Passenger traffic at European airports fell 97% at the end of March
Tanya Powley in London
Passenger traffic at European airports fell 97% at the end of March after international travel was affected by efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
ACI Europe, the industry’s trade body, will release figures on Thursday that passenger numbers at regional airports are expected to drop by 873 million in 2020, down 35% from a year that previously forecasted 2.3% growth before the crisis.
Airports in the region still handled more than 5 million passengers as of March 1, but that number was only 174,000 as of March 31, down 97.1% from the same day in 2019, according to figures. During the month of March, traffic decreased by almost 60%.
“It is unlike anything we have seen before. In the global financial crisis, it took 12 months for European airports in 2009 to lose 100 million passengers. With Covid-19, it only took 31 days – the month of March – for the same volume of passengers and more to disappear, ”said Olivier Jankovec, Managing Director of ACI Europe.
Nearly 93 airports in Europe have closed – mostly smaller secondary and regional airports – out of a total of around 650 airports. Many large airports have taken cost-cutting measures and reduced their facilities by closing terminals, jetties and spare runways.
ACI Europe now expects a loss of 23 billion euros in industry revenue in 2020, down 41% from the business as usual scenario.
United States accounts for a quarter of Covid-19 deaths in a rapid national climb
Steve Bernard in London
The United States has become a priority as the death toll in the country increases rapidly. With a reported total of 1,906 deaths today, the United States accounts for almost a quarter of the number of deaths worldwide, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
Europe is also a source of concern with two-thirds of the daily deaths of Covid-19 from the region. Spain and Italy jumped at an alarming rate in the last two weeks of March, continuing to increase in April to 17,127 deaths in Italy and 14,045 deaths in Spain.
Asia, on the other hand, was responsible for more than 60% of coronavirus-related deaths in early March, but has since managed to contain the spread of the virus and has seen very few deaths in recent weeks, by compared to global figures.
South America, Africa and the Middle East have reported fewer deaths in the past two weeks compared to other regions, which is a single digit percentage of the total number of coronavirus deaths in the world.
Asia Pacific stocks win after Wall Street jump
Alice Woodhouse and Daniel Shane in Hong Kong
Actions in the Asia-Pacific region started to rise on Thursday after Wall Street rallied with optimism that cases of coronavirus in the United States could peak.
The South Korean Kospi gained 1.6% and the S & P / ASX 200 rose 2.2% in Australia, while in Japan, the Topix lost 0.4%.
The S&P 500 benchmark closed 3.4% higher and the tech-rich Nasdaq Composite finished 2.6% after the fifth consecutive day of slower growth in new coronavirus cases.
“The markets are studying when the economy could reopen and are optimistic about the possibility of further fiscal stimulus,” said ANZ in a note. “The Fed minutes reaffirmed the commitment to keep rates low and use purchases to support the functioning of the market.”
The S&P 500 futures contract rose 0.4% when the US markets opened on Thursday.
The gains in the United States came despite a weak performance by European stocks after eurozone ministers failed to reach agreement on a joint response to the public health crisis.
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American pharmacists are now authorized to order and administer coronavirus tests as the federal government attempts to expand access to diagnostic tests. It was not clear how samples from local pharmacies would be processed to provide a result.
Germany has performed more than 1.3 million coronavirus tests since the start of the pandemic and today leads more than 56,000 a day.
Christine Lagarde appealed quarrelsome eurozone governments to “support each other” in the face of what the President of the European Central Bank has called “one of the greatest macroeconomic cataclysms of modern times” with the coronavirus crisis.
A UN plane carrying 90 tonnes of humanitarian aid has stolen from Venezuela, one of the most vulnerable countries in the Americas to coronavirus. A Russian plane also landed in Caracas on Wednesday, carrying aid.
In Turkey, a bill presented by the ruling Justice and Development party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would prevent companies from dismissing employees for a period of three months, according to Turkish media confirmed by a government official.
The European Commission has recommended that the closure of the external borders be extended by one month until May 15. The recommendation is addressed to the governments of the EU-plus zone of 30 countries, including the signatory states of the Schengen Agreement and Ireland and the United Kingdom.
Lloyds Banking Group has become the last major bank to announce that its executives will drop their annual bonuses in response to the coronavirus crisis. The bonus would have been worth up to £ 1.8 million for CEO António Horta-Osório.
Another 541 people died in French hospitals coronavirus, but the slowdown in growth in the increase in the total number of people requiring intensive care also continued.
Greece banned residents to travel outside the region where they live in order to stem the spread of the coronavirus during the Easter holidays. The ban will take effect Wednesday evening and remain in effect until April 27.
China reports 63 new cases of coronavirus
Chinese health officials reported 63 new cases of coronavirus at the end of Wednesday, two infections classified as local transmission occurring in Guangdong province.
Guangdong, a manufacturing and technology center bordering Hong Kong, reported nine cases of local transmission since Saturday.
The number of coronavirus cases in China has now increased to 81,865 as the number of imported cases continues to climb.
There have been two new deaths linked to Covid-19 in mainland China, bringing the total number of deaths to 3,335.
The number of people who tested positive for the virus but showed no symptoms increased by 56, almost half of whom were people who returned from abroad.
ANZ chief defends ability to pay dividends
Jamie Smyth in Sydney
ANZ CEO defended Australian banks’ ability to pay dividends despite pressure on industry to abandon shareholder payments, arguing that the country’s lenders have capital levels and a much higher profit potential than their international competitors.
“Australian banks have some of the highest levels of capital on a relative basis in their balance sheets worldwide,” said Shayne Elliott. “We are more profitable than most banks and that means our ability to generate organic capital is also higher than in the UK and in most cases in the United States.”
Banks across Europe, including Asia-based lender HSBC, have caved in to pressure from regulators in recent weeks to withhold dividends in response to concerns about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their balance sheets . New Zealand last week asked its lenders – most of whom belong to Australian banks – to suspend dividends.
Read more here.
Exporters from India facing the crisis
Amy Kazmin in New Delhi
India’s brutal and poorly planned foreclosure has exacerbated the problems of its exporters, their deliveries being blocked in trucks along the highways or in ports. Many overseas buyers also invoke force majeure to cancel orders, while others demand price reductions and discounts.
“Across the supply chain, the most vulnerable are factories and workers,” said the owner of a high-end shoe exporter, who employed nearly 2,000 workers. “Some of our buyers have just canceled all of their orders, and some are discussing” how can we share the pain? “”
Many governments around the world are providing financial support to help companies weather the shocks of the battle against Covid-19, including helping companies pay their wages. But despite the imposition of a strict national curfew that has forced almost all factories in the country to close, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has not yet provided direct relief to businesses.
Instead, the administration, which was under severe financial pressure even before the coronavirus crisis, shifted the burden of workers’ well-being during the business disruption, ordering employers to pay normal wages and warning against layoffs.
Learn more here.
Australian cruise liner linked to coronavirus cases
Jamie Smyth in Sydney
Australian authorities have searched a cruise liner linked to almost a third of coronavirus deaths in the country and one in 10 infections.
New South Wales police said Thursday that investigators had boarded the Ruby Princess, secured its black box containing essential information and questioned the captain.
The raid is part of a criminal investigation into the circumstances under which the cruise ship was allowed to allow 2,700 passengers to disembark in Sydney last month and become the country’s biggest source of infection.
Authorities are investigating whether the operator has minimized the risk of coronavirus on board the vessel.
“They spoke to the captain of the ship, who was extremely helpful. The ships have a black box very similar to that of international planes and other evidence has been seized for further investigation, “said Mick Fuller, NSW chief of police.
He said there were still more than 1,000 crew members on board the ship, which is docked at Port Kembla, south of Sydney. At least 200 crew members have flu-like symptoms and 18 have tested positive for coronavirus.
Police are working closely with Carnival Australia, the operator of the cruise liner, said Fuller.
The number of cases in Mexico is probably eight times higher than that announced, according to the Minister of Health
Jude Webber in Mexico City
Mexico probably has more than 26,500 cases of coronavirus, eight times the 3,181 cases confirmed to date, said Hugo López-Gatell, undersecretary for health.
The confirmed infection rate in Mexico is based on only 30,000 tests on a population of 127 million inhabitants.
By Wednesday, 174 deaths had been recorded due to Covid-19 in the second largest economy in Latin America, an increase of 23% on Tuesday. The number of confirmed cases was 14% higher than the day before.
Dr López-Gatell said the “proven” method of epidemiological assessment used by Mexican health authorities was based on not testing everyone and that the likely number of infections could be extrapolated “with certainty reasonable”.
The country’s coronavirus tsar compared this so-called “sentinel” model to an opinion poll, in which a small representative sample was interviewed. For each case of coronavirus positive, he said, there were probably a dozen others that went undetected, either because people hadn’t seen a doctor, or hadn’t presented with symptoms at the time they sought medical advice, or whose symptoms had not been identified as Covid-19.
However, he cautioned against comparing Mexico’s likely workload with the situation in other countries.
Bank of Korea warns of “uncertainties” for economic growth
Song Jung-a in Seoul
The Bank of Korea said on Thursday that South Korea’s economic growth would be much lower than its previous projection of 2.1% and warned of “a lot of uncertainty” about the economy’s growth trajectory in middle of the growing coronavirus pandemic.
The BoK left interest rates unchanged at a record low of 0.75% to wait and see how the unprecedented monetary and fiscal stimulus plans announced to date support Asia’s fourth economy as it exits the pandemic.
But the BoK will expand the range of bonds eligible for its open market operations to inject more liquidity into the struggling economy after cutting interest rates by 50 basis points last month as part of its biggest political easing since the global financial crisis.
Many analysts expect the BoK to cut rates further in the coming months to stimulate the economic slowdown as the pandemic slows global demand and the business climate.
The Korean economy this year is expected to contract or grow at the slowest pace since the Asian financial crisis of 1997. The country’s exports fell slightly last month, affected by the slowdown in global demand.
The BoK has pledged to inject unlimited liquidity into the market via buyout deals while Seoul has so far announced record stimulus packages worth more than $ 124 billion to cushion the economic blow of the pandemic.
India makes face masks mandatory in New Delhi and Mumbai
Amy Kazmin in New Delhi
India’s capital, New Delhi, its financial capital, Mumbai, and other parts of the country have made it mandatory to wear a face mask when authorities exit, as authorities intensify their fight against the coronavirus.
India is now in the third week of a 21-day blockade designed to stop the spread of the deadly pathogen among its nearly 1.4 billion people. So far, there is no evidence that the curfew has helped smooth the curve, with India’s confirmed workload doubling every four days or so.
With nearly 6,000 confirmed cases, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the lockout should be extended in an attempt to slow the spread.
Delhi’s chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, said it would be mandatory for people leaving their homes to wear masks.
The Mumbai city government imposed a similar order, as did the state government of Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in India. Those who fail to comply will be subject to sanctions.
Unlike many countries in East Asia, Indians have not traditionally worn masks in public places, although many workers generally use bandanas or scarves to cover their faces when working. However, fearing to contract the coronavirus, many Indians have already been wearing masks in recent weeks.
Authorities are encouraging people to make their own cloth masks, rather than trying to buy the rare medical masks required by doctors treating the victims of Covid-19.
Asian stocks lose momentum as investors interpret coronavirus numbers
Thomas Hale in Hong Kong
A stock rally lost some of its steam in Asia, with traders weighing the last signs of a slowdown in the spread of the coronavirus against its catastrophic impact on business and economic activity worldwide.
The Japanese Topix stock index fell 1.6%, jeopardizing a series of consecutive gains over three days. The Chinese CSI 300 of stocks listed in Shanghai and Shenzhen rose 0.3%.
Elsewhere in Asian trade, momentum continued to support prices in Sydney, where the S & P / ASX 200 added 2.4%, and in South Korea, where the Kopsi rose 1.2%.
Mixed signals in Asian trade reflect the challenge of interpreting the latest pandemic data, market participants said.
Investors this week have cautiously embraced the possibility that the so-called coronavirus curve will flatten and the virus will spread more slowly, raising global stock prices.
Red Cross expresses “deep concern” over Philippine prisons
John Reed in Bangkok
The International Committee of the Red Cross on Thursday expressed “deep concern” over the spread of Covid-19 in prisons in the Philippines, which has one of the most congested prison systems in the world.
The ICRC said it had offered its support and was stepping up its advice to the Philippine authorities to help them deal with what it called “an urgent health threat”, and a senior official warned that the disease could “spread quickly and widely”.
“It is important to take stock of the potential seriousness of the situation and to intensify the measures transversely in all places of detention”, in particular police detentions, provincial prisons and immigration centers, “declared Boris Michel , head of the ICRC delegation in the south. – East Asian countries.
The ICRC is working with detention authorities in the Philippines to set up four isolation centers for detainees who test positive for Covid-19 or who show symptoms of the disease.
Filipino prisons have filled with new detainees since President Rodrigo Duterte began targeting suspected drug traffickers and drug users in his “war on drugs” after taking office in 2016.
Since strict restrictions were imposed in mid-March to slow the spread of the coronavirus, police have arrested more than 75,000 curfew violators, some of whom, according to human rights groups, have been detained in cramped conditions which made social distancing impossible.
The Philippines reported on Wednesday 3,870 cases of coronavirus and 182 deaths due to the disease, but the real incidence would be higher, because the screening rates in the country remain relatively low.
Coronavirus triggered Australian bank money rush
Jamie Smyth in Sydney
Panicked depositors rushed to withdraw large amounts of cash – in some cases millions of dollars at a time – from Australian bank branches at the height of the coronavirus crisis last month, authorities said.
The Reserve Bank of Australia said on Thursday that over-the-counter cash withdrawals had increased in the second half of March, as some customers with large balances rushed to stuff money under their mattresses.
This included a small number of customers making very large withdrawals, which required the RBA to liaise with street banks and public transit companies to safely transport large amounts of money between branches.
“This work focused on the logistics of moving cash to the right places because the total supply was sufficient,” said the RBA in its regular report on financial stability.
The RBA said high demand has since declined after intervention by central banks and governments to support the functioning of financial markets in recent weeks.
The rush of Australian depositors to withdraw money brings back memories of the 2007-2008 financial crash when depositors lined up in front of the Northern Rock Bank – an event that has been described as the first bank led in the UK since 150 years.
The RBA said that Australian banks were now in a much stronger position than in 2008 to weather the coronavirus crisis because they have a much stronger capital position.
However, he issued a note of caution regarding the Australian commercial property market, warning that prices have risen faster than rents in recent years and that highly indebted landlords may have difficulty if their tenants are not able to pay the rent. Commercial real estate is particularly exposed due to the forced closure of many stores due to the pandemic.
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Australian police have searched a cruise ship linked to at least one in 10 coronavirus cases in the country in a criminal investigation into how 2,700 passengers were allowed to leave the ship.
Bank of Korea warned that the country’s economic growth would be lower than a previous forecast of 2.1% as it kept interest rates at a record level.
Asia-Pacific equities Thursday, despite a rally on Wall Street, aroused by optimism about the apparent slowdown in the number of new cases of coronavirus in the United States.
the CEO of ANZ in Australia defended its ability to pay dividends despite pressure on the global banking sector to abandon shareholder payments.
India did wear masks in public compulsory in several regions of the country, including the capital, New Delhi, and the financial capital, Mumbai, while the authorities are trying to control the spread of the coronavirus.
Bank of England finances additional spending needs from Treasury
Chris Giles in London
The Bank of England will directly finance additional spending by the British government on a temporary basis, the Treasury announced on Thursday, allowing the government to bypass the bond market.
This decision highlights the extraordinary demands for liquidity that the Treasury has experienced in recent weeks, which it believes it cannot immediately finance on the gilts market.
In a statement to the financial markets, the government announced that it will expand the size of its central bank account – historically known as the “Ways and Means Facility”, which normally only represents £ 400 million. .
This will reach an undisclosed amount, allowing ministers to spend more in the short term without having to tap into the gilts market. In 2008, a similar movement saw the ease of ways increase slightly to £ 20 billion.
This direct monetary funding from the government would be “temporary and short term,” the Treasury said in a statement. “In addition to temporarily smoothing government cash flows, the W&M facility supports the market function by minimizing the immediate impact of raising additional funds on the gold and pound sterling markets,” he said. -he adds.
He said all draws on this overdraft would be refunded as soon as possible before the end of the year.
Big Society Capital creates £ 100m charity investment fund
An impact investment fund that derives most of its money from abandoned UK bank accounts has announced that it will make £ 100 million of investment and loans available to UK charities, which are facing serious financial difficulties due to the coronavirus.
Big Society Capital, one of the biggest investors in charity and social organizations in the UK, will invest money in two emergency funds for organizations of different sizes. The middlemen will then allocate capital to some of the 167,000 charities operating in the UK as well as social enterprises and small businesses in less-favored areas, without interest or fees for 12 months.
Big Society Capital’s chief investment officer Jeremy Rogers said:
Charities and social enterprises are facing enormous challenges due to the pandemic. Many are running to adapt service delivery and face an uncertain future. While many need emergency grants, others tell us that they need loans and investments to continue providing essential services to those who need them most.
Charity trade organizations suggest that the crisis is a perfect storm that will result in a total loss of £ 4.3 billion in charity income over a 12-week blocking period. The sting for many of these organizations is that although funding will be severely affected in the coming months, demand for many of the services they offer is expected to increase sharply.
The Big Society Capital announcement comes a day after Chancellor Rishi Sunak pledged £ 750 million in emergency grants for charities across the UK.
Hong Kong quarantines 50 pets on evidence that some may be infected
Primrose Riordan in Hong Kong
Hong Kong has quarantined up to 50 pets from Covid-19 patients, including 32 dogs, 18 cats and two hamsters, said one of the city’s leading experts on the subject.
City University professor of veterinary medicine Vanessa Barrs said that out of this number, only two dogs and a cat were positive, and none of them appeared to get sick from the virus. One of the dogs has since died, but was 17 years old and suffered from an underlying disease.
The World Health Organization has noted the possibility of animals contracting Covid-19 after a new study in the journal Science found that it “reproduces poorly in dogs, pigs, chickens and ducks” , but ferrets and cats are more likely to be infected.
Professor Barrs said cats seem more sensitive than dogs because the virus can bind to certain receptors in their cells more easily. She said there was still no evidence of animal-to-human transmission, but advised people infected with the virus to distance themselves from their animals by washing their hands after touching them and by not allowing them to lick the face of their owner.
Guardians at the Bronx Zoo in New York City said earlier this month that a tiger had tested positive for Covid-19 and was showing symptoms.
British economy shrank even before the worst of the pandemic
The British economy contracted before the Covid-19 pandemic hit consumption, new data released on Thursday revealed.
Production fell 0.1% in February from the previous month, according to the Office for National Statistics. This is worse than an 0.1% expansion expected by economists polled by Reuters.
“Today’s figures show that in the three months before February, before the effects of the coronavirus took full effect, the economy continued to show little or no growth,” said a statistician. the ONS.
The February output data is the last to refer to the pre-pandemic period. Since mid-March, consumption has dropped following the foreclosure that shut down much of the service sector, including restaurants, movie theaters and non-essential stores, while business activity has dropped to its lowest level in twenty years according to survey data.
Thermo Fisher says it can deliver 100,000 coronavirus tests per day in the UK
Camilla Hodgson in London
US giant Thermo Fisher plans to provide all the Covid-19 tests necessary for the British government to increase screening to 100,000 per day, the company’s chief operating officer said on Thursday.
Mark Stevenson told the BBC Today Program that Thermo Fisher had agreed with the British government to provide “more than 100,000 tests per day” and would increase its manufacturing capacity in Great Britain to allow the manufacture of kits here.
The government plans to increase the number of PCR diagnostic tests performed every day for the virus to 100,000 by the end of April, up from around 15,000 currently.
Sir Paul Nurse, director and CEO of the Francis Crick Institute in London, which is supporting the testing effort, said on Wednesday that the goal was “a stretch”.
But Professor John Newton, government adviser on testing, said the goal was “achievable” and Kathy Hall, director of test strategy for Covid-19 at the Department of Health, said the government was ” confident “that he would succeed.
Stevenson said Thermo Fisher was confident that he could provide the kits. “The challenge has really been to ensure that we have the capacity of the laboratory,” he added. To meet this need, the government has built three new “mega laboratories” where the samples will be processed.
“We have the capacity to supply these laboratories with the necessary reagents and kits,” added Stevenson.
Sub-Saharan Africa faces first recession in 25 years from coronavirus
Neil Munshi, West Africa correspondent
Sub-Saharan Africa will experience its first recession in 25 years due to the severe impact of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report from the World Bank.
La production devrait se contracter entre 2,1% et 5,1%, contre 2,4% en 2019. La baisse devrait être portée par les plus grandes économies de la région – le Nigeria, l’Angola et l’Afrique du Sud – et d’autres produits de base. marchés axés sur l’exportation.
L’épidémie a également le potentiel de déclencher une crise de sécurité alimentaire à travers le continent, selon le rapport.
«La pandémie de Covid-19 met à l’épreuve les limites des sociétés et des économies à travers le monde, et les pays africains devraient être particulièrement touchés», a déclaré Hafez Ghanem, vice-président de la Banque mondiale pour l’Afrique.
Le rapport prévoit que la pandémie coûtera à la région entre 37 et 79 milliards de dollars de pertes de production cette année, avec une diminution des flux de financement étranger, des envois de fonds, du tourisme, des investissements directs étrangers et de l’aide étrangère.
L’Afrique est jusqu’à présent la région la moins touchée par la pandémie, avec un peu plus de 10 000 cas confirmés et environ 500 décès. Mais les Centres Africains de Contrôle des Maladies ont déclaré que sa trajectoire suit celle de l’Europe.
Singapour retarde l’annonce de nouvelles banques numériques
Mercedes Ruehl à Singapour
Singapour retardera l’annonce de ses nouvelles banques numériques jusqu’à la fin de l’année en raison de l’épidémie de coronavirus.
La cité-État devait annoncer les gagnants des cinq nouvelles licences de banque numérique en juin, mais dans un communiqué jeudi, la Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) l’a qualifiée de «période difficile» et a déclaré qu’elle prolongerait la période d’évaluation et dévoilerait les candidats retenus au second semestre 2020.
Le régulateur a déclaré que l’extension permettrait aux candidats, qui comprennent certaines des plus grandes sociétés technologiques de la région telles que Ant Financial, China Unicorn Grab en Asie du Sud-Est et Sea Group, société de commerce électronique et de jeux cotée à New York, de Sea Sea, de «consacrer leurs ressources et leur attention »Vers la gestion de l’impact de la pandémie sur leurs entreprises.
Singapour a reçu 21 demandes de cinq licences en janvier, une décision qui a suivi le lancement par Hong Kong de huit banques virtuelles en 2019.
Le retard intervient alors que la ville a signalé une augmentation du coronavirus ces derniers jours. Mercredi, le gouvernement a confirmé 142 nouveaux cas, un nouveau record en un jour qui a porté le nombre total à 1 623.
Les stocks européens montent sur l’espoir que le taux de croissance du virus ralentit
Les actions européennes ont pris une tournure positive à l’ouverture du marché en Europe, alors que les investisseurs pesaient sur l’espoir que le coronavirus pourrait approcher de son apogée dans certaines des régions les plus touchées du monde.
L’indice de référence à l’échelle du continent, le Stoxx 600, a gagné 1,1% à l’ouverture, s’échangeant environ 20% au-dessus de ses creux de la mi-mars. Le FTSE 100 de Londres a progressé de 1,5%, tandis que le Dax allemand et le Cac 40 français ont augmenté respectivement de 1,5 et 1,4%.
Les mouvements suivent une journée en sourdine sur les marchés européens mercredi, où le Stoxx 600 a fermé presque à plat.
Les marchés de Wall Street devraient s’ouvrir plus haut, les futures du S&P 500 indiquant des gains de 0,5%.
Les investisseurs ont provisoirement adopté des données suggérant que la courbe du coronavirus s’aplatit et que le virus se propage donc plus lentement aux États-Unis et dans plusieurs pays d’Europe.
Le régulateur britannique étend l’allégement des prêts aux cartes de crédit et aux emprunts à coût élevé
Matthew Vincent à Londres
Le régulateur financier britannique a confirmé qu’il autoriserait des suspensions de paiement de trois mois sur les prêts à la consommation lorsque les emprunteurs ont été touchés par une interruption du coronavirus. Il a déclaré que la nouvelle flexibilité s’appliquerait aux prêts garantis et au crédit collecté sur le logement ainsi qu’aux cartes, avec un financement automobile à ajouter la semaine prochaine.
La semaine dernière, la Financial Conduct Authority a déclaré qu’elle consultait sur une série de mesures pour fournir un soulagement temporaire aux consommateurs en difficulté, et a donné aux banques et aux émetteurs de cartes jusqu’à lundi pour répondre. Jeudi matin, il a confirmé que les changements de règles nécessaires avaient été apportés mais a déclaré que l’éventail complet des mesures ne s’appliquerait que le mardi 14 avril.
Ce sont: un gel temporaire des paiements sur les prêts et les cartes de crédit pour une période pouvant aller jusqu’à trois mois; zéro intérêt sur les découverts arrangés préexistants jusqu’à 500 £; et aucun changement de prix défavorable sur les découverts.
Certains organismes de bienfaisance endettés souhaitaient un gel complet des paiements d’intérêts, mais le régulateur a déclaré que les intérêts pouvaient encore s’accumuler. Cependant, il a précisé que lorsqu’un client éprouvait des difficultés financières préexistantes, ses règles d’abstention existantes – permettant la renonciation aux intérêts – s’appliquaient. Il a également déclaré que les nouvelles mesures d’allègement s’appliquaient aux personnes qui devaient utiliser des produits à coût élevé – tels que les démarches à domicile ou les crédits collectés et les prêts garantis – parce que les banques ne leur prêteraient pas.
Le patron par intérim de la FCA, Christopher Woolard, a déclaré:
Les mesures que nous avons annoncées sont conçues pour fournir aux personnes touchées un soutien financier à court terme pendant une période qui pourrait être très difficile… Nous savons qu’il reste encore du travail à faire, et nous annoncerons de nouvelles mesures pour soutenir les consommateurs d’autres pays. parties du marché du crédit à l’avenir, y compris dans le secteur de la finance automobile la semaine prochaine.
Le nouveau taux d’infection en Allemagne ralentit pour un quatrième jour consécutif
Tobias Buck à Berlin
L’Allemagne a signalé jeudi 4 974 nouveaux cas de coronavirus, portant le nombre total d’infections détectées à 108 202 depuis le début de la pandémie.
Selon les données officielles de l’Institut Robert Koch de Berlin, le nombre de décès de Covid-19 a augmenté de 246 à 2 107. Les décès quotidiens étaient légèrement inférieurs à ceux de la veille, mais toujours nettement supérieurs à ceux des semaines précédentes.
Les dernières données semblent confirmer les affirmations du gouvernement selon lesquelles le taux de croissance en termes de nouvelles infections ralentit. C’est le quatrième jour consécutif que les nouveaux cas augmentent de 4 à 5%, contre 7 à 8% la semaine dernière.
La mise à jour de l’Institut Robert Koch a fait suite mercredi à la nouvelle que les laboratoires allemands avaient effectué plus de 1,3 million de tests sur les coronavirus depuis le début de la crise – beaucoup plus que les autres pays européens. Au cours de la semaine se terminant le 5 avril, l’Allemagne a effectué 392 984 tests, soit plus de 56 000 tests par jour.
La Russie signale un quatrième jour de cas record de virus alors que le total dépasse 10 000
Henry Foy à Moscou
La Russie a signalé jeudi 1 459 nouveaux cas de coronavirus, une quatrième augmentation quotidienne record qui porte son nombre total d’infections à plus de 10 000 personnes.
Le saut quotidien augmente le nombre total de cas de 17% à 10 131 et maintient une tendance à doubler les infections tous les quatre jours environ.
Le président Vladimir Poutine a déclaré mercredi que la Russie pourrait ne pas voir le pic des infections à Covid-19 avant deux ou trois semaines.
Le nombre total de décès dus au virus a augmenté de 13 personnes du jour au lendemain à 76.
La Russie était auparavant loin derrière les autres pays européens en termes d’ampleur de l’épidémie, mais les infections ont augmenté régulièrement au cours des deux dernières semaines.
Heure de fermeture de la scène nocturne taïwanaise avec prolongation du verrouillage
Kathrin Hille à Taipei
Taïwan a fermé toutes les boîtes de nuit et discothèques jeudi, l’une de ses interventions les plus dures dans la vie économique et sociale intérieure jusqu’à présent.
Cette décision met en évidence les préoccupations des autorités sanitaires concernant le risque de transmission communautaire, même si Taïwan a évité des épidémies locales généralisées.
Le Epidemic Command Center a annoncé jeudi une nouvelle infection, portant le décompte du pays à 380 cas confirmés et cinq décès.
Taïwan a été le premier pays à fermer ses frontières aux citoyens chinois fin janvier, et il a par la suite coupé presque toutes les liaisons aériennes avec la Chine et interdit à la plupart des citoyens étrangers d’entrer dans le pays. Ayant empêché une propagation domestique à grande échelle, le gouvernement n’a depuis imposé des restrictions à la vie normale que de manière sélective. Les marchés, y compris les marchés de nuit avec des vendeurs de nourriture, sont restés ouverts, tout comme les restaurants, les bureaux et les écoles.
Chen Shih-chung, ministre de la Santé, a déclaré que le risque d’une vague de Taïwanais de retour de l’étranger le mois dernier avait diminué, car la quarantaine et la surveillance des arrivées avaient repéré des infections avant qu’elles ne se propagent dans la communauté.
La décision de fermer les discothèques et les discothèques est intervenue après qu’une femme travaillant dans un bar d’hôtesse a été testée positive pour le virus au début de la semaine et que les autorités sanitaires ont eu du mal à identifier la source de l’infection et ses contacts étroits.
Nissan in talks over ¥500bn credit line
Kana Inagaki in Tokyo
Nissan is in discussions with Japanese banks for a credit line worth ¥500bn ($4.6bn) as the lossmaking carmaker seeks to shore up its finances amid a wave of plant closures.
The group, which has an alliance with France’s Renault, has made the request to the three Japanese megabanks including Mizuho Financial Group, and the Development Bank of Japan, according to two people with knowledge of the talks.
In a statement, Nissan said:
While we have enough cash for our current business operations, we are looking into various options in case crises arise in the future.
Its request to lenders comes as the carmaker has wrestled with a plunge in car sales and plant shutdowns across the world due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Even before the outbreak, Nissan had been burning through its cash because of a collapse in vehicle sales worldwide, heavy restructuring costs for job cuts and plant closures as well as investments into future technologies.
The company had ¥1.4tn in cash as of the end of December. But for the past three quarters, its auto business has bled negative cash flow of ¥670.9bn ($6.4bn), while its net cash fell 36 per cent from the same period a year earlier, leading the Japanese group to cancel its year-end dividend.
Among other carmakers, General Motors is drawing down $16bn from its credit facility, while Ford recently drew its $15.4bn facility and scrapped its dividend in order to preserve cash.
New cases hold steady as global total passes 1.5m
Steve Bernard in London
The number of new daily cases of Covid-19 held steady on Wednesday as 84,835 people were confirmed to have the virus. This brings the global total to more than 1.5m.
Yesterday’s death toll increased by 6,414, the second deadliest day since the outbreak began, but significantly lower than Tuesday’s peak.
New daily cases in the US have remained around 30,000 for the past seven days, fuelling hopes that the virus is starting to plateau. The daily death toll remains high as 1,940 people lost their lives yesterday, bringing the total to 14,797, second only to Italy.
Spain and Italy look to be past the peak now, as daily deaths have remained below 750 for the past 5 days. The number of new cases in Italy has also been on a slow downward trend for two weeks.
The number of global recovered cases rose by a record 28,139 yesterday, leaving a total of 330,357 free from the virus.
Poorest nations await news on World Bank’s pandemic bonds
Some of the poorest nations affected by coronavirus are poised for an announcement from the World Bank about whether its specially designed “pandemic bonds” will release funds to help fight the disease.
The bonds require 84 days to have passed since the outbreak date, determined by the WHO, which was reached on March 23. But the World Bank said it would take a further two and a half weeks to determine if the final trigger conditions for the bonds have been met, meaning investors and governments would find out on Thursday April 9 at the earliest. As yet, there has been no word from the World Bank.
“I’m starting to wonder if this is going to trigger honestly,” said David Strasser, senior portfolio manager at Plenum Investments, which is invested in one of the bonds. “It’s anybody’s guess at this point.”
Two classes of bonds were issued by the Washington DC-based institution three years ago, in a $320m deal designed to help developing nations facing a serious outbreak of infectious disease. The bonds deliver interest payments to investors until certain criteria are reached. At that point, investors are not repaid in full and some of the funds are used instead to help tackle the crisis.
Investors are already bracing for steep losses as all but two of these conditions have been reached. The World Bank’s external modelling agent, Air Worldwide, now has to determine that, on March 23, the pandemic was growing at a rate above zero in countries poor enough to be eligible for funding.
AIR’s latest report, sent to investors in the bonds on March 16, said that as of that date, the trigger conditions would not have been met as the growth rate in countries eligible for funding was negative, according to someone with access to the document.
Uniqlo owner slashes profit outlook as sales plummet
Kana Inagaki in Tokyo
Fast Retailing has slashed its annual net profit forecast by 39 per cent as Asia’s largest retailer warned that the coronavirus outbreak posed “the biggest crisis for mankind in the postwar period”.
The operator of the Uniqlo casual clothing chain said it expected to wait until at least June for store operations to return to normal with sales expected to fall as much 70 per cent in the next two months in the US and Europe.
“This new coronavirus is the biggest crisis for mankind in the postwar period,” Tadashi Yanai, the founder and chief executive of Fast Retailing, said at a news conference in Tokyo on Thursday.
The comments came as the group lowered its net profit forecast to ¥100bn ($918m) from an earlier ¥165bn projected for the fiscal year that ends in August. It also cut its full-year revenue forecast by 10.7 per cent to ¥2.09tn as the shutdown of stores continues across the world.
In March, Uniqlo store sales fell 28 per cent from a year earlier in Japan, 40 per cent in China, and 50 per cent in other parts of Asia, North America and Europe.
Still, Mr Yanai said the group did not face any immediate funding shortage, and would continue its investments to open new stores and to automate its warehouse operations.
German truck activity shrinks at fastest pace on record
Valentina Romei in London
German truck mileage, a key measure of economic activity, contracted in March at the fastest pace on record, underlining the depth of the blow from the coronavirus pandemic to the eurozone’s biggest economy.
The mileage covered by trucks on tolled motorways fell 5.9 per cent in March compared with the previous month, marking the largest drop since the data began being tracked in 2005, according to data from the German Federal Statistical Office (Destatis).
At the peak of the financial and economic crisis in January 2009, the measure decreased by 4.3 per cent.
Truck mileage is closely related to industrial production in Germany, according to Destatis, making the measure a good indicator of what is to come given the lag in most economic data.
The figures come a day after the Munich-based Ifo forecast an economic contraction in the second quarter twice as steep as during the financial crisis.
Meanwhile, Italy’s statistics office reported a 1.2 per cent contraction in industrial output in February compared with the previous month, indicating the economy was struggling even before the coronavirus hit.
UBS and Credit Suisse to split dividend payments
Sam Jones in Zurich
UBS and Credit Suisse will split payment of their 2019 dividends into two parts, following a request by the Swiss market regulator, Finma.
Both banks announced they would delay payment of half of their declared dividend for 2019 until the autumn – and make the distribution dependent on a further assessment of how severely the coronavirus pandemic has dented their balance sheets.
Switzerland’s regulator has been in discussions with both banks about how to ensure the lenders have adequate capital to ride through the economic consequences of the virus. Both banks said their strong existing capital ratios would have allowed them to pay the dividends as planned without any risk to their stability.
UBS said it expected first-quarter net profit to be about $1.5bn, greater than the $1.2bn estimate of analysts at Citigroup, who said they “expect UBS to trade well on this”. The bank also guided that its common equity tier 1 ratio, a measure of capital strength to be “in line” with its target of 13 per cent or more.
On Wednesday evening, the Swiss government warned that the Swiss economy could contract as much as 10 per cent in the next three months.
Analysis: Syria’s shattered health service left exposed as virus spreads
Chloe Cornish in Beirut
There have been only 19 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Syria and two deaths. But with testing virtually non-existent, many suspect it is already far more widespread.
“Judging from other places, that is the tip of the iceberg,” Mark Lowcock, the UN’s emergency relief co-ordinator, told the UN Security Council.
The slow rate of testing has alarmed international aid agencies, who warn that northern Syria’s town-sized camps crammed with displaced people could become breeding grounds for the virus
Read the full article here
UK should prepare for lockdown extension, minister warns
Laura Hughes in London
Oliver Dowden, the British secretary of culture, suggested that the public should prepare for an extension of the three-week closure of the coronavirus which ends on Monday.
The review of current measures promised by Boris Johnson is expected to be concluded next week, but intense ministerial discussions are underway about how Britain can gradually ease the restrictions.
Secretary of Foreign Affairs Dominic Raab, who replaces Mr. Johnson while the Prime Minister is in intensive care, will chair a virtual meeting of the government emergency planning committee (Cobra) Thursday afternoon.
However, Dowden said no final decision will be made at the Cobra meeting and that the public should expect an announcement next week.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast TV, Mr Dowden also warned the lockdown measures were unlikely to be eased, as “we’re just beginning to see this strategy starting to work”.
I don’t think it’s very likely these measures are going to be changed given they’re just starting to have an effect but, as we said, we would review them. It’s only prudent that on an ongoing basis we review them after three weeks.
Read more here
Live Q&A: ask the FT about China’s coronavirus response
Join our China tech correspondent Yuan Yang for a live Q&A at 11am BST
Just six weeks ago, China appeared to be reeling under the impact of the coronavirus epidemic. Today, as Covid-19 deaths in other countries outnumber those in China, the world is looking to it for answers. At the same time, the lifting of restrictions in Wuhan, where the outbreak began, is being met with anger and anxiety.
The FT’s Beijing correspondent Yuan Yang has been in China throughout the outbreak, reporting on the government’s cover-up in the early days of the crisis. Yuan has also covered how surveillance technology is being used to track cases of the disease and how official figures may be hiding unreported cases. She recently wrote about China’s efforts to appear as a global leader as the pandemic continues around the world.
Here are just some of the questions Yuan can answer:
How is China keeping on top of the epidemic?
What are the biggest risks facing China’s recovery from coronavirus?
How has the surveillance state helped or hindered in China’s fight against the coronavirus?
How is China responding to the US’s attempts to sanction its technology companies?
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Over two thirds of Britons back idea of unity government, says poll
The majority of British citizens would support an emergency coalition government as the country rallies to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, according to polling group YouGov.
The survey of 1,609 people revealed an appetite for UK political parties to join forces to combat the healthcare emergency after new Labour leader Keir Starmer asked people if they would support a “government of national unity” for the duration of the crisis.
63% of those surveyed said they would support a coalition government, with more than half of those pledging “strong support”. Only 17% said they were opposed, with 20% unsure.
More than half of respondents who voted Conservative in 2019 were happy for the party to forgo its strong majority in the House of Commons in favour of government unity at this time of crisis.
Iran’s supreme leader lambasts the west’s materialistic culture
Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said that western countries’ materialistic culture has resulted in them confiscating each other’s medical supplies, fighting over toilet paper and discriminating against the old over the course of the coronavirus pandemic.
By contrast, in Iran, people have demonstrated “the depth of the Islamic-Iranian culture”, including charitable acts such as distributing food to the poor, making large quantities of masks at home and voluntarily sanitising each other’s houses, he said on Thursday.
Iran’s highest leader was speaking during a live speech, broadcast on state television and Instagram, to honour the birthday of the last Imam of Shia Muslims, the Mahdi, who is missing and many believe will reappear one day to bring justice to the world.
Ayatollah Khamenei called Covid-19 the “modern cholera” and said it showed how much mankind needed a saviour — the Mahdi — more than ever before
because of deep inequalities in society.
Iran’s death toll surpassed 4,000 on Thursday but authorities said there had been a downwards trend in the number of fatalities and confirmed cases.
Dr Kianush Jahanpur, the health ministry’s spokesman, said 4,110 individuals have died out of 66,220 people who have tested positive. But he said the latest numbers indicated the number of casualties was beginning to fall.
The Islamic republic said it has successfully “managed” the crisis, as there was no shortage of medical equipment, but acknowledged it had not yet been able to curb the spread of the illness.
UK housebuilders face months of inactivity
George Hammond in London
One of the UK’s leading housebuilders has warned it won’t be building any new homes until July, adding to concerns about a national undersupply of housing.
“There’s likely to be a fairly prolonged period of no activity and then a slow recovery,” said John Tutte, executive chairman of Redrow, a big housebuilder, which has shut its building sites and furloughed 80 per cent of its workforce.
Work has stopped on building sites across the UK, bringing work on 220,000 new homes to a standstill, according to estate agency Savills. The bulk of those are being built by large housebuilders, who have responded to the closures by furloughing staff and tapping lines of credit.
The result will be a contraction in the number of new homes built each year, exacerbating a long-running housing shortage.
Redrow announced on Thursday that it had secured access to up to £300m from the Treasury’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility, which is designed to help companies regarded as making a material contribution to the UK economy.
On Wednesday, rival builder MJ Gleeson announced it had raised £16.4m from an equity issue, and had furloughed 76 per cent of its staff.
Redrow initially kept its sites open with additional safety measures in place, but eventually followed other big builders such as Barratt Developments and Taylor Wimpey in shutting down sites.
Spain welcomes ‘encouraging’ figures as infections reach a peak
Daniel Dombey in Madrid
Spain’s government has hailed “encouraging” coronavirus figures, even as its opponents have accused it of misinforming the country about the true death toll from Covid-19.
According to official figures published on Thursday, so far 15,238 people with coronavirus have died, 683 of them in the last 24 hours. This compares with a death toll of 757 the previous day and a peak of 950 a week ago.
Overall, Spain has now documented 152,446 cases of coronavirus, a rise of 4 per cent on Wednesday’s count. This is roughly the same rate of increase that has been observed throughout this week, and far below previous rates of 25-30 per cent and more.
“We have arrived at the peak of infections and we are close to the descent,” said Pedro Sánchez, prime minister, as he hailed the “encouraging” figures. He added that the country’s return to normality after a lockdown of more than three weeks should be “progressive” and called for a grand political pact to chart the way ahead.
But the prime minister’s political opponents on the right accused the government of hiding the true figures. As is the case in other countries, Spain’s death toll only includes proven cases of coronavirus, excluding probable cases, where patients have shown the symptoms of Covid-19 but have died without being tested for it. There have been many such cases in care homes.
“Tell us if it is true if the number of victims could duplicate the official figures,” Pablo Casado, leader of the main opposition People’s party, challenged Mr Sánchez in a parliamentary debate on Thursday. “The Spanish deserve a government that always tells them the truth.” Santiago Abascal, leader of the far-right Vox, added that “the suspicious official figures … threaten to be the great hoax of this tragedy, the big lie.”
Drinks makers urge India to lift ban on alcohol sales
Amy Kazmin in New Delhi
Global spirits companies such as Diageo and Pernod Record are appealing to Indian authorities to permit the resumption of alcoholic beverage sales, which were suspended when Prime Minister Narendra Modi suddenly imposed a nationwide curfew to stop the spread of coronavirus on March 25.
In a letter to state governments, which regulate alcohol sales, the International Spirits and Wine Association of India argues that the sale of liquor from shops for home consumption would provide states with critically needed revenues to strengthen their healthcare systems and expand social welfare programmes for those hurt by the lockdown.
The government should seriously consider that retail shops for alcoholic beverages are kept functional so that the state is able to find the money to fight the battle against Covid-19
Excise duties from alcohol sales are a crucial revenue source for most Indian states, accounting for 15 to 30 per cent of the total revenues for state government. In total, excise duties on spirits accounts for Rs2.48tn each year.
But revenues from liquor sales have fallen to zero since the imposition of the curfew, during which only “essential items” such as food, pharmaceutical protects, and household cleaning products are being sold.
The ISWAI represents top global liquor companies that together account for around 80 per cent of the value of spirits sold in India. These include, Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Beam Suntory and Moet Hennessy.
The Indian government was expected to extend its lockdown, after the current three week curfew ends, on April 15.
Africa is failing to grasp scale of the pandemic, says health leader
Neil Munshi in Lagos
The head of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said competition over tests and equipment from wealthier countries is keeping African officials from understanding the scope of coronavirus on the continent.
“We collectively as a continent have challenges in… the ability to scale up diagnostics,” director John Nkengasong told reporters. “Unless and until you do that you cannot find the cases, isolate them and follow their contacts. Because we are challenged there, it’s fair to say that we may not actually know the size of our problem.”
Africa has so far recorded more than 11,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and nearly 600 deaths. But Mr Nkengasong warned that the disease’s trajectory was tracking Europe’s, which could be devastating for a region with under-equipped and fragile healthcare systems.
The problem was compounded by competition for tests and personal protective equipment from developed countries, he said.
“Unfortunately the world is dealing with an issue that is happening simultaneously across every country in the world, so the tendency is to look inward and protect your citizens, which I can fully understand,” he said.
But “we need global solidarity…[Africa] is a continent of 1.3bn people – how are you going to ensure the health security of your people in Europe, the United States or China if you leave a continent of 1.3bn people exposed to such a fast-replicating, fast-evolving virus?”
Pfizer expects to test coronavirus treatment by late summer
Hannah Kuchler in New York
Pfizer expects to be able to test a new antiviral medication for coronavirus in humans by August or September, accelerating the clinical trial timeline as the US pharmaceutical company expands its work in the battle against Covid-19.
The New York-based company said it had found an anti-viral compound that inhibits the viruses’ protease – enzymes needed for it to replicate – in the lab, but now needs to be tested in clinical trials. Other protease inhibitors are being explored as possible treatments, such as Abbvie’s Kaletra, an HIV drug, but this is the first specifically designed for Covid-19.
Mikael Dolsten, chief scientific officer, said because the drug targets the protease, which is similar to that of other coronaviruses including the virus that caused the Sars epidemic, the virus may be less likely to become resistant to the drug than with some of the other potential candidates for treatment.
Pfizer is also supporting studies looking at whether its antibiotic azithromycin could also have antiviral properties, whether its immunosuppressant tofacitinib can help when Covid-19 patients immune systems go into overdrive, and examining how pneumonia interacts with the disease, in two new studies at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.
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Ground handlers demand immediate furlough access scheme
Nikou Asgari, companies reporter
The UK’s four largest ground-handling businesses have warned they are at “immediate threat” of collapse if access to the government’s job retention scheme is delayed.
In a letter to the chancellor seen by the Financial Times, the companies said that delayed access or continued lack of transparency surrounding the government’s furlough scheme will mean “our businesses will ultimately fail”.
Swissport, Menzies, Dnata, WFS, which handle 90 per cent of all passengers and cargo that fly into the UK, and unions Unite and GMB have urged the Treasury to start the furlough scheme immediately and to relax business rates.
The cash-strapped companies pay business rates on more than 1,000 properties, many of which are unused due to falling passenger numbers.
“The future of our collective businesses is under immediate threat, which has wide-ranging implications for the future of the UK aviation industry and ultimately the recovery of the economy post Covid-19,” they said.
As many as 10,000 ground handlers have been furloughed as the companies grapple with a 95 per cent drop in revenues.
The aviation industry has been at the sharp end of economic disruption from the coronavirus pandemic as flights have been grounded while governments try to reduce the spread of the virus.
The UK chancellor last month said “bespoke support” would be offered to aviation companies only after all other financial options had been explored.
Unlike airlines, the ground handling companies said they “do not seek a bailout or require handouts”.
EMA announces special pandemic task force to find vaccine
The European Medical Agency has set up a pandemic task force that will help the EU to develop therapies and vaccines to treat Covid-19.
The group will help member states and the European Commission to develop, authorise and monitor treatments, the agency said in a statement on Thursday.
The move comes as many companies propose new and repurposed medicines that they say can be used in the fight to contain the coronavirus pandemic.
The task force will review scientific data on medicinal products and identify potential candidates, request data from developers and engage with them in preliminary discussions while offering scientific support to facilitate EU clinical trials.
S&P cuts Renault to junk and downgrades outlook on PSA
David Keohane in Paris
Rating agency Standard & Poor’s cut Renault’s bonds to junk and downgraded the outlook for Peugeot parent company PSA, as coronavirus takes its toll on both French carmakers.
PSA and Renault have seen sales fall off a cliff and have closed their plants across Europe in recent weeks.
S&P, which downgraded Renault to BB+ from BBB-, said that “the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic will lead to a decline in global auto sales of about 15 per cent in 2020, followed by a 6-8 per cent recovery in sales volumes in 2021”.
The ratings agency added that while Renault has an ample liquidity cushion and can count on guarantees from the French state, which is its largest shareholder, it nevertheless expects “Renault’s earnings, free cash flow generation and financial position to weaken materially in 2020, following an already challenging 2019”.
On Thursday, S&P also downgraded its outlook for PSA, which is in talks to merge with Italian-American car maker FCA. It maintained its BBB- rating, which is one notch above junk.
“In our base-case scenario for PSA, we still assume a merger with FCA closing in 2021,” said S&P in its statement on Thursday.
However some analysts are now less sure that the merger will close.
Cases rise at Kyiv monastery where services were held
Roman Olearchyk in Kyiv
Covid-19 cases have risen at a Kyiv monastery where leadership of a Ukrainian Orthodox Church loyal to Moscow’s patriarchy had until last weekend urged its congregation to “rush to church” for holy communion.
“The news from me today is not good,” the mayor of the Ukrainian capital said on Thursday, adding that within days the number of cases at the Monastery of the Caves has surged to 26.
“They must be conscious of their responsibility for the security of their faithful,” Vitaly Klitschko said as he urged masses, including this month’s Eastern holidays, to be held online.
Ukraine has nearly 2,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19, including 57 deaths. Only several thousand tests have been conducted though, raising fears that many have gone unreported. The government expects cases to peak this month.
Most of Ukraine’s organised religions, including a larger Orthodox church that is independent from Russia’s patriarchy, switched to internet-based masses weeks ago. But the Russia-loyal Orthodox church, which shut down its masses last weekend, persisted in encouraging people to attend and take communion.
Greggs issues £150m in debt under government scheme
Alice Hancock in London
Greggs, the Newcastle-based bakery chain renowned for its sausage rolls, has issued £150m debt under the Bank of England-backed corporate financing scheme, launched by the government to help companies survive the coronavirus shutdown.
The company said on Thursday that the amount would be enough to see it through the crisis and meet its liquidity needs even if its 2,050 shops had to be closed until the end of the year.
Greggs had previously modelled for a cash outflow of £5m per week during the lockdown as well as £11m of quarterly rent payments, but said it had now reduced that to £3.5m per week until the end of June.
Before receiving the finance from the coronavirus facility, the chain has £47m cash on its balance sheet.
Its closure, shortly after the government ruled that all restaurants, cafes and bars had to be shut for all but takeaway, was met with distress across social media with one fan tweeting “I’ll never take you for granted again #greggs”.
Bank card data confirms plunge in French consumption
Victor Mallet in Paris
Data on French bank card transactions have confirmed the collapse in consumption and economic activity estimated by forecasters and financial institutions, with the value of card purchases falling by half from 2019 levels in the second half of March as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the resulting confinement of the population.
Insee, the French statistics institute, is using the daily bank card data to confirm its quick estimates of the economic impact of the crisis.
On Thursday, it said French economic activity had fallen about 36 per cent, which would translate into a fall of 3 per cent in 2020 GDP for each month of similar confinement. The Banque de France, the central bank, has made similar forecasts and estimates that GDP fell 6 per cent in the first quarter.
Bank card data shows how the lockdown has affected different types of consumption, with a big spike in food purchases the day before confinement started on March 17 followed by a sharp decline. The graphic below illustrates the drop-off, where black is total consumption, blue is food, green is vehicle fuel and red is clothing and shoes
Vehicle fuel purchases have collapsed after spiking at the beginning of the lockdown, and were down 91 per cent by value on March 29, compared to the equivalent Sunday a year earlier. The buying of clothes and shoes fell close to zero before recovering a little.
Jean-Luc Tavernier, Insee director-general, said the crisis had forced statisticians to develop new and faster ways of producing their reports to help policymakers, including using “very representative” bank card data to provide evidence for their conclusions.
I think it’s the first time that the head of a statistics institute has to come out and say the economy is running at 65 per cent of normal … The world has completely changed, and we have changed our methods. The traditional methods do not allow ‘now-casting’.
Boris Johnson ‘continues to improve’ in intensive care
Laura Hughes in London
Boris Johnson’s condition “continues to improve” in intensive care as he receives “standard oxygen treatment”, his spokesman has said.
Downing Street said the prime minister had a “good night” and wanted to thank the NHS for his “brilliant care”.
“The Prime Minister had a good night and continues to improve in intensive care. He’s in good spirits,” the spokesman said.
“The Prime Minister thanks the NHS for the brilliant care which it is providing. The claps for carers have provided wonderful, unifying moments for the entire country. I’m sure that tonight we will once again see people in their millions paying tribute to our fantastic dedicated care workers.”
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab, who is deputising for Mr Johnson while the prime minister is in hospital, will chair a virtual meeting of the government’s emergency planning committee, Cobra, this afternoon. No final decision on extending the current three week lockdown is expected to be made during the meeting.
However, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon told Sky News on Thursday morning that she did not believe there was “any possibility of these lockdown measurers being lifted immediately, or imminently”.
Responding to her comments, the prime minister’s spokesman said: “What we absolutely need to do now is keep bearing down on the rate of transmission which will mean continuing with social distancing measures to ensure we are protecting the NHS and saving lives.
“We are at a critical point in this. That is certainly the case as we approach the Easter bank holiday weekend.”
“The public response to this has been brilliant. People have made very big sacrifices in the way they live their lives. You are beginning to see the impact that is having but people really do need to stick with it at what is a critical juncture.”
Asked if additional lockdown measures could be introduced, they said: “The focus for now is on ensuring that people continue to stick by measures which we have put in place.”
US stock futures lower ahead of weekly jobless claims figures
US equity futures signalled a lower open on Wall Street after a sharp rally on Wednesday, as investors await data on the labour market and ready for the long Easter weekend.
S&P 500 futures were down 0.7 per cent having jumped more than 3 per cent the previous session. While Nasdaq 100 futures were down 0.6 per cent.
Investors are eyeing initial jobless claims data due out at 8:30am ET. Expectations are for claims to total 5.5m in the week ended April 4.
Elsewhere in markets, the yield on the US 10-year slid 0.03 percentage points to 0.7302 per cent. Yields move inversely to price.
US stock and bond markets will remain closed tomorrow in observance of Good Friday.
ECB dissenters resisted Lagarde’s ‘no limits’ push
Martin Arnold in Frankfurt
Christine Lagarde faced “reservations” from a vocal minority of European Central Bank governing council members over her call for a “no limits” policy to shield the eurozone from the coronavirus pandemic at its emergency meeting last month.
These dissenting views were referred to in the latest account of the ECB council’s conference call on March 18, when it decided to buy €750bn more bonds in a significant expansion of its asset-purchase programme to address rising tensions in bond markets.
Selon le compte rendu officiel de l’appel, qui a été publié jeudi, les membres du conseil ont convenu à l’unanimité de la nécessité d’intensifier leur action. Mais ils ont exprimé des opinions divergentes sur la question de savoir si la BCE devrait lever les limites auto-imposées de son programme d’achat d’actifs et si elle devrait s’appuyer sur les outils existants plutôt que de lancer un nouveau système.
«Certains membres ont exprimé des réserves quant à la nécessité de lancer un nouveau programme d’achat d’actifs dédié [APP],” Ça disait. «Bien que ces membres soient d’accord sur la nécessité manifeste d’une action, ils ont exprimé leur préférence pour l’utilisation de la boîte à outils existante du conseil des gouverneurs, telle que la mise à l’échelle de l’APP actuelle ou l’examen des transactions monétaires (OMT).»
The proposal by some council members to rely on OMT, an untested and controversial measure that allows it to buy an unlimited amount of a country’s bonds as part of an official EU bailout, underlines the tensions stirred up by Ms Lagarde’s “no limits” approach.
It shows how concerned they were that, by scaling up its asset purchases with almost no limits on how to deploy them, the ECB could blur the lines between fiscal and monetary policy and stray into monetary financing of governments, which is against EU law.
In the end, the ECB announced it would buy an extra €750bn of assets this year in a new scheme, dubbed the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme, which has almost none of the restrictions governing its earlier asset purchases and is designed to last until the pandemic is over.
Poland extends lockdown
James Shotter in Warsaw
Poland’s government has prolonged the lockdown of its borders, businesses and public spaces for at least another 10 days as it tries to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
Prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki told a press conference that the central European nation’s borders would remain shut until May 3, non-essential businesses until April 19, and schools until April 26.
However, he offered hope that after Easter, the government would be able to ease some of the extraordinary restrictions that it has put in place to control Covid-19, which has so far infected 5,341 people and killed 164 in Poland.
“We don’t know how the epidemic is going to develop, so we are trying with moderation to adapt specific restrictions to the state we are in,” he said, adding that the easing of restrictions would aim to allow parts of the economy to restart.
Poland will also require citizens to cover their nose and mouth when they are outside their home, starting from April 16.
Singapore reports biggest jump yet in cases
Stefania Palma in Singapore
Singapore has reported 287 new confirmed cases, the highest daily jump yet that takes the country’s total to 1,910.
More than 200 cases were linked to foreign worker dormitories while another 46 had yet to show links to previously reported patients.
Authorities said Singapore was stepping up medical operations and testing across all foreign worker dormitories – which house thousands of people often in cramped rooms – to help separate the healthy from the infected.
More than 5,000 migrant workers employed in “essential services” – which continue operating in Singapore’s near total lockdown – have been moved to other accommodation, with the intention of transferring more, the government said.
Singapore this week has put four dormitories under isolation – meaning workers are not allowed to leave their rooms for a fortnight – to help stem a third wave of infections in the city state.
Fed launches expanded $2.3tn lending programme
James Politi in Washington and Colby Smith in New York
The Federal Reserve has moved to provide an additional $2.3tn in loans to shore up the US economy during the coronavirus pandemic, by setting up new facilities to deliver credit to small businesses and municipalities, and expanding measures introduced last month to back corporate debt markets.
“Our country’s highest priority must be to address this public health crisis, providing care for the ill and limiting the further spread of the virus,” Jay Powell, the Fed chairman, said on Thursday.
“The Fed’s role is to provide as much relief and stability as we can during this period of constrained economic activity, and our actions today will help ensure that the eventual recovery is as vigorous as possible.
Mr Powell was expected to make remarks at 10am on Thursday on the central bank’s approach to the coronavirus crisis.
US initial jobless claims dip to 6.6m but remain near record levels
A total of 6.6 million Americans have filed for unemployment for the first time in a wave for the third week in a row after the coronavirus pandemic forced the closure of non-core businesses and sent shock waves over the American job market.
Initial jobless claims remained high during the week ended April 4, but below the 6.87 million registered the previous week, the Labor Department said on Thursday. Economists had forecast claims would slip to 5.5m.
According to advance state-level estimates that have not been seasonally adjusted, California reported the highest number of jobless benefits filed at 925,450.
The jobless claims figures have gained more prominence as they provide a more up-to-date snapshot of the American jobs market than the non-farm payroll report, which showed the US economy shed 701,000 jobs in March and the unemployment rate jumped to a 2.5 year high of 4.4 per cent.
The epidemic has ravaged the global economy, with the United States expected to experience a sharp drop in GDP in the first and second quarters. Le procès-verbal des deux réunions d’urgence de la Réserve fédérale en mars a montré aux responsables “que les perspectives économiques américaines à court terme s’étaient fortement détériorées ces dernières semaines et étaient devenues profondément incertaines”.
The number of coronavirus cases in the United States has exceeded 435,000, while the death toll has risen to more than 14,700, although it is hoped that the epidemic may approach its peak at the national level. Globally, confirmed cases have exceeded 1.5 m and the death toll has exceeded 88,000.
Canada sheds more than 1m jobs in a month
Canada suffered its worst ever monthly job losses in March as the economy shed more than a million jobs and unemployment jumped to 7.8 per cent, according to the official labour market survey.
Statistics Canada said the unemployment rate rose 2.2 percentage points in the worst month for jobs since comparable records began in 1976. The loss was far worse than the consensus view among economists surveyed by Refinitiv who forecast job losses of 350,000 and an unemployment rate of 7.2 per cent.
Data on the number of hours worked showed that 3.1m Canadians were hit by job losses or a reduction in hours.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said yesterday that the jobless figures would make for “a hard day for the country”.
Experts have warned that the figures based on sampling in the week of March 15-21 show only a partial picture of the impact on jobs, as Covid-19 had just begun to affect the Canadian economy when the statistics were collected. In a letter to the finance minister published by the CD Howe Institute think-tank, two economists warned, “the worst is yet to be revealed”.
The government has received more than 4m unemployment claims since March 15, Canadian media reported, including more than a million applications for a new emergency unemployment benefit since it launched on Monday. Mr Trudeau yesterday loosened the rules on the government’s wage subsidy to make it easier for employers to keep workers on the payroll as part of Canada’s more than C$80bn economic rescue plan.
Morgan Stanley chief tells staff he has recovered from Covid-19
Laura Noonan in New York
Morgan Stanley chief executive James Gorman had and has recovered from Covid-19, he told staff in a video message on the bank’s intranet this morning.
Mr Gorman, 61, said he had begun experiencing flu-like symptoms in mid-March. He self-isolated at home, was diagnosed with Covid-19 and has recovered well.
The bank said Mr Gorman’s symptoms were not “particularly severe” and that he had continued to run the business throughout, including daily calls with its operating committee and several meetings of the bank’s board of directors.
He was cleared by his doctor a week ago but continues to self-isolate at home, the bank said.
UK lenders request multi-billion support package to offer loan holidays
Nicholas Megaw in London
Britain’s non-bank lenders have requested a multi-billion pound support package from the government and Bank of England to enable them to meet customer demands for loan holidays.
Many lenders “currently have no access to funding sources” and need “an urgent solution” to keep operating, warned trade groups, including UK Finance and the Finance and Leasing Association, in a letter to the Treasury seen by the Financial Times.
Specialists such as guarantor lenders, motor finance companies and niche mortgage lenders were included in new FCA legislation that required them to give payment holidays to customers who run into financial difficulties due to the coronavirus.
However, they have been excluded from a Bank of England liquidity scheme designed to help banks continue lending, and from loan guarantee and bond-buying programmes designed to help non-financial groups.
Stephen Haddrill, FLA director general, said:
Non-bank lenders rely heavily on the capital markets and bank funding, which are essentially closed to them … This sector needs urgent government help to ensure that it is still in a position to lend to individuals and businesses when the current market disruption ends.
Americas: what you might have missed
• Morgan Stanley chief executive James Gorman, 61, has recovered from Covid-19, he told staff in a video message on the bank’s intranet.
• The Federal Reserve said it would provide an additional $2.3tn in loans to shore up the US economy during the coronavirus pandemic, by setting up new facilities to deliver credit to small businesses and municipalities.
• 6.6m Americans filed for first-time unemployment claims in a surge for the third consecutive week.
• UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s condition continued “to improve” following his second night in intensive care after testing positive for coronavirus 13 days ago.
• Pfizer, the pharmaceuticals group, expects to test a new treatment by late summer, accelerating the timeline of clinical trials in the US.
• Spain called its latest figures on coronavirus cases and deaths “encouraging”, but critics say government was misinforming over true death toll from Covid-19. Germany’s infection rate slowed for the fourth day in a row.
• Singapore has reported its biggest daily jump in confirmed cases, with 287 testing positive. Two-thirds were linked to foreign worker dormitories, where conditions are often cramped.
Netherlands optimistic on EU deal once finance ministers’ talks resume
Mehreen Khan in Brussels
The Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte has said there is a good chance that EU finance ministers will agree on measures to tackle the pandemic after 14 hours of talks failed this week.
The Netherlands has insisted that credit lines from the eurozone’s bailout fund include promises for countries to carry out reforms, a stance that led to Eurogroup talks breaking down on Wednesday. Italy, one of Europe’s worst affected economies, has resisted signing up to any loan “conditionality”. Talks will resume this afternoon.
Dutch finance minister Wopke Hoekstra has come under fire from southern eurozone members and his coalition partners for insisting on loan conditions. But Mr Rutte stood by his minister and said the Netherlands was not alone in its position.
“It is possible there will be a deal in the Eurogroup,” said Mr Rutte. “[The Netherlands wants to] help countries be in a stronger position next time something like this happens”.
We’re trying to do the maximum to help to bring the negotiations to a successful conclusion.
Germany to carry out first large-scale antibody test for coronavirus
Guy Chazan in Berlin
Germany will be the first country in the world to carry out large-scale antibody testing for coronavirus, which will help show how many people are now immune to the disease.
Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute, announced details of three antibody tests: one of blood donations, one of 4 distinct areas that saw outbreaks of the virus, and a representative study of the broader population.
They will be carried out jointly by the Robert Koch Institute, the Institute for Virology of Charité Hospital in Berlin and the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research in Braunschweig.
Dr Wieler said the aim was to find out how many Germans were immune to the virus. Il ajouta:
We’d like to know how large is the proportion of asymptomatic cases – that is people who were infected by the virus but didn’t know it – and to assess how many people in Germany have died, so how high the mortality rate is.
Experts have argued that doing spot checks and randomised tests will be key in uncovering real infection rates for coronavirus, rather than relying on models which use data that can quickly become obsolete. So far, no country in the world has successfully implemented a nationwide antibody testing programme.
UK accounting regulator halts plans to break up ‘Big Four’
Tabby Kinder in London
The accounts watchdog has put its plans to break up the Big Four accountants on hold amid challenges to the profession due to the outbreak of coronavirus.
In an update issued on Thursday, the Financial Reporting Council said all “demands on, requests from and meetings with audit firms on operational separation” would be stopped. It will review the decision in one month.
The update from the FRC also said it would not issue any more letters to companies under its corporate review function, in which it reviews the adequacy of listed company accounts.
The regulator wrote to Deloitte, KPMG, EY and PwC in February to outline how they should separate their audit units from their lucrative consulting divisions by the end of this year. That move, a year after the competition watchdog recommended legislation to force such a split, would amount to a far-reaching shake-up of the accounting profession in the UK.
The Big Four are attempting to cut costs and preserve cash as fees from clients, particularly on consulting and tax advice, start to decline during the pandemic. Last week, they discussed whether to furlough potentially thousands of employees.
Powell says Fed will use powers ‘forcefully, proactively and aggressively’
James Politi in Washington
Jay Powell said the Federal Reserve would use its powers “forcefully, proactively and aggressively” until the economy recovers from the coronavirus shock, as the US central bank moved to offer an extra $2.3tn in lending to stricken businesses and municipalities.
In remarks by webcast to the Brookings Institution on Thursday, the Fed chairman said the emergency measures being rolled out in recent weeks were necessary given the “very unusual circumstances” of severe economic and financial dislocations, but would be rolled back once the crisis eased.
“We are deploying these lending powers in the past to an unprecedented extent, thanks in large part to financial support from Congress and the Treasury. We will continue to use these powers forcefully, proactively and aggressively until we are confident that we are firmly on the road to recovery, “said Mr. Powell.
The Fed chairman added that the “emergency tools” would be “put away” once the recovery set in and “private markets and institutions are once again able to perform their vital functions of channelling credit and supporting economic growth”.
Powell’s comments came as economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic was highlighted by data showing that 6.6 million people filed for unemployment in the United States during the week last, bringing the total of new unemployed Americans to 17 million since the cascade of business closings caused. by the virus.
The Fed has already lowered interest rates to almost zero and significantly increased its balance sheet by purchasing government-backed and government-backed treasury and mortgage-backed securities.
O2 music venue to become NHS training centre
Nic Fildes in London
The O2 music arena in the east of London is to be turned into a training centre for National Health Service staff working in the new Nightingale Hospital located nearby.
No patients will be treated at The O2, which typically hosts large music concerts and sporting events, as the venue is transformed into a training centre from next week until the end of June. The O2’s owners will not charge the NHS to use the venue and will pass on additional expenses – such as security – at cost.
Music venues have been closed due to government restrictions on mass gatherings. That has led to the cancellation or postponement of concerts in the UK over the coming month. The O2 said that some events will need to be rescheduled as a result of the NHS training.
The O2 was due to host boxing, basketball and music concerts, including hair metal band Whitesnake and soul singer Alicia Keys in the coming month.
UK economy faces shrinking 25% in second quarter, study shows
Valentina Romei in London
The UK economy could shrink by 15 to 25 per cent in the second quarter as a result of the lockdown, marking one of the steepest falls this century, according to an independent research centre.
The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) calculated that UK output could shrink as much as 25 per cent in the three months to June, if the lockdown is extended until May or beyond.
“The lockdown is causing the largest contraction in economic activity since 1921,” the institute said.
Distribution, hotels, restaurants and construction are expected to be the most affected sectors with output shrinking by one third compared to the previous quarter, while output in business services is set to fall less, by 8 per cent.
“The forceful impact of Covid-19 and the global lockdown has thrust the economy into unknown territory where we could see GDP declining at a record quarterly rate,” said Kemar Whyte, senior economist at NIESR. “Nonetheless, instant and significant recovery remain a distinct possibility if the spread of the virus comes to halt quickly.”
NIESR forecast a double-digit month-on-month output growth in June for both services and manufacturing production, if the lockdown is lifted before May.
For the first quarter, NIESR expects the UK GDP to shrink 5 per cent as a result of 6.6 per cent contraction in construction and a drop by about 4 per cent in services and manufacturing.
Bank of England lent £3.6bn to large UK businesses last week
Chris Giles in London
Large companies borrowed £3.6bn from the Bank of England last week as part of the government’s scheme to help businesses during the coronavirus crisis.
Under the Covid Corporate Financing Facility, the BoE prints money to buy commercial paper from large investment-grade companies, financing these companies very cheaply. The BoE has lent £5.5bn since the scheme opened in late March.
This is far below the chancellor’s headline figure for the scheme offering government guarantees of up to £350bn.
Powell calls for national plan to reopen American economy
James Politi in Washington
Jay Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, called for a national plan to reopen the US economy after the coronavirus crisis eases, led by health officials to avoid any “false start” that would reignite infections around the country.
“It’s time to have a serious public conversation and a lot of analysis about that,” Mr Powell said in a Q&A session following webcast remarks to the Brookings Institution. «Nous devons avoir un plan national pour la réouverture de l’économie. We all want it to happen as quickly as possible. We all want to avoid a false start where we partially reopen and that results in a spike in coronavirus cases and we have to go back again to square one.”
Trump administration officials have been eyeing ways to lift restrictions and revive the economy in the next two months. Mr Powell made his comments after unveiling $2.3tn in lending plans to help the US economy and credit markets, which he acknowledged might be adjusted in the coming weeks.
“These are programmes we are developing at a high rate of speed. We don’t have the luxury of taking our time the way we usually do, we’re trying to get help quickly to the economy as it’s needed,” he said. “I worry that in hindsight you’ll see that we could have done things differently, but one thing I don’t worry about is inflation right now,” he added.
Mr Powell said the Fed would not hesitate to help other areas of the markets that were facing stress, and expand or shrink existing programmes as needed.
GE latest company to scrap 2020 guidance
Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson in New York
GE has joined the list of companies withdrawing its financial guidance for 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic scrambles business plans, saying it could not forecast “the full duration, magnitude, and pace of recovery across our end markets, operations, and supply chains” with reasonable certainty.
The US industrial group, which was known for consistently beating earnings estimates under former chief executive Jack Welch, said it “preliminarily expects” its adjusted earnings for the first quarter to March 31 to be materially below the guidance of 10 cents per share it had given just five weeks ago.
The maker of aircraft engines and healthcare technology reaffirmed its previous guidance that industrial free cash flow would be “about negative $2bn”, however, citing non-cash factors and timing issues in its aviation, renewable energy and GE Capital divisions.
GE is proceeding with plans to announce first-quarter earnings on April 29.
Larry Culp, chairman and chief executive, said that the roughly $20bn proceeds from selling its biotechnology equipment business had helped strengthen its balance sheet, adding that it was committed to reducing its debt “over time” as it navigated the uncertainty in its core markets.
Companies from McDonald’s to Levi Strauss have similarly withdrawn guidance in recent days as chief executives’ confidence in demand returning quickly ebbs.
The Conference Board said on Thursday that the number of US CEOs it polled who had seen conditions deteriorate jumped from 70 per cent in mid-March to 97 per cent by early April.
NHS England reports 765 more Covid-19 deaths over 24-hour period
NHS England recorded a further 765 deaths of those who tested positive for coronavirus over the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in hospitals in England to 7,248.
Patients were aged between 24 and 103 years old, while 43 of the 765 patients had no known underlying health condition, the National Health Service said on Thursday.
The figures include confirmed cases reported at 5pm on Wednesday. These figures do not include deaths outside hospital, such as those in care homes.
New York records its highest number of daily deaths
Peter Wells and Peter Spiegel in New York
New York recorded its highest number of daily deaths, at almost 800, but Governor Andrew Cuomo pointed to promising signs the state’s coronavirus outbreak was steadying.
More than 700 people have died in each of the past three days, with the April 8 toll of 799 setting a new daily record for the state, which has been the hardest-hit by coronavirus in the US.
That took the number of people who have died in the state since the beginning of the outbreak to 7,067.
“That is so shocking and painful and breathtaking … I don’t even have the words for it,” Mr Cuomo said, pointing out that is more than the 2,753 people from New York state who died in the September 11 terrorist attacks, which he described as what was “supposed to be the darkest day for New York in a generation”.
“We are going to bring in additional funeral directors to deal with the people who have passed,” he added.
But Mr Cuomo also noted that the number of new hospitalisations and patients moved into intensive care remained at week-long lows, signalling that the state may soon be on the downside of the outbreak’s “peak”.
Italy records additional 610 deaths
Davide Ghiglione in Rome
A further 610 people have died in Italy from coronavirus on Thursday, a higher daily tally than the 542 seen on Wednesday. This is in contrast to the steady downward trend of the last few days.
The total death toll in the world’s hardest-hit country since its outbreak came to light on February 21 rose to 18,279, the Civil Protection Agency said on Thursday.
The total of confirmed cases increased by 4,204 on Thursday to 143,626.
While Italy has been under strict social distancing measures since March 10, its government confirmed that the measures would continue until at least after Easter as the new cases continue to rise, even if the growth rate has sharply declined since the early stages of the outbreak.
The total number of Covid-19 patients in Italy who have recovered increased by 1,979 to 28,470.
Canada estimates up to 44,000 Covid-19 deaths
Justin Trudeau has said the government’s modelling suggests that between 4,000 and 44,000 Canadians will die from Covid-19 in an outbreak that will last for many months.
The prime minister said the peak of infection will likely come in the “late spring” and the first wave will end in the summer, with smaller outbreaks over the following months.
“Normality as it was before will not come back full on until we have a vaccine for this, and that could be a very long way off,” Mr Trudeau said, adding that some social distancing restrictions could be set aside after the first wave, allowing the economy to rebound.
“Even after we are through this first wave we will need to be vigilant”, he said.
Mr Trudeau said 4.5m people had applied for emergency unemployment benefits since the program launched on Monday. Earlier today, Canada announced its worst ever monthly job losses in March, shedding more than a million jobs as unemployment jumped to 7.8 per cent.
“We are doing our best to help you bridge to better times”, Mr Trudeau said, adding that the government “will keep expanding” its economic measures, including new loans for businesses.
The number of Covid-19 cases in Canada increased by 1,326 in the past day, taking the total confirmed cases to 19,759. Health Canada reported 60 deaths, bringing the cumulative death toll to 461.
French public sector deficit and debt set to surge in 2020
Victor Mallet in Paris
France’s public sector deficit will more than double to reach 7.6 per cent of GDP this year while public debt will rise from about 100 per cent of GDP to 112 per cent as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to two ministers responsible for finance.
“This debt responds to the imperative need to avoid business bankruptcies and the shipwreck of our economy,” finance minister Bruno Le Maire said in a joint interview with Gérald Darmanin, his deputy responsible for public accounts. “In the long term, we will need to have healthy public finances and reduce the debt,” he told business newspaper Les Echos.
French President Emmanuel Macron and his ministers have said they will keep the economy afloat and save jobs during the crisis “whatever the cost”.
The cost of a government economic rescue plan initially estimated at €45bn would rise to €100bn, largely because of the greater-than-expected number of those benefiting from a temporary employment subsidy scheme and its longer duration as the confinement of the population continues.
Nearly 700,000 businesses have applied to pay 6.3m employees through the scheme.
The two ministers reiterated the latest predictions that the French economy would shrink about 6 per cent this year, which would be the worst recession since the second world war.
UK lockdown won’t be eased until at least next week, Raab says
Robert Shrimsley in London
The UK will not consider lifting its lockdown until the end of next week at the earliest, Dominic Raab has signalled.
Although a promised three-week review of the measures was due by Monday, Mr Raab, the first secretary of state who is standing in for the hospitalised Boris Johnson, said: “We’re not done yet, we must keep going.”
Mr Raab said the scientific advisory group was still gathering data and would review it again next week, but that “we don’t expect to be able to say more on this until the end of next week”.
Acknowledging the suffering and sacrifice of a continued lockdown, Mr Raab added at Thursday’s daily briefing: “Let’s not ruin it now and undo the giant steps we made. We must not give the coronavirus a second chance.”
Sir Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser, added that the measures were showing signs of working in slowing the progress of the virus.
“It’s too early to be sure,” he stressed but added that there were clear signs of the new cases levelling off. He added the increase in deaths would not abate yet because it lagged behind the number of new cases.
Sir Patrick added: “In general I would expect the deaths to keep going up for two weeks.”
On the health of the prime minister, Mr Raab said Boris Johnson was still in intensive care but “continues to make positive step forwards and he’s in good spirits”.
EasyJet defers delivery of 24 Airbus aircrafts
Nikou Asgari in Reading
EasyJet has deferred its aircraft order with Airbus following intense pressure from the airline’s founder, Stelios Haji-Ioannou.
The UK-listed carrier said it will defer the order for 24 aircraft deliveries over the next three financial years up to 2022 in an attempt to improve liquidity. Delivery dates of the aircraft will be “agreed in response to the demand environment”, easyJet said in a statement on Thursday.
The airline is embroiled in a battle with Sir Stelios, whose family holds a 34 per cent stake in the business. He is calling for the £4.5bn Airbus order to be cancelled and on Tuesday requested an emergency shareholder meeting to vote on the removal of two board directors unless the decision to cancel was made.
“We remain completely focused on improving short-term liquidity and reducing expenditure across the business,” said Johan Lundgren, chief executive, adding that the deferral will provide “a significant boost to our cash flow”.
The budget airline this week became one of the first big companies to reveal it had tapped the government’s emergency loan scheme, taking £600m from the Covid Corporate Financing Facility.
Sir Stelios criticised the plan, stating it only talks about deferrals of 24 out of 107 new orders.
“A deferral is the same as kicking the can down the road,” he said on Thursday.
In addition they are not telling the investors how many Airbus aircraft will easyJet go ahead and pay Airbus for and how much per aircraft during the next six months using UK taxpayers money.
Cases in UK rise to 16,784 as nearly 900 deaths added
The UK on Thursday reported that deaths from the coronavirus pandemic have risen by nearly 900 over the past 24 hours, bringing the total to just below 8,000.
The government said total deaths have climbed to 7,978 as of 5pm on Wednesday, with 881 more people dying over the previous 24 hours.
The number of people who tested positive for the virus rose to 65,077, out of 243,421 people tested. Of the 65,077 people who tested positive, 16,784 were confirmed to have symptoms and taken to hospitals as of 9am on Thursday.
The lockdown will remain in place until the data clearly shows it has reached its peak, said the first secretary of state Dominic Raab, who is standing in for Boris Johnson as he recovers in hospital.
“The deaths are still rising,” said Mr Raab, adding that, in curtailing the pandemic, “we will be guided by the science at all times”.
The tally of daily deaths in the UK has gone up swiftly since the outbreak, slowing down in recent days, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, with London and the Midlands experiencing some of the largest amount of cases in the country.
Deaths in nearly 390 Italian towns at least tripled in March
Valentina Romei in London
Italy’s number of deaths for over 1,450 municipalities doubled in March compared to the same month last year, according to official data published on Thursday.
Among municipalities where at least 50 people died in March, the number of deaths spiked up to 19 times the figure for the same period last year, according to data from the Office for National Statistics (ISTAT).
This is the case for the Brembate di Sorpa, a town of nearly 8,000 people in the virus-most affected northern region of Lombardy, where 78 people died between March 1 and March 28, up from 4 over the same period last year.
There were nearly 390 municipalities where the number of deaths at least tripled.
Among the 1,450 municipalities for which data is available, the number of deaths rose by 128 per cent for men and by 80 per cent for women.
The publication by ISTAT is not representative of the trend in the country as it shows a selection of municipalities based on completeness of information as well as a rise in deaths of at least 20 per cent compared to the five years to 2019.
The publication, which will be updated regularly, is aimed at tracking the impact of the coronavirus, by showing the total number of deaths, for any reasons and in any location.
Italy is the country with the largest number of Covid-19 related deaths in the world.
Citi promises full-time jobs to 1,500 summer interns
Laura Noonan in New York
Citi has promised full-time jobs to all 1,500 of its summer interns and told them they will be paid for a full ten-week stint even though the length of their programme has been halved.
In a message to its incoming class, Citi said it had adjusted the programme “to remove as much uncertainty as possible” for students who will now start on July 5, five weeks later than originally planned.
The bank also told students they were “considering virtual programme delivery” and would share more information on that in the coming weeks.
The Financial Times reported earlier this week that Citi, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and UBS were all considering online options for their summer schemes, which have long been a rite of passage on Wall Street.
Greece to deploy mobile units to test for coronavirus
Kerin Hope in Athens
Greece will deploy 500 mobile units to accelerate testing for coronavirus in Athens and other cities “within days”, the government said on Thursday.
The government said the public health organisation EODY was hiring 1,000 new healthcare workers to staff a fleet of leased vehicles, with funding provided by a new EU programme to combat the spread of Covid-19.
Greece has carried out about 33,500 clinical tests since recording its first coronavirus case on February 26, a lower per capita number than many other EU member-states. The number of tests would significantly increase before the country begins lifting its lockdown, perhaps in May.
“Ending the [lockdown] measures depends on responsible behaviour by everyone — we haven’t yet reached the final stage [of the epidemic in Greece],” the government said.
Seventy-one new coronavirus cases were confirmed on Thursday, a 30.9 per cent jump from the previous day, bringing the total to 1,995. The death toll rose to 86 with three fatalities recorded over the past 24 hours.
Pandemic impact could push half a billion into poverty, Oxfam says
Un demi-milliard de personnes pourraient tomber sous le seuil de pauvreté en raison de l’impact économique de l’épidémie de coronavirus, a révélé un rapport international.
The survey, carried out by King’s College London and Australian National University researchers and published on Thursday, considers that a 20 per cent contraction in income would force 434m of people to live with below $1.90 a day, in 2011 purchasing power parity prices.
“The devastating economic fallout of the pandemic is being felt across the globe,” said José María Vera, Oxfam International’s interim executive director.
But for poor people in poor countries, who are already struggling to survive, there are almost no safety nets to stop them falling into poverty.
Global poverty could increase for the first time since 1990 to reach 1.2bn people, especially as the effect of the pandemic hits all industries, even tourism and hospitality, the international charity group said. That would represent the reversal of approximately a decade in the progress on reducing poverty.
Patient numbers in intensive care fall in France for first time
Leila Abboud in Paris
Le nombre de personnes en soins intensifs en France a légèrement diminué pour la première fois depuis le début de la pandémie.
Les chiffres officiels ont montré un total de 7 066 personnes jeudi contre 7 148 la veille.
“This improvement is directly linked to the efforts all our citizens are making to stay at home,” said Jérôme Salomon, a health official.
The need to find new beds equipped with ventilators has fallen for the first time. We can hope this is a plateau, but cases remain at a high level so we must be prudent.
Since the beginning of the outbreak, 8,044 people have died in hospitals in France, while 4,166 deaths have been logged in care homes for the elderly.
There have been 86,334 cases identified by testing, although the actual number is probably higher and cannot be known.
Prime minister Johnson moves out of intensive care
Boris Johnson has come out of intensive care, where he has been for the past few days at St Thomas’ hospital in London, and is in good spirits.
The UK prime minister remains in hospital where he will be closely monitored as he recovers from being ill with coronavirus symptoms, a No. 10 spokesman said on Thursday. He was taken into intensive care on Monday evening.
“The prime minister has been moved this evening from intensive care back to the ward, where he will receive close monitoring during the early phase of his recovery,” the Downing Street statement said. “Il est de très bonne humeur.”
Ireland records 28 virus-related deaths in daily tally
Arthur Beesley in Dublin
Ireland reported 28 further Covid-19 deaths and a record 500 new infections as a top official noted a slowdown in the rate of growth in new coronavirus cases.
Professor Philip Nolan, head of the epidemiological modelling group which advises health officials, said that there was “clear evidence” that social distancing measures to curtail the spread of the virus were having “a very profound effect” on its transmission. He added that the country was now at a “very delicate and critical point” in its response to the pandemic.
The latest fatalities, reported on Thursday evening, took the overall number of lives lost to 263 while the new infections mean that there are now 6,574 confirmed cases.
Leo Varadkar’s government has warned people to stay at home over the Easter weekend in a bid to hold back the virus. It is likely on Friday to extend draconian lockdown measures introduced a fortnight ago after a formal review by health officials.
Although the virus is still self-sustaining in the community, Mr Nolan said that the daily growth rate in cases had dropped to 9 per cent this week, from 33 per cent in the early weeks of the outbreak. “The growth in cases is slowing down but frankly that number needs to be zero in order to have controlled or suppressed this epidemic,” he said.
Brazil inflation nearly stalls on weaker transport demand
Andres Schipani in São Paulo
Inflation in Brazil nearly stalled last month, recording its weakest March reading since 1994, as transportation demand was hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Official data released on Thursday showed that on a month-to-month basis consumer prices rose 0.7 per cent in March. This was the slowest rate recorded for the month of March since the implementation of inflation-busting Plano Real a quarter of a century ago, a set of measures that pulled Brazil back from the brink of economic chaos.
Inflation was dragged down by a sharp 0.9 per cent drop in transport costs, particularly air fares, which fell 16.8 per cent. The annual rate of 3.3 per cent was well below the central bank’s end-of-year target of 4 per cent.
Barclays said in a note that “we expect some rebound in inflation” during the second half of the year “driven by activity recovery and a weaker” Brazilian Real. The bank now expects consumer prices to end 2020 up 2.7 per cent year on year, versus a previous forecast of 3 per cent, paving the way for another rate cut by the central bank next month.
US small businesses have $125bn in rescue loan applications approved
Laura Noonan in New York
The Small Business Administration has approved more than $125bn worth of applications from struggling small businesses under the Paycheck Protection Program, as the scheme finally began to operate at scale after a difficult start.
The SBA said the $125bn would be paid to 487,000 small businesses that had applied through 3,900 lenders. The figures were accurate as of 1pm on Thursday, it added.
Banks have themselves reported tens of billions of applications, but have said they were struggling to get those applications on to the SBA’s system, with one big bank noting it was only putting through a handful of applications a day earlier in the week.
The loan programme offers small businesses hit by coronavirus enough money to pay staff for two and a half months. The loans will be forgiven if companies can prove they spent the funds on staff or other allowable expenses.
Key EU members reach tentative agreement on bloc rescue package
Sam Fleming and Mehreen Khan in Brussels
A group of key Eurogroup countries has reached a tentative agreement on an emergency rescue package aimed at responding to the economic pain triggered by the coronavirus crisis.
Officials said that the talks, among countries including the Netherlands, Italy, Germany and France, had yielded a compromise position that could be now taken forward to the broader group of nations preparing to meet via video conference on Thursday evening.
A draft text to be presented to EU leaders will not insist on placing macro-economic conditions on credit lines from the bloc’s bailout funds. This had been a key demand of the Dutch government and resisted by Rome. “The Dutch have compromised,” said a senior official in the talks.
The principal elements of the package include the preparation of European Stability Mechanism precautionary credit lines; une augmentation de la capacité de prêt de la Banque européenne d’investissement; and a new unemployment insurance scheme proposed by the European Commission.
The group will also propose a recovery fund to help with the post-lockdown economic recovery, but how exactly this will be funded remains a subject of future debate and intense controversy.
A subset of euro area countries was meeting ahead of planned talks on Thursday evening among the broader group of finance ministers. The draft text they hammered out will have to gain the approval of the entire eurogroup before it can be presented for approval by EU leaders at a summit.
Coronavirus spreads to sailors attached to three US Navy ships
Katrina Manson in Washington
Coronavirus has now spread to sailors attached to three US aircraft carriers, Navy officials told the Financial Times on Thursday.
A number of sailors who tested positive for the disease have been removed from the USS Ronald Reagan, which is deployed in Japan. A sailor attached to another carrier who tested positive on his return from leave was prevented from boarding the USS Carl Vinson, which was dry-docked at a naval shipyard in Washington state at the time. A sailor for a third carrier, the USS Nimitz, which is preparing to deploy, has been quarantined after developing persistent symptoms since being aboard the ship, despite taking two tests that returned inconclusive results. A second Nimitz sailor was asked to stay at home after he tested positive while on leave, according to a Navy official.
The Navy is already battling an accelerating outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which was the sole aircraft carrier deployed in the Pacific until efforts to cope with the disease forced it to dock early in Guam and disembark thousands of sailors for testing and treatment.
On Thursday, General John Hyten, vice chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, said 416 of the crew had so far tested positive for the virus, with another 1,164 sets of results still to be processed. Two crew members had been hospitalised, including one in intensive care, he said.
“It’s not a good idea to think that the Teddy Roosevelt is a one-of-a-kind issue,” General Hyten said on Thursday, adding that the Navy had too many ships at sea and other deployed capabilities to avoid further outbreaks. “We have to figure out how to plan for operations in these kinds of Covid environments.”
The Pentagon is trying to work out how to screen crew members before ships head out to sea, but deputy defence secretary David Norquist insisted that the Roosevelt could still head into combat if needed, despite offloading thousands of sailors into hotels in Guam.
South Africa extends national lockdown
Joseph Cotterill in Johannesburg
South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa extended the country’s lockdown by two weeks, an indication of how other developing nations may soon have to lengthen similar measures against the pandemic.
Mr Ramaphosa told South Africans in a televised national address on Thursday that the lockdown of Africa’s most industrialised economy, which was originally due to end next week, would continue to the end of April.
Despite an apparent slowing in the rate of South African cases, “if we end the lockdown too soon or too abruptly, we risk a massive and uncontrollable resurgence in the disease . . . I have to ask you to make even greater sacrifices,” Mr Ramaphosa said.
Confirmed South African cases of the virus have risen to 1,934 just over a month since its first case was reported, and two weeks since the lockdown began.
South Africa’s average daily increase in confirmed cases had slowed from 42 per cent before the lockdown to 4 per cent now, Mr Ramaphosa said. But the country needed more time to expand testing and prepare its health system, he added: “Unless we hold this course a little longer, the coronavirus pandemic will engulf and ultimately consume our country.”
The South African lockdown is one of the world’s strictest. It has so far included bans on alcohol sales and any exercise outside the home, with harsh penalties. Even before the lockdown, the government moved quickly to block foreign travel and large public gatherings as its first cases appeared in March.
More Federal Reserve support helps US stocks notch back-to-back gains
US stocks chalked up their first back-to-back gains in a fortnight, with investors encouraged by the Federal Reserve’s decision to provide an extra $2.3tn to support the high-yield corporate debt market.
The benchmark S&P 500 closed 1.4 per cent higher, bringing gains since the March 23 low to almost 25 per cent. Following a 3.4 per cent gain on Wednesday, it was the first time since March 26 that the index had risen two days in a row.
The Nasdaq Composite added 0.8 per cent and the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 1.2 per cent.
Investors brushed off data showing that 6.6m Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits in the week ended April 4, and while this was higher than economists’ forecast, it was down from the 6.9m who filed in the previous week.
An agreement between Opec and Russia to make deep cuts to oil production brought a weeks-long market share war to an end, but prices of both Brent, the global benchmark, and West Texas Intermediate slid. That left energy stocks as the worst performing sector on Wall Street.
Government bonds rallied, dragging yields lower. The yield on the benchmark 10-year US Treasury was down 0.04 percentage points at 0.73 per cent.
Italy and Netherlands welcome coronavirus rescue deal
Mehreen Khan in Brussels
Finance ministers from Italy and the Netherlands have welcomed a late evening deal in the eurogroup on a package of measures to fight the crisis.
Having been at loggerheads for the past week, Rome and The Hague both celebrated a compromise, but made contradictory comments on the status of credit lines from the bloc’s bailout fund.
Roberto Gualtieri, Italian finance minister, told the Financial Times that an agreed report to be sent to EU leaders made clear that there would be no extra conditions attached to loans that countries can access from the European Stability Mechanism — a key area of dispute with the Netherlands.
“Off the table is any conditionality on the use of ESM financing,” Mr Gualtieri said. Italy has fiercely resisted the idea of strings being attached to loans as it fights a severe economic downturn caused by the crisis. Matteo Salvini, Italy’s eurosceptic leader, has also called ESM loans “an attack” on the country.
Wopke Hoekstra, Dutch finance minister, said, however, that there would still be conditions for economies to reform. “That is sensible and reasonable”, he tweeted.
EU finance ministers reach deal on tools in economic rescue package
Mehreen Khan in Brussels
Les dirigeants européens devront décider comment financer potentiellement des centaines de milliards d’euros pour la reprise économique post-pandémique du continent après que les ministres des finances soient parvenus à un accord sur trois ensembles d’outils d’urgence jeudi soir.
Europe’s heads of government meet next week to begin their first set of discussions on whether or not they should embrace the idea of jointly issued debt to raise money for investment to rebuild the continent’s economy after the pandemic — a topic that has divided the north and south of the eurozone.
“Far-sighted leaders plan for peace before the war is over,” Mario Centeno, head of the eurogroup of EU finance ministers, said after they reached a deal over how to handle the first phase of the crisis.
Mr Centeno admitted that the idea of “coronabonds”, or jointly issued debt, to fund a European recovery fund after the crisis still deeply divided ministers and would need to be handled by leaders.
“This fund will pool our financial strength to accelerate the instrument we need,” he added. “Some member states expressed the view that this should be done by common debt instruments. Other member states said alternative ways should be found.”
Germany, the Netherlands and Austria are staunchly opposed to common debt. Angela Merkel, German chancellor, said on Thursday, there was “no political consensus” for coronabonds. France, Italy and Spain are the biggest advocates of the tool, arguing it is needed to alleviate the debt burden on southern economies worst hit by Covid-19.
Private creditors asked to give poor countries six-month debt payment holiday
Steve Johnson in London
A leading trade body for banks and asset managers called on private creditors to give the world’s poorest countries a minimum six-month payment holiday as they grapple with the impact of coronavirus.
In a letter to the World Bank, IMF, OECD and Paris Club, seen by the Financial Times, the Washington-based Institute of International Finance said that, if requested by a poor or vulnerable sovereign debtor, private creditors should commit to withholding payment for a specified period, possibly for six months or until the end of 2020. The payment itself should merely be deferred not waived, it added.
The IIF also called for official bilateral creditors, such as the governments of the developed world and China, to accept an identical degree of debt forbearance to avoid discrimination against any class of creditors and “support fair burden sharing”.
The IMF and World Bank have already requested that official creditors should suspend debt payments from poor countries eligible for assistance from the International Development Association. A number of politicians, particularly in Africa, have called for private creditors to also sign up to a payment standstill.
The IIF’s letter can be seen as a key plank of the private sector’s response to this call, with the IIF representing 450 commercial banks, asset managers, insurance companies, sovereign wealth funds, hedge funds, central banks and development banks.
The IIF estimated that IDA-eligible countries had $140bn of general government debt service obligations due by the end of 2020, with $10bn of that in foreign currency.
However, the Jubilee Debt Campaign, a charity, called for private creditors to go further by cancelling the debt of the poorest countries outright, rather than simply deferring payment.
“Suspensions just kick the can down the road, laying the ground for an even bigger debt crisis in the future,” said Tim Jones, head of policy at the JDC.
Eighty-five countries have approached the IMF for short-term emergency assistance in recent weeks, about double the number that called on the fund after the 2008 financial crisis.
US daily death toll hovers around 1,900 for a third straight day
More than 1,900 Americans have died from coronavirus in the past day, about the same level as the past two days, in a possible sign that the outbreak may be plateauing in the US.
The latest figures from the Covid Tracking project showed that 1,904 people died in the 24 hours to 4pm ET, the second-highest daily increase.
That is up from the 1,867 new deaths on Wednesday, but slightly under Tuesday’s record of 1,923.
The total number of Americans who have died from coronavirus since the outbreak began stands at 16,399, or about 17 per cent of the cumulative worldwide total.
Total confirmed cases in the US now sit at 457,963, Covid Tracking Project data revealed, or about 29 per cent of cases globally.
Forty-three per cent of total deaths in the country, and about 35 per cent of coronavirus cases, have occurred in New York, the hardest-hit state.
Amazon to build its own coronavirus lab to test employees
Dave Lee in San Francisco
Amazon is building its own Covid-19 testing capabilities to monitor its employees’ health.
“A team of Amazonians with a variety of skills – from research scientists and program managers to procurement specialists and software engineers – have moved from their normal day jobs on to a dedicated team to work on this initiative,” the company said in a blog post published on Thursday.
It said it had begun assembling the equipment to build its first lab, and hoped to start testing “small numbers of our front line employees soon”, with the view to scaling it across the company.
The company said it hoped large-scale testing would allow people to re-enter the economy to get it back up and running. “Unfortunately, today we live in a world of scarcity where Covid-19 testing is heavily rationed,” it added.
The move comes as Amazon faces wave after wave of criticism over its handling of the crisis within its own infrastructure. There are now more than 50 Amazon-owned facilities with confirmed cases in the US, many with multiple instances of the virus. In recent days, the company has begun testing the temperature of its workers on arrival, and spraying disinfectant on work stations.