:30 p.m. Hong Kong)

Tokyo confirmed more than 45 additional coronavirus cases Thursday, national broadcaster NHK reported, citing an unidentified metropolitan government official. That exceeded the count of 41 for the previous day. The city has become the new center of coronavirus cases in the country, overtaking Hokkaido as the area with the most infections. The jump comes as the annual cherry blossoms appear across the capital, bringing crowds out for traditional viewing celebrations in public parks.

Japan will set up a panel as soon as Thursday to consider declaring an emergency over the coronavirus pandemic, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said. While he told reporters at a briefing Thursday that the Abe administration isn’t thinking of declaring an emergency now, Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said he has told the prime minister there’s a high risk of the virus spreading broadly.

Governors of prefectures neighboring Tokyo will join their counterpart from the Japanese capital in urging people to stay home over the weekend, Kyodo reported.

Japan’s government also slashed its assessment of the economy. In its monthly report for March released Thursday, the Cabinet Office cut its view of the economy, characterizing it as in a “severe situation” and “extremely depressed” by the virus outbreak. It dropped its view that the economy was recovering or moving toward a recovery for the first time since 2013.

Chinese Health Firm That Just Started Selling Masks Launches IPO (3:23 p.m. HK)

A Chinese maker of medicines and health supplements that recently added surgical masks and other “anti-epidemic” products to its portfolio launched a Hong Kong initial public offering on Thursday. Tycoon Group Holdings Ltd. is touting itself as a “top anti-epidemic pick” as it seeks to raise about HK$400 million ($52 million), according to Soochow Securities Co., one of the global coordinators on the deal.

French Business Confidence Tumbles by a Record (2:35 p.m. HK)

French business confidence plunged at a record pace in March as shutdowns to contain the coronavirus have left the economy running at 65% of normal activity. The index fell to 95 in March from 105 the month before, statistics office Insee said Thursday. The drop echoes that seen in Germany in figures earlier this week, and reflects French President Emmanuel Macron’s move to put the country in lockdown in an effort to contain the spread of the virus.

Thailand, Resistant Until Recently, Sees Cases Breach 1,000 (2:15 p.m. Hong Kong)

Thailand, a Southeast Asian country now entering what’s traditionally one of its hottest periods of the year, saw total cases surpass 1,000 following confirmation of 111 new cases Thursday. The total number may reach 3,500 by the end of April if the infection rate continues at this pace, according to Anupong Sujariyakul, senior expert in preventive medicine at the Disease Control Department.

India Addresses Confusion Over Three-Week Lockdown Measures (1:27 p.m. HK)

After India’s stringent nationwide lockdown order threw the nation’s ports into confusion, the Ministry of Home Affairs clarified that essential infrastructure will be allowed to keep operating.

The interstate movement of goods for domestic use or for export will be allowed, the ministry said. Movement of essential goods, including petroleum products, food products and medical supplies across the country’s land borders is also allowed during the lockdown.

Senate Approves Rescue Plan on a 96-0 Vote 11:48 a.m. HK)

The package of more than $2 trillion in measures provides for about $500 billion in loans and assistance for big companies, including struggling airlines, as well as states and cities. There is a separate pot of about $350 billion for small businesses. For individuals, the legislation provides direct payments to lower- and middle-income Americans of $1,200 for each adult, as well as $500 for each child. Unemployment insurance would be vastly expanded.

The House is scheduled to vote on the legislation Friday. President Donald Trump has urged Congress to act “without delay” and said he would sign the legislation immediately.

U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Passes 1,000 (11:41 a.m. HK)

Over 1,000 people in the U.S. have died from the coronavirus, according to data tracked by Johns Hopkins University.

That puts the U.S.’s death toll just behind France, which has 1,331 deaths. Italy has suffered the highest death toll in the widening global pandemic, with more than 7,500 deaths as of Thursday.

The grim milestone comes as cases of infection in the U.S. rapidly increase and the World Health Organization warned that the country could become the next epicenter of the worldwide outbreak.

Canada Sees a 72% Surge in Confirmed Cases (10:03 a.m. Hong Kong)

In Canada, the number of confirmed cases rose to 3,385, an increase of 72% over the course of the day. There were 35 deaths, a rise of roughly 30%. It was not immediately clear if improvements in testing contributed to the spike in cases.

South Korea Joins Ranks of Central Banks Deploying QE (9:37 a.m. HK)

The Bank of Korea will conduct weekly money-market operations aimed at providing an “unlimited” amount of liquidity for three months. The initiative will start in April, and is designed to stabilize financial markets. It “wouldn’t be too wrong” to see the move as quantitative easing, a BOK official said.

The sharpest spike in years in premiums for companies to borrow in many funding markets around the world has pushed global monetary policy makers to adopt unorthodox measures. The U.S., Australia, New Zealand and several others have all taken unprecedented actions this month.

EU Vows to Be ‘Vigilant’ on Possible Hostile Takeovers (7:25 a.m. HK)

European Union regulators warned about hostile foreign takeovers of EU-based companies as a result of the economic slump triggered by the pandemic, putting the spotlight on medical businesses. The European Commission issued guidance to EU national capitals on enacting new bloc-wide legislation meant to prevent foreign direct investments from threatening national security.

Member countries must be “particularly vigilant” to ensure that “the current health crisis does not result in a sell-off of Europe’s business and industrial actors,” the Brussels-based commission said in the document published on Wednesday evening.

U.S. Governors Say Federal Stimulus Package Provides States Insufficient Funding (6:47 a.m. HK)

U.S. governors whose states have been hardest hit by the crisis say the fiscal package wending its way through Congress doesn’t go far enough in providing funding to states and localities that are facing unprecedented financial pressures as they battle the coronavirus.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the $3.8 billion for his state and $1.3 billion for New York City is a “drop in the bucket.” Lost tax revenue will cost the state as much as $15 billion, he said. Governor Gavin Newsom of California, which has the third-highest U.S. case count, said he strongly believes the federal government will need to do more. Both are Democrats.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican who chairs the National Governors Association, said at a press conference Wednesday that “we’re gonna come back and ask for additional funding for the states and local governments to help with this crisis in the next round of stimulus.”

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