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Asian Markets Follow Wall Street’s Rise: Live Business Updates

2020-05-19 07:35:39

Asian markets follow Wall Street’s surge, but doubts linger.

New hopes that economies could emerge successfully from the global coronavirus outbreak helped Asian markets follow Wall Street higher on Tuesday, but other indicators suggested the rise might be short-lived.

Australian and South Korean stocks led the surge, which sent markets in the Asia-Pacific region more than 1 percent higher.

The rise followed a jump of more than 3 percent in major Wall Street indexes on Monday. A drug company, Moderna, said early testing of its coronavirus vaccine on a small group of people showed promising early results. Investors also focused on comments from Jerome H. Powell, chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve, who said the central bank could do more to help the American economy.

Investors glossed over Mr. Powell’s other comments about a potentially slow and painful recovery, and other market indicators on Tuesday suggested the rally in global markets could come to an end.

Futures markets indicated Wall Street would open moderately lower later on Tuesday. Prices for U.S. Treasury bonds rose, which is often a sign of growing investor skepticism. Oil prices dropped in futures markets after a big Monday rally.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index was 1.8 percent higher at midday. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index was up 1.9 percent. Mainland China’s Shanghai Composite index was up 0.5 percent. South Korea’s Kospi and Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 were up 2 percent.

Many of the world’s economies have begun to loosen restrictions on commerce, the Federal Reserve chair on Sunday signaled that the central bank has more firepower to lend to recovery efforts, and a drugmaker reported positive developments in an early trial of a coronavirus vaccine.

Taken together, the developments set off a surge in global stock prices and Wall Street had its best day in about six weeks.

The S&P 500 rose more than 3 percent Monday, while stock benchmarks in Europe were 4 percent to 6 percent higher.

Also bolstering markets was a pledge from Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, that there was “really no limit” to what the central bank could do with its emergency lending facilities.

And trading on Monday had all the characteristics of a rally focused on the prospects for a return to normal. Shares of companies that stand to gain the most, like United Airlines, Expedia Group and Marriott International were among the best performers in the S&P 500.

The coronavirus has done what a chorus of pleas from 7-Eleven store owners in Japan could not: forced the company that controls the chain, Seven & I Holdings, to allow some of its locations to close for the night.

It is a relief for store owners who were already putting in grueling hours for meager returns before the virus struck and have since watched business dry up as Japan’s workers sheltered at home under a state of emergency.

As Japan moved last week to lift that declaration across much of the country, however, some franchisees were wondering if the change of heart would outlast the pandemic.

Allowing an owner to close shop for a few hours in the dead of night or during a national holiday might not seem like a big deal. But 7-Eleven, so omnipresent in Japan that it is considered part of the national infrastructure, believes that consistent service across all of the country’s 21,000 locations is crucial to the brand’s value. Like many franchises, it has strict expectations for everything from shops’ layout to how employees dress and greet customers.

Even during the pandemic, 7-Eleven has seemed to bend its rules only reluctantly.

With each request, China’s drive to become the developing world’s biggest banker is backfiring. Over the last two decades, it unleashed a global lending spree to expand its influence and become a political and economic superpower. Borrowers put up ports, mines and other crown jewels as collateral.

Now, as the world economy reels, countries are increasingly telling Beijing they can’t pay the money back.

China faces difficult choices. If it restructures or forgives these loans, that could strain its financial system and infuriate the Chinese people, who are suffering under their own slowdown. But if China demands repayment when many countries are already angry with Beijing over its handling of the pandemic, its quest for global clout could be at risk.

Jerome H. Powell, the chair of the Federal Reserve, will tell members of Congress that the central bank stands ready to do what it can to help the American economy make it through the sharp downturn underway.

He added that the Fed was “committed to using our full range of tools to support the economy in this challenging time even as we recognize that these actions are only a part of a broader public-sector response.”

Mr. Powell will testify alongside Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The pair will explain to senators what they are doing with a $500 billion congressional appropriation in the CARES Act that was primarily meant to back up Fed emergency lending programs, which can keep credit flowing to businesses and local governments in times of crisis.

Mr. Mnuchin will testify that he expects economic conditions to improve in the third and fourth quarters of this year as the economy begins to reopen, according to prepared remarks. He will also defend his work on the economic relief effort, pointing to the Paycheck Protection Program, economic impact payments and payroll support for the airline industry.

“While these are unprecedented and difficult times, these programs are making a positive impact on people,” the Treasury secretary will say.

Mr. Mnuchin will also testify that Treasury has committed up to $195 billion in credit support and that the remaining $259 billion is being held in reserve to “create or expand programs as needed” as they monitor different sectors of the economy.

Catch up: Here’s what else is happening.

  • A prolonged global recession is the top near-term worry among leaders in risk management, according to a report published Tuesday by the World Economic Forum. The report relied on surveys of 350 risk professionals, who also listed high unemployment, another outbreak and protectionism among their fears in the next 18 months. The authors of the report call on world leaders act together now to stem rising economic distress and social discontent caused by the pandemic.

  • Uber said on Monday that it laid off 3,000 employees, closed 45 of its global offices and reorganized several of its secondary businesses as the coronavirus caused an 80 percent downturn in its ride-hailing business. Uber has also cut back its food delivery service, Uber Eats, in several countries where it was not successful and sold its bike and scooter arm, Jump. The company has laid off about 25 percent of its work force over the last month.

Reporting was contributed by Carlos Tejada, Maria Abi-Habib, Keith Bradsher, Jeanna Smialek, Kate Conger, Mohammed Hadi and Gregory Schmidt.


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