New German Cases Slump; Trump Donor Returns Aid: Virus Update

(Bloomberg) —

Germany added 890 new cases of Covid-19, its lowest daily total since March, while U.S. cases rose faster than their one-week average.

Warren Buffett said Berkshire Hathaway has sold its entire stake in four major airlines as a result of the economic fallout from the virus. Trump donor Monty Bennett, whose hotels won small-business loans to help mitigate the effects of the outbreak, agreed to return the money.

Governments around the world are split into those trying to reopen economies and those implementing harsher controls. Australia continued to relax curbs, with Sydney resuming property auctions, while The Philippines halted all commercial flights starting Sunday. Singapore said some businesses may be able to restart within two weeks while others may have to continue working from home beyond the June 1 end of its “circuit-breaker” period.

Key Developments

Virus Tracker: global cases top 3.4 million; deaths 243,000Covid exit strategy needs a worldwide vaccineSingapore to ease limits on some businesses, schoolsOne U.K. shopkeeper knows why the rescue fell flatBuffett says Berkshire reverses course on airlinesFrom Houston to New York, muni finances in tattersBeating the virus in a crowded Brazilian favela

Subscribe to a daily update on the virus from Bloomberg’s Prognosis team here. Click VRUS on the terminal for news and data on the coronavirus.

Zimbabwe Seeks Debt Aid to Avoid Collapse (1:23 p.m. HK)

Zimbabwe asked for international help to clear billions of dollars in debt to avoid economic collapse and mitigate the impact of the pandemic, the Financial Times reported, citing a letter from Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube to the International Monetary Fund and other financial institutions.

Zimbabwe is about $2 billion behind on payments to lenders, including the World Bank and African Development Bank and has been excluded from emergency loans from international institutions, the newspaper said.

Singapore May Ask Some Businesses to Work From Home Beyond June 1 (1:02 p.m. HK)

Singapore said companies with employees who can work from home will probably have to continue doing so even after the country’s partial lockdown ends on June 1. Sectors such as manufacturing, which require workers to be onsite, should prepare for the gradual re-opening of the economy in the coming weeks, the Trade and Industry Minister said.

Authorities on Saturday said sectors important to the global supply chain as well as food manufacturers, home-based food businesses, some retail outlets for deliveries and takeaways and laundry and hairdressing services can resume operations from May 12, while certain groups of students will be allowed to return to school the following week. More than 80% of Singapore’s workforce is now working at home.

China’s Biggest Automaker Sees Sales Rebound (11:48 a.m. HK)

China’s largest automaker said sales recovered last month from a first-quarter slump, a sign of the start of economic recovery in the nation where the pandemic began.

SAIC Motor Corp.’s sales in China rose 1.3% in April from a year earlier, to 413,000 vehicles, helping lift overall sales 0.5%, the first monthly increase since the virus outbreak, the Shanghai-based carmaker said. The coronavirus outbreak had devastated the motor industry in China, where sales had been declining for years because of slowing economic growth, trade tensions and stricter emission regulations.

Trump Donor Whose Hotels Won Small-Business Loans Returns Money (11:15 HK)

Texas hotelier Monty Bennett, a major donor to President Donald Trump whose companies are among the biggest known recipients of rescue loans for small businesses hurt by the pandemic, said he will return the money.

Bennett said he will give back the loans provided under the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, which is intended to help keep workers employed, because new restrictions meant his companies may no longer qualify.

The move follows criticism that public companies like Bennett’s were able to secure millions of dollars in funding from the program while some mom-and-pop businesses were left with nothing. On Friday, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called on the SBA to review the loans made to Bennett’s companies, which own 130 properties across the U.S.

Read full story here.

Roche Gets FDA Emergency Approval for Antibody Test (10:43 a.m. HK)

Roche Holding AG said it received emergency-use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its Elecsys coronavirus antibody test, the company said in a statement. The test, designed to determine if a patient has developed antibodies against the virus, has a specificity greater than 99.8%, the company said.

India Cases Near 40,000 (10:00 HK)

The number of confirmed cases in the coronavirus outbreak in India rose by 2,442 to 39,699, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. Fatalities in the world’s second most populous nation rose by 100 to 1,323.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday met with key cabinet ministers and officials to discuss a second stimulus package to help mitigate the economic impact of the virus.

Philippines Halts Overseas Flights (9:33 a.m. HK)

All commercial flights in and out of the Philippines will be suspended beginning Sunday to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, airport authorities said.

Cargo and maintenance flights, as well as those carrying medical supplies and other necessities, will be allowed to continue, the Manila International Airport Authority said on its Facebook account, citing a memo from the government’s Covid-19 task force.

Sydney to Resume Property Auctions as Curbs Relaxed (9:24 a.m. HK)

Sydney will allow open-house property inspections and public auctions to restart from next weekend in the latest easing of restrictions introduced to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The move will be a major boost for the New South Wales property market, which has seen transaction volumes collapse as social-distancing measures brought an end to traditional selling practices.

Mexico Cases, Deaths Rise (8:10 a.m. HK)

The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Mexico rose by 1,349 to 22,088, said Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell at a press conference Saturday night. Deaths rose to 2,061.

Ricardo Sheffield, the head of Mexico’s consumer watchdog Profeco, has tested positive for Covid-19, El Financiero reported, citing the official’s Twitter account.

Australian Opposition Calls for Migration Rethink (8 a.m. HK)

Australia’s opposition party is calling for a reduction in migrant numbers post-Covid-19, saying the country’s historic reliance on immigration to boost growth has hurt workers.

“Do we want migrants to return to Australia in the same numbers and in the same composition as before the crisis?” Labor’s shadow home affairs minister Kristina Keneally wrote in an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald. “Our answer should be no.”

Buffett Sells U.S. Airlines’ Stakes (7:20 a.m. HK)

Warren Buffett said Berkshire Hathaway Inc. sold its entire stakes in Delta Air Lines Inc., Southwest Airlines Co., American Airlines Group Inc. and United Continental Holdings Inc. after the pandemic destroyed travel demand. The four carriers accounted for most of the company’s $6.5 billion in equity sales in April.

“The airline business — and I may be wrong and I hope I’m wrong — but I think it’s changed in a very major way,” Buffett said at the company’s annual meeting. “The future is much less clear to me.” He said he lost money on his investments.

Buffett said he’s not blaming the performance of the executives and doesn’t envy their jobs, especially now — as U.S. passenger totals collapse 95% from the same level a year ago.

Read full story here.

NYC Mayor: ‘Not Out of The Woods’ (6:10 a.m. HK)

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is “not out of the woods” in being able to consider reopening its economy and reiterated his call for federal aid, saying budget shortfalls will hamper any rebuilding.

“If we’re not made whole then we can’t be a part of this recovery,” de Blasio said on CNN. He complained that states and cities are being ignored while the airline industry gets substantial federal aid.

The mayor said New Yorkers were “pretty amazing” in following social-distancing rules and vowed “very intense enforcement” for people who defy the orders.

U.K. Primary Schools to Reopen June 1: Telegraph (5 p.m. NY)

U.K. primary schools are due to reopen as soon as a June 1 under Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to gradually “unlock” Britain, The Sunday Telegraph reports. Johnson is expected to unveil the government’s “road map” out of the lockdown in a speech next Sunday.

Johnson hopes to put teachers on three weeks’ notice to reopen primary schools to all pupils on June 1, the newspaper reported.

Saudi Minister Warns of ‘Painful’ Steps (4:30 p.m. NY)

Saudi Arabia will need to take “painful” measures and consider deep spending cuts to deal with the pandemic and a meltdown in global oil markets, Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said on Saudi television station Al-Arabiya.

A week ago, Al-Jadaan told reporters the kingdom had survived similar, “maybe even worse,” crises and would pass through this one as it had others. On Saturday, he said government spending would need to be “cut deeply” and even some programs in Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s “Vision 2030” economic plan face cuts as implementation is delayed by steps to slow the outbreak.

Read the full story.

U.S. Cases Rose 3.2%, Above Week’s Average (4 p.m. NY)

U.S. cases increased 3.2% from the same time on Friday to 1.12 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. The national increase was above the average daily increase of 2.9% over the past week. U.S. deaths rose 2.9% to 65,908.

New York reported 4,663 new cases, for a total of 312,977 — about 9% of total reported cases around the world. Deaths rose by 299, to 18,909, the Department of Health reported.New Jersey registered 2,912 new infections, bringing total cases to 123,717. Governor Phil Murphy reported 205 deaths, down from 311 reported Friday, to bring the total to 7,742.Massachusetts had 1,952 new cases, boosting the total to 66,263, while deaths rose by 130, to 3,846, the Department of Public Health said.Illinois reported 2,450 new cases, boosting the total to 58,505, and deaths increased by 105, to 2,559, the Department of Public Health reported.Florida added 735 new cases, up 2.1%, to 35,463, while deaths rose by 50, or 3.5% to 1,364, the state health department said.Texas reported 1,293 new cases, the biggest one-day rise, bringing the state’s total to 30,552, with 31 additional fatalities, for a cumulative tally of 847, the state health service said.California added 1,755 new cases, to reach 52,197, with 98 new deaths, bringing its death toll to 2,171.

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