German Cases Jump; Trump Considers Punishing China: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) — The number of new coronavirus cases in Germany rose the most in four days, while measures to contain the coronavirus dragged the French economy into a sharp contraction in the first quarter, heralding what’s set to be Europe’s deepest recession of the postwar era.

In an Oval Office interview with Reuters published Wednesday night, Trump said he thinks that China is determined to see him lose the November election based on Beijing’s response to the coronavirus and he was considering various ways to punish the Chinese government.

U.S. economic data showed the country’s record-long expansion is over. The first official gauge for China’s economy in April indicated the recovery from a first-quarter slump will be prolonged. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the economy was facing unprecedented difficulties.

Virus Tracker: Global Cases 3.22 Million; Deaths 227,420Dueling data on Gilead treatment leaves many questionsFed’s Powell warns of ‘heartbreaking’ harm of virusJapan Output Drops Again, Economists See Steeper Fall ComingChina Factory Data Shows Global Slump Undercut Nascent RecoveryRoad to easing lockdowns is paved with economic trade-offsLockdown Isn’t Flattening India Virus Curve as in Italy or Spain

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French Economy Shrinks Almost 6% in Worst Quarter on Record (01:30 p.m. HK)

Measures to contain the coronavirus dragged the French economy into a sharp contraction in the first quarter, heralding what’s set to be Europe’s deepest recession of the postwar era.

The economy shrank 5.8%, the most since records began in 1949. The slump shows the dramatic effect of government-ordered shutdowns as just two weeks of closures and restrictions were sufficient to snuff out growth for the entire quarter. Figures for the euro area later on Thursday will probably show the end of a seven-year expansion, and worse is still to come as confinement has continued for the past month.

The number of new coronavirus cases in Germany rose the most in four days as the government considers further steps to ease restrictions on daily life.

There were 1,627 additional infections in the 24 hours through Thursday morning, taking the total to 161,539, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Fatalities rose by 153 to 6,467 and the death rate inched up to 4% from 3.95% a day earlier, while the number of recovered held at 120,400.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s cabinet approved a decree covering use of personal data for a virus tracking app the government has said it hopes to release within the coming weeks. Users will get “clear, transparent” indications of how their personal data will be employed before activating the app, to be called Immuni.

SocGen Posts Loss as Equities Traders Are Wiped Out in Rout (01:19 p.m. HK)

Societe Generale SA posted a first-quarter loss as the bank set aside 820 million euros ($890 million) for bad loans and its stock traders were wiped out by the market volatility in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Revenue from equities trading and the business of servicing hedge funds slumped 99% to 9 million euros in the first quarter, the French lender said Thursday. The bank posted a net loss of 326 million euros.

The results add to a series of setbacks for Chief Executive Officer Frederic Oudea, the longest-serving leader of a top European bank, who has focused SocGen on its traditional strength in equities and related derivatives after exiting or refocusing fixed-income activities. Wall Street banks on average posted a 28% gain in equities trading in the quarter.

Thailand will begin easing its emergency virus lockdown curbs on May 3 to allow some businesses to restart operations, according to Taweesilp Witsanuyotin, a spokesman for Thailand’s Covid-19 center.

L.A. to Be 1st Major U.S. City to Offer Wide-Scale Covid Tests (12:25 p.m. HK)

Los Angeles will offer free Covid-19 tests to all residents of the county regardless of their symptoms, becoming the first major U.S. city to make wide-scale tests available.

“So long as Covid-19 spreads, we have to scale up our response,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said in an emailed statement, calling the coronavirus a “silent killer.” He said in an earlier briefing that the test would only be available to residents in the city of L.A.

U.K. Sizes Up Lockdown Options and Underscores Second-Wave Risk (12:00 p.m. HK)

The U.K. government is weighing up options for easing the lockdown, but with the death toll still rising, officials are warning that restrictions will not be removed any time soon.

Schools could be allowed to re-start classes in a phased way when it’s safe to do so, while some outdoor businesses may be among the first to be able to open again, at the right time, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said on Wednesday.

But with health officials warning that the virus may last until a vaccine is found, the threat of a second wave of infections is forcing ministers to tread cautiously on lifting lockdown measures. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raabsaid the example of Germany, where new cases of Covid-19 rose after some social distancing restrictions were relaxed, showed the risk Britain faced.

China, South Korea Ease Border Controls for Business Travel (11:58 a.m. HK)

China and South Korea agreed to ease quarantine requirements for some business travelers, Beijing’s first such move to revive essential economic activities disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The so-called “fast-track” entry, which takes effect Friday, will simplify entry procedures for business travelers between the two countries, according to a statement from the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Ridesharing Startup Ola Rolls Out Super-sanitized cars in Sydney (11:50 a.m. HK)

Ridesharing startup Ola is beginning trials of a new category Ola Pro in Sydney on Thursday, offering rides in a fleet of super-sanitized cars for those seeking enhanced hygiene and safety during the pandemic for an additional fee of $4.50 per ride.

The Bangalore-headquartered company said the new category was designed to provide “extra peace of mind.” The cars are fitted with a transparent plastic barrier separating the driver and rider. Vehicles are sanitized after every trip by the driver and are professionally sanitized weekly. Drivers are specially trained, and equipped with gloves, masks and cleaning equipment, as well as hand sanitizer, and subject to regular temperature checks.

Australia Bad-Loan Provisions Surge; ANZ Bank Defers Dividend (11:21 a.m. HK)

The cost of Australia’s economic lockdown to the nation’s major banks has topped A$5 billion ($3.3 billion) as bad-debt provisions blow out to levels not seen since the global financial crisis.

Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd. on Thursday became the latest of the big lenders to report plunging profits and increased provisions as the financial industry bears the brunt of what is shaping to be the nation’s biggest economic downturn in 90 years. The Melbourne-based lender also became the first of the big-four to defer paying a dividend, postponing a decision until the economic picture clears.

China Air Passenger Volume May Fall 66.8% in Labor Day Holiday (11:06 a.m. HK)

Daily average air passenger volume may decline to about 580,000 in the upcoming Labor Day holiday during May 1-5, Yu Biao, director of transport department of Civil Aviation Administration, says at a press conference.

Indonesian Banks Restructure $7B Loans of Virus-Hit Borrowers (10:37 a.m. HK)

As many as 65 banks have restructured 113.8t rupiah ($7.4b) worth of loans belonging to 561,950 borrowers impacted by novel coronavirus outbreak as of April 26, according to the nation’s Financial Services Authority.

Japan’s Abe Set to Extend Virus Emergency Into June, Reports Say (10:25 a.m. HK)

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will extend a national state of emergency over the coronavirus by a month, domestic media reports said, even as some nations began to lift restrictions. The Nikkei newspaper said the final decision will be made after a meeting of experts on Friday and extend by a month the current declaration that runs through May 6.

Gilead CEO Says Over 50,000 Remdesivir Courses are Ready to Ship (10:05 a.m. HK)

Gilead Sciences Inc. Chief Executive Officer Daniel O’Day said there are more than 50,000 courses of the company’s experimental Covid-19 therapy, packed in vials and ready to ship as soon as the drug is authorized for emergency use by U.S. regulators.

He made the comments in an interview hours after the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci said a U.S.-run trial of the drug, remdesivir, met its overall target, helping patients recover faster.

Trump Says China’s Virus Response Tied to Wish for Him to Lose (09:36 a.m. HK)

President Donald Trump said he thinks that China is determined to see him lose the November election based on Beijing’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Trump, in an Oval Office interview with Reuters published Wednesday night, did not provide evidence to bolster his assertion, but said that he was considering various ways to punish the Chinese government, which he has blamed for allowing the virus to spread across the world.

“China will do anything they can to have me lose this race,” Trump said in the interview. He did not say what punitive actions he might take, but added “There are many things I can do.”

U.K. to Send Virus Test Kits to 100,000 People To Track Spread (09:16 a.m. HK)

The home testing program for coronavirus will track community spread across the U.K., the health ministry said in a statement. The REal-time Assessment of Community Transmission (REACT-1) program will invite 100,000 randomly selected people from 315 local authorities across England to provide nose and throat swabs

Musk Decries ‘Fascist’ Orders Putting Tesla’s Hot Streak at Risk (08:37 a.m. HK)

Elon Musk went on a profane rant during another emotive Tesla Inc. earnings call, excoriating stay-at-home orders that are putting the electric-car maker’s red-hot run at risk.

“This is fascist. This is not democratic, this is not freedom,” the chief executive officer said after reporting Tesla’s first-ever profit to start a year. “Give people back their godd— freedom.”

Tesla is worried about being able to resume production in the San Francisco Bay area, where authorities have extended a stay-home order to the end of May. The Model 3 maker’s only assembly plant in the U.S. still produces the vast majority of the company’s cars and has been idle since March 23.

Tyson Halting Production at Nebraska Beef Plant for Four Days (07:48 a.m. HK)

Tyson Foods Inc. is temporarily halting production at a beef plant in Nebraska so it can perform a deep cleaning and is screening workers for coronavirus.

Operations will be suspended from May 1 through May 4, according to a company filing. Tyson said it has been working closely with local health officials and is screening employees this week with the help of the Nebraska National Guard.

Florida to Start Reopening Parts of State (6:16 a.m. HK)

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said he plans to start reopening the state on May 4, allowing restaurants and retail in most areas to resume business with certain limitations. The first phase will exclude Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, the state’s three most populous as well as the ones hardest-hit by the virus.

Movie theaters and bars will remain closed for the time being throughout the state, home to 21.5 million people. Schools will continue to use distance learning.

Powell Says More Action Needed to Shield U.S. Economy (6:05 a.m. HK)

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell urged lawmakers to deliver more fiscal stimulus to shield the U.S. economy from the virus and warned of a weak recovery even once the pandemic passes.

“Economic activity will likely drop at an unprecedented rate in the second quarter,” Powell told a video press conference Wednesday. “It may well be the case that the economy will need more support from all of us, if the recovery is to be a robust one.”

The Federal Open Market Committee held interest rates near zero and said in a unanimous statement that it “will use its tools and act as appropriate to support the economy.” Officials also cautioned the pandemic would weigh on the economy over the medium term.

Virus May Affect 57 Million U.S. Jobs: McKinsey (5 p.m. NY)

The coronavirus pandemic will hurt 57 million U.S. workers, more than double the number of jobless claims so far, once furloughs and reduced hours and pay are included, according to McKinsey & Co.

The more than 26 million people who have filed unemployment claims in the past five weeks provide only a partial picture of workforce dislocations, with tens of millions more facing additional risks, according to a report from the McKinsey Global Institute, the think tank arm of the consultancy.

The earliest wave of unemployment claims in mid-March disproportionately hit the food service, entertainment and hotel industries. The disruption has since moved into categories including retail, business services, manufacturing and non-essential health care.

South Africa Cases Jump (3:30 pm. NY)

The number of coronavirus cases in South Africa surged by a record for a 24-hour period as testing increased.

The nation has 5,350 confirmed cases as of Wednesday, 354 more than yesterday, the Health Ministry said in an emailed statement. A further 10 Covid-19 related deaths were recorded, bringing the total number of deceased to 103, it said. The ministry said 11,630 tests were conducted in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 197,127.

Hungary to Gradually Reopen (2:10 p.m. NY)

Hungary will restart its economy gradually while leaving “strict defensive measures” in place in the capital of Budapest, which has the most coronavirus cases, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said after a cabinet meeting.

Lockdown measures, which are relatively mild in Hungary compared with other European nations, will be eased in the countryside, where stores can reopen without restrictions, Orban said in a Facebook video message Wednesday. The wearing of masks and social distancing will be mandatory on public transportation and in shops, he said.

Hungary had 2,727 registered coronavirus cases as of Wednesday, with 300 deaths.

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