Latest Coronavirus News: US and French Claims for Unemployment Benefits Soar


Goldman Sachs Launches Spending Plan To Help Small Businesses And Communities
Laura Noonan in New York
Goldman Sachs has just announced plans to spend $ 300 million to help “small businesses and communities” weather the coronavirus crisis, taking Wall Street bank deeper into Main Street.
Money includes $ 250 million in emergency “low-interest loans” to help small businesses around the world “finance their operations, weather the current crisis and meet their commitments to their owners, suppliers and employees” .
Another $ 25 million will go to a relief fund to support “hardest hit communities”, with the remaining $ 25 million going to the Community Development Financial Institution and other “mission-oriented lenders” “
Goldman is better known as the Wall Street Bank, but CEO David Solomon said the company has also worked “hand in hand” with entrepreneurs for more than a decade, particularly in its 10,000 programs for women and 10,000 for small businesses.
She also does more business on Main Street through her online bank Marcus, which provides loans to small businesses.
“Covid-19 has created an extraordinary global health and economic crisis, and the urgency and scope of our actions must reflect this reality,” said Mr. Solomon. “We are deploying our capital and expertise to help small businesses overcome the incredible burdens they face, while ensuring that healthcare providers and relief organizations have the funds they need to meet their needs.” missions. “

National Express suspends fleet of coaches in the UK
Chris Tighe in Newcastle
National Express, the UK’s largest long-haul coach operator, suspends its national scheduled service network from midnight Sunday.
The group’s coaches provide a rapid interurban network throughout Britain, connecting 650 sites, including towns, cities and airports. He had so far maintained a limited network of coaches to assist people with basic travel needs, but said it was no longer viable to continue doing so.
Chris Hardy, managing director of National Express UK Coach, said passenger numbers have continued to decline as the public followed government advice to avoid non-essential travel.
All trips before Monday April 6 will be terminated. He said National Express would make sure customers aren’t blocked. People who have booked tickets for future dates can change them for free for a trip in the next 12 months or get a refund.
Although its buses are temporarily off the road, National Express’s accessible transportation minibuses in the West Midlands have been redeployed as a free shuttle service for NHS hospital staff and key workers supporting social care services in the region, thus easing the pressure on hospital parking lots.
Minibuses are normally used for special education students and the elderly. Each will carry a maximum of two passengers to ensure social distance.

Wall Street opens lower
Data showing a further spike in US unemployment shook the stock markets on Thursday, initiating a more optimistic trading session that had been boosted by rising oil prices.
The S&P 500 opened 0.3% less on Wall Street after figures showed that 6.6 million Americans had applied for unemployment benefits last week – far beyond previous records.
Futures contracts previously indicated significant gains for US stocks, but the data suggests that the coronavirus’ blow to the United States and the global economy will be even more severe than previously imagined.

Falling Ford vehicle sales aren’t as bad as expected
Claire Bushey in Chicago
Ford’s first quarter vehicle sales in the United States fell 12.5% ​​- less than analysts had expected – as the pandemic drove customers away from showrooms.
The automaker sold 516,330 cars, trucks and sport utility vehicles between January and March. The most severe drop in sales was from cars, with 36%, a continuation of the tendency of American customers to favor trucks and SUVs.
Analysts had expected the Detroit-based company to drop 16.1%. The company faced other hurdles as rating agencies downgraded its $ 36 billion debt to garbage.
General Motors and Fiat Chrysler also announced yesterday a drop in sales in the United States. GM sales fell 7% while Fiat Chrysler fell 10.4%.
Despite programs touted by automakers to help customers shop online, sales figures reflect the fact that three-quarters of the American population is under home orders to slow the spread of the disease.

British Airways parent company IAG cancels dividend
Tanya Powley in London
British Airways owner IAG has become the last company to cancel its proposed final dividend as it seeks to boost liquidity following the coronavirus pandemic.
The airline group announced on Thursday that it would withdraw its proposal to pay a final dividend of 0.17 euro per share – which was to be approved by shareholders in June – and instead allocate all of the profits from fiscal 2019 to its voluntary reserve. It will also delay the date of its annual meeting of shareholders from June to the end of September.
The announcement came as BA finalized discussions with Unite over plans to lay off about 32,000 workers to cut costs as it battles the industry’s worst crisis in decades .
This would affect cabin crew, ground staff, engineers and head office workers. BA already signed an agreement with its 4,000 pilots last month, which will require them to take two weeks of unpaid leave in April and May, with a base salary deduction spread over three months.
Last month, easyJet, the low-cost airline, was criticized for deciding to pay a dividend of 174 million pounds sterling to shareholders while calling for financial support from the government.

The number of coronavirus deaths in the UK increases by 569 in one day
Bethan Staton in London
The number of people who died in the UK after testing positive for the coronavirus increased from 569 to 2,921, the Department of Health announced.
The daily increase – which includes all deaths in the hospital within 24 hours to 17 hours Wednesday – is slightly higher than that of 563 the day before.
Daily government figures also show that a total of 33,718 people have been confirmed to have a coronavirus.
The increase in the number of 24-hour cases from Thursday morning was 4,244, and figures show that the number of people tested increased by 10,215 to more than 163,000.

Muslim pilgrimage sites in Saudi Arabia under curfew
Ahmed Al Omran in Riyadh
Saudi Arabia has announced a curfew in the Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina as the kingdom applies tougher measures to contain Covid-19.
The Interior Ministry said essential workers were exempt from the restrictions and residents would be allowed to buy food and access medical services in their neighborhood. Cars from these cities are not allowed to carry more than two people at a time.
The country has already halted international and domestic flights and ordered the closure of most public places. Earlier this week, the government asked Muslims to delay the preparation of travel plans for the annual hajj pilgrimage until the pandemic is clearer.
The Department of Health also announced five deaths and 165 new confirmed cases of Covid-19. This brings the total number of cases in the kingdom to 1885, while the death toll stands at 21.

UK government admits “more needs to be done” on testing
Laura Hughes in London
Downing Street has agreed that “more needs to be done” with regard to coronavirus testing, as the British government works to increase capacity.
“We recognize that more needs to be done in terms of testing, we need to test more people and we need to progress very quickly,” said the Prime Minister’s spokesperson.
Matt Hancock, the Secretary of Health, will present this afternoon the measures the government will take to ensure a significant increase in testing.
The announcement comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson clarified on Wednesday evening that mass testing of antigens and antibodies would be part of the government’s strategy to “unlock the coronavirus puzzle”.
Downing Street said 2,800 front line NHS workers have now been tested for coronavirus at drive-through testing facilities and that an unspecified “significant number” has been tested in labs – adding that 10,412 tests Coronaviruses were performed Tuesday and that scientists were working on developing an antibody test.
“We are working on this as quickly as possible and as soon as a test is approved, we will announce it publicly,” said the spokesman.
Downing Street also suggested that certificates of immunity could be introduced to help identify those who have had the virus:

This is something that has been discussed in other countries … We have always said that we are closely watching what other countries are doing and we will always seek to learn ideas that could be useful.

Hong Kong orders bars and pubs to be closed for two weeks
Nicole Liu in Hong Kong
Hong Kong must close bars and pubs from Friday for 14 days, authorities are stepping up measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Food and Health Secretary Sophia Chan said 69 confirmed cases of Covid-19 were linked to bars, causing other secondary, tertiary and quaternary infections, including a 40-day-old infant.
Violators of the order, which takes effect Friday at 6 p.m. local time, are liable to a fine of up to HK $ 50,000 ($ 6,400) and up to six months’ imprisonment.
The Hong Kong government has ordered the closure of gymnasiums, game centers, karaoke, nightclubs and other places of entertainment. Catering companies are also required to limit the number of customers in store with a maximum of four people at a table.
Hong Kong has registered 802 confirmed cases as of Thursday and four illness-related deaths.

France believes pandemic should push EU to reduce dependence on Asia
Victor Mallet in Paris
Europe should use the coronavirus crisis as an opportunity to rethink its industrial supply chains, reduce its dependence on Asia and promote “European industrial sovereignty”, says French Finance Minister Bruno Le Mayor.
“For some time now, we have been asking for a new European industrial policy, an update of the EU competition policy and to work to limit the industrial dependence of certain strategic sectors, for example electric batteries and artificial intelligence “He said at an online press conference. Thursday. “Protection is not the same as protectionism.”
Le Maire said: “With this crisis, the European Union has a historic opportunity to become an economic and political superpower between the United States and China. “
President Emmanuel Macron and Mr. Le Maire have long advocated for EU investments in key high-tech sectors, and the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed how Europe depends on China for supply of medical equipment such as masks and active ingredients for many drugs.
In an interview with the FT, Le Maire said he wanted globalization to “change radically” and push for a “new world economic order”.
France is also proposing a new EU common fund to finance the economic recovery from the crisis – in addition to other rescue plans announced or underway by various institutions in the euro area and the EU – but the prospect of ‘Mutual debt obligations have met resistance from northern EU members such as the Netherlands and Germany.

Moody’s is warning of “intense” liquidity pressure in the US mortgage sector
Laura Noonan in New York
Credit rating agency Moody’s has narrowed its outlook for non-bank mortgage lenders in the United States, warning of “intense” liquidity pressures the coronavirus has exerted on an industry that sells more than half of US mortgage loans.
Describing the “turmoil” in the mortgage industry after the coronavirus crisis, Moody’s said his outlook for non-bank lenders had changed from “stable” to “negative”.
“Our base scenario is that in the coming quarters, non-bank mortgage companies will face continued liquidity stress, lower profitability, as well as lower capitalization and lower quality of assets, “wrote analysts.
They added that non-bank lenders were “very dependent” on short-term funding markets that will likely become more difficult.
The sector is also facing a liquidity crisis as it has to make payments to bondholders even if mortgage holders do not have to pay off their home loans, due to the government’s forbearance measures.

Unemployed claims in the United States rise to 6.6 million as closures block job market
Mamta Badkar in New York and Brendan Greeley in Washington
The number of Americans filing unemployment benefits for the first time hit a record high for the second week in a row as layoffs from the coronavirus shutdown accelerated and spread to new industries.
Initial jobless claims reached 6.6 million people during the week ending March 28, the Labor Department announced on Thursday. This overshadowed economists’ forecasts for an increase to 3.7 million.
The report also revised data from the previous week, increasing claims to 3.31 million from 3.28 million as states overwhelmed by volume were working on a backlog of claims.
As states and cities close non-core businesses, retailers and restaurants faced with collapsing incomes have laid off workers across the country. California and Pennsylvania were particularly affected, according to state-level estimates that have not been seasonally adjusted. States alongside New York and, more recently, Florida have asked residents to stay at home to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
States have said closures continue to affect the service sector, but the pain has spread to health care and social assistance, manufacturing, wholesale trade and construction.

Greece quarantines migrant camp after coronavirus is detected
Kerin Hope in Athens
Greece quarantined an asylum seeker camp after 20 residents tested positive for the coronavirus, marking the first confirmed cases in one of the country’s 30 official facilities for migrants.
On Wednesday, 63 tests were carried out in Ritsona camp in central Greece after a resident who gave birth in an Athens clinic was found infected, said an official with the public health organization. EODY.
About 2,600 refugees and migrants are living in container homes at the facility while waiting for asylum claims to be processed.
International medical and human rights organizations have called for the overcrowded shelters on the Greek islands to be evacuated to prevent the spread of Covid-19 among residents and aid workers.
“Our plan is to gradually ease the pressure on Lesbos and other islands,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Wednesday in a TV interview with CNN. He gave no details.
More than 40,000 migrants are crammed into facilities designed for 15,000 people on five islands close to Turkey.

Ukraine plans to “restart the economy” in May
Roman Olearchyk in Kiev
The Prime Minister of Ukraine said the country plans to “restart the economy” in May after imposing stricter quarantine measures this month to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“Our strategy is that Ukraine cannot afford a long quarantine of two, three, four months,” said Denys Shmyhal during a videoconference with the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine.
Families and businesses, he added, do not have a sufficient “reserve stock” to maintain a longer economic foreclosure. After easing business restrictions in May, Shmyhal said seniors and children should always stay at home.
Ukraine’s economy could shrink 4% after growing 2.4% to 3.4% in recent years, he said, adding that public finances will be stabilized with an $ 8 billion loan from the government. IMF and billions of dollars in additional funding from foreign donors.
Shmyhal said the IMF and World Bank had given “positive” signals after the country’s parliament voted on two reforms needed to release international funds.

Germany faces first recession since 2009
Guy Chazan in Berlin
Germany will experience its first recession this year since 2009 as it struggles to stem the damage from the coronavirus pandemic, said the economy minister.
The German economy fell by 5% during the 2008-2009 financial crisis and the government is assuming “that this figure cannot only be reached this time but exceeded,” said Peter Altmaier.
“After 10 years of growth, we will experience a recession,” he told reporters.

EU plans to delay EUR 1.1 billion in air traffic control fees to help airlines
Tanya Powley in London
European air traffic controllers have proposed that airlines can temporarily defer future payments by seven months as the industry struggles with a cash crisis that worsens following a virtual halt in international travel during the coronavirus pandemic.
The proposal comes after carriers collectively postponed payment of February’s costs, worth around € 500 million, due next month to Eurocontrol. The organization coordinates national air traffic management agencies and is responsible for collecting route charges from carriers to finance air navigation facilities and services in the EU.
All 41 Eurocontrol member countries are expected to vote on the proposal before April 6. If agreed, this means that airlines can postpone their fares from February to November. Payments for March, April and May, which will vary due to declining air traffic, will be postponed to 2021. The total postponement is estimated at around EUR 1.1 billion.
Thomas Reynaert, Managing Director of the Association of European Carriers Airlines for Europe, said:

Airlines are fighting for their survival. Although a temporary postponement of [air traffic control] is useful in the short term, it is clear that more measures – including a full-year derogation or additional deferral of charges – may also be necessary to ensure the survival of the sector and help its recovery.

ECB postpones monetary policy review to next year
Martin Arnold in Frankfurt
The European Central Bank has extended its strategic monetary policy review by six months until the middle of next year after it was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
The central bank, which launched a radical easing of monetary policy in response to the economic and financial turmoil caused by the pandemic in recent weeks, had originally hoped to conclude its strategic review by the end of this year.
In addition to postponing a series of “listening to the ECB” events to discuss monetary policy with representatives of civil society, he also said that his annual forum on central banks in Sintra, Portugal, would be delayed from June to November.
The ECB’s strategic review aims to reconsider the inflation target which defines its basic mandate for price stability, as well as the effectiveness and potential side effects of the tools used to achieve it.
In addition, it aims to examine how it can tackle climate change, how it communicates and its wider impact on employment, inequality and financial stability.
The central bank said it had extended the deadline for submitting to the public on its online portal ECens Listens in late August.

The temporary total of the unemployed in France is 4 million
Victor Mallet in Paris
A fifth of French private sector workers in 400,000 companies are applying for temporary unemployment benefits, with 4 million people having to sign up for a multi-billion euro government program to save jobs and businesses in trouble during the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is a massive adoption,” said Muriel Pénicaud, French Minister of Labor, as she announced the latest figures on Thursday.
France’s “partial unemployment” measures, similar to the German “Kurzarbeit” regime, mean that the state pays the wages of workers who are temporarily laid off, who keep their jobs and are spared layoffs.
The French measures were originally supposed to cost 8.5 billion euros over two months, as part of a national economic rescue package of 45 billion euros, but the ministers said the cost would now certainly be higher.

Oil and gas suppliers face “stranded” environment collapse, warns OGUK
Nathalie Thomas in Edinburgh
The North Sea oil and gas industry has warned that there is a “blocked environment” of companies in its supply chain that will face financial difficulties related to the coronavirus pandemic and the collapse of oil prices, but will not be able to access government support programs.
OGUK, a trade agency for the British North Sea, said Thursday that many companies such as equipment suppliers and petroleum service groups would be disqualified from two of the main government support programs based on their revenue figures. or their credit rating.
The group has raised the red flag that some companies in its supply chain, which were still recovering from the last oil price crisis in 2014, could sink due to the collapse in demand for hydrocarbons due to the pandemic, which coincided with a price war.
Matt Abraham, Director of Supply Chain at OGUK, said many companies would be disqualified from the government’s business interruption loan program as their turnover exceeds its threshold of £ 45 million a year and Nor would they be eligible for any other package, the Covid Corporate Finance Facility, as they are not deemed investment grade.
Industry is discussing with government additional support for this “secure environment,” said Abraham.

Coronavirus: ask FT how to access UK government help
Dan Thomas, FT’s chief trade correspondent, has written about how UK companies can access the government’s Covid-19 bailout funds. Dan also explained how banks are helping troubled businesses and how non-bank lenders are responding to the crisis.
Dan wants to hear your stories and answer your questions. You can join a live chat throughout the day by following this link and leaving a comment.

Emirates resumes passenger flights
Simeon Kerr in Dubai
Emirates Airline of Dubai has been cleared to resume certain passenger flights from Monday, the airline’s president said.
The first flights will be outbound services to bring visitors and residents back to their country of origin. Over time, the airline aims to resume operations gradually in line with the lifting of travel and operating restrictions, said Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum in a tweet. Global booking sites show that Emirates intends to resume certain scheduled passenger services from May 1.
The United Arab Emirates suspended passenger flights on March 25 as the country stepped up measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, leaving many tourists and residents trapped. The government has promised a bailout to help the long-haul carrier during this time.

Iran expands medical treatment to refugees and foreign nationals
Monavar Khalaj in Tehran
Iran will provide medical treatment to refugees and foreign nationals at a nominal rate if they test positive for the coronavirus, which has besieged the nation.
“The national coronavirus headquarters has approved that nationals of Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries be treated as Iranians, [almost] free of charge, “said Dr Mohammad Asaei-Ardakani, adviser to the Minister of Health, on Thursday.
The Islamic Republic has declared that all Iranians have the right to free tests and should pay only 10% for treatment and medication if they are hospitalized, even if they are not covered by medical insurance. The same rules now apply to foreign nationals in Iran.
The Afghan Embassy in Tehran, in a statement released on Thursday, thanked Iranian officials for admitting Afghan nationals to Iranian public hospitals for the treatment of Covid-19.
About 2.5 to 3 million Afghan nationals, many of whom are refugees, are believed to live in Iran, often without an official residence permit.
Le Dr Asaei a ajouté que le ministère de la Santé avait mis en place des postes de contrôle médical aux frontières de l’Iran avec l’Afghanistan et le Pakistan, tels que Mirjaveh et Al-Ghadir, pour surveiller la santé des ressortissants étrangers qui quittent le pays et y entrent.

À venir aujourd’hui: une séance de questions / réponses en direct sur la façon d’accéder à l’aide du gouvernement britannique
En réponse à la menace économique posée par la pandémie de coronavirus, le gouvernement britannique a dévoilé la semaine dernière un ensemble de prêts de sauvetage de 330 milliards de livres sterling ainsi qu’une offre extraordinaire de subventions salariales. Mais la rapidité de la réponse a poussé les banques, les régulateurs et les responsables du Trésor à se démener pour trouver des moyens de faire parvenir l’argent aux entreprises qui en ont le plus besoin.
Dan Thomas, correspondant commercial en chef de FT, répondra à vos questions sur le plan de sauvetage dans un Q&A en direct tout au long de la journée. Cliquez ici pour participer à la conversation.

Les tests ne sont pas un remède, déclare le ministre britannique de la Santé
Laura Hughes à Londres
Nadine Dorries, ministre britannique de la Santé, a affirmé que le dépistage des coronavirus n’est « pas un remède » et « ne réduira pas le nombre de décès ».
Ses commentaires sont intervenus après que Boris Johnson ait insisté mercredi sur le fait que les tests de masse des antigènes et des anticorps feraient partie de la stratégie du gouvernement pour « déverrouiller le casse-tête des coronavirus ».
Antigen tests determine if a person is infected, while antibody tests check if a person has had the disease.
Mais dans une série de Tweets publiée jeudi matin, Mme Dorries a déclaré: « Les tests ne sont pas un remède, cela ne réduira pas le nombre de décès, cela ne fera pas que les gens se sentent mieux ou ne les empêchent pas d’attraper un coronavirus.

Dans une vidéo partagée mercredi soir sur Twitter, le Premier ministre, qui s’auto-isole à Downing Street après avoir été testé positif au virus, a déclaré:

Je veux dire un mot spécial sur les tests, car ils sont très importants et, comme je l’ai dit pendant des semaines et des semaines, c’est la voie à suivre.

Il a ajouté: «C’est ainsi que nous allons débloquer le casse-tête des coronavirus. This is how we will finally defeat him. “

L’Allemagne prévoit d’accorder 100 milliards d’euros de prêts commerciaux d’urgence
Olaf Storbeck à Francfort
Les entreprises allemandes devraient réclamer entre 50 et 100 milliards d’euros de prêts de liquidité d’urgence soutenus par l’État au cours des prochaines semaines, car la pandémie de coronavirus a bloqué une grande partie de l’économie du pays, a déclaré jeudi matin le directeur général de KfW, Günther Bräunig.
« Pratiquement toutes les entreprises allemandes sont concernées et ont besoin de liquidités », a déclaré le patron du prêteur public, qui administre le programme de prêts subventionnés illimité lancé par le gouvernement allemand le mois dernier.
Le gouvernement garantit jusqu’à 90% du risque de crédit des prêts jusqu’à 1 milliard d’euros par entreprise.
Au cours des 10 premiers jours du programme, la KfW a déjà reçu des demandes de 2500 entreprises demandant près de 11 milliards d’euros de prêts. « Nous nous attendons à ce que les candidatures augmentent la semaine prochaine », a déclaré M. Bräunig.
Il a reconnu que certaines entreprises et banques se plaignaient que l’accès aux prêts d’urgence était trop compliqué et que les conditions étaient trop dures.
« Il y a encore des discussions détaillées sur de nouvelles améliorations », a déclaré M. Bräunig.

BMA publie des lignes directrices pour les médecins sur les décisions éthiques «angoissantes»
Bethan Staton à Londres
Le syndicat britannique des médecins a publié des directives éthiques recommandant aux médecins de retirer le traitement comme les ventilateurs des patients gravement malades afin de les administrer à ceux qui sont plus susceptibles de survivre.
La British Medical Association a déclaré mercredi que les ressources surchargées offriraient aux médecins des «choix angoissants» sur lesquels les patients recevraient un traitement salvateur.
Il a publié un document éthique déclarant que les hôpitaux devraient adopter un nouveau «seuil» d’admission aux soins intensifs, les personnes âgées souffrant de conditions sévères existantes ne pouvant potentiellement pas bénéficier de soins intensifs.
Les décisions sur la façon de répartir les soins seraient normalement basées sur les besoins médicaux individuels, mais devraient désormais être basées sur «comment maximiser les avantages globaux» – une «approche plus strictement utilitaire», indique le document.
«Il est préférable de sauver la vie de trois patients ayant des besoins élevés et une forte probabilité de bénéficier d’un patient ayant des besoins élevés et une faible – mais néanmoins réelle – chance de bénéficier», Julian Sheather, conseiller en matière de droits et d’éthique pour la BMA , m’a dit. «C’est le cœur du défi moral.»

Plus de la moitié pensent que le gouvernement britannique a été trop lent pour imposer un verrouillage
La plupart des Britanniques estiment que le gouvernement n’a pas agi assez rapidement pour fermer le pays, selon une enquête d’Ipsos Mori, marquant le dernier exemple de critique de la politique britannique de lutte contre le coronavirus.
Boris Johnson a appelé il y a 10 jours pour imposer des restrictions radicales à la vie publique au Royaume-Uni, empêchant les Britanniques de quitter leur domicile, sauf pour les achats essentiels et une période d’exercice par jour.
Cette décision fait suite à des mesures similaires prises par les gouvernements à travers l’Europe et est intervenue à la suite d’une pression croissante pour prendre des mesures plus strictes pour endiguer la propagation du virus dans le pays.
Mais pour la plupart des personnes interrogées (56%), il est arrivé trop tard. Environ un tiers (35%) des personnes ont estimé qu’elle avait été prise au bon moment, tandis que presque personne (4%) a dit qu’elle avait été prise trop tôt.
Les électeurs travaillistes étaient plus critiques du moment de la décision de M. Johnson que leurs homologues conservateurs.

Le fonds pétrolier norvégien de 900 milliards de dollars enregistre la pire baisse trimestrielle de son histoire
Richard Milne à Oslo
Le fonds pétrolier norvégien de 930 milliards de dollars a enregistré sa pire performance trimestrielle depuis que la crise des coronavirus a frappé le plus grand fonds souverain du monde plus durement que la crise financière mondiale.
Le fonds a déclaré que son rendement au premier trimestre était de moins 14,6%, inférieur au record précédent de moins 10,3% enregistré au quatrième trimestre 2008.
Sa performance a été entraînée à la baisse par un rendement de moins 21,1% sur les actions, les obligations enregistrant un rendement positif de 1,3%, selon les chiffres préliminaires publiés jeudi. Yngve Slyngstad, directeur général du fonds, a qualifié la situation de marché de « très difficile ».
La baisse record de valeur intervient alors que les économistes s’attendent à ce que le gouvernement norvégien utilise plus d’argent du fonds pour combler un écart croissant dans son budget. Le chômage dans le riche pays nordique a plus que quadruplé au cours des trois dernières semaines.
Yngve Slyngstad, directeur général sortant du fonds, a déclaré la semaine dernière qu’il allait bientôt commencer à acheter des actions et à vendre des obligations dans le but de rééquilibrer son portefeuille et de fournir au gouvernement de l’argent pour son budget.
The oil fund has said its general worst-case scenario is for a 40 per cent drop in its value over one year in Norwegian krone as both equities and bonds decline. So far, the fund has fallen about 11 per cent from its February peak in krone terms as the Norwegian currency has fallen to record lows against the US dollar and euro in recent weeks.

EU cautions Hungary’s leader to uphold rule of law
Mehreen Khan in Brussels
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, has explicitly warned Hungary that Brussels is concerned by an emergency law that allows premier Viktor Orban to rule by decree indefinitely due to coronavirus.
The commission has come under fire this week for failing to mention Hungary by name as it has told member states to uphold the rule of law during the pandemic emergency.
Yesterday a group of 13 member states including France, Spain, The Netherlands, Italy and Belgium, issued a statement urging all countries to avoid violating democratic principles — but it also stopped short of mentioning Hungary.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Ms von der Leyen said she was concerned Hungary’s measures « go too far ».
« Emergency measures have to be limited and strictly proportional. They should not last indefinitely. They should be subject to regular scrutiny, » she said.
Earlier this week, Hungary’s parliament passed a bill to allow Mr Orban to rule by decree indefinitely. The government had argued the measure is required to fight the pandemic.

Iberdrola steps up €4bn of orders to help suppliers
Nathalie Thomas in Edinburgh
Spain’s Iberdrola has accelerated €3.8bn worth of orders with its suppliers in the renewable energy and electricity supply chains to offer them “greater security and visibility” as Europe grapples with the coronavirus pandemic.
The utility has placed orders with “thousands” of suppliers in recent days so they could have access to liquidity and maintain adequate employment, the chairman and chief executive of the Spanish utility said on Thursday.
Ignacio Galán said the company intends to press ahead with a record €10bn of investment that had been planned this year for projects such as solar and wind farms, as well as grid infrastructure, “once these exceptional circumstances come to an end”.
The company has renewable energy projects planned in countries such as France, Germany and Portugal as well as energy grid infrastructure schemes in Brazil and the US.
Speeding up this investment “is the best – I would venture to say the only – way to get through this situation of crisis and uncertainty”, added Mr Galán, who was hosting Iberdrola’s annual meeting online.

Hong Kong attacks broadcaster over WHO handling of Taiwan question
Nicolle Liu in Hong Kong
The Hong Kong government has criticised a public broadcaster after one of its journalists asked a World Health Organization senior adviser about Taiwan’s membership to the UN agency.
WHO has been accused of being too quick to praise Beijing’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak and not separating out Taiwan as an individual member because China demands that countries and international bodies do not treat the island as an independent state. China claims Taiwan as part of its territory.
Bruce Aylward, leader of the WHO-China joint mission on Covid-19, appeared to hang up on a reporter from Radio Television Hong Kong during a video call, after they asked whether the WHO would reconsider Taiwan’s membership.
“I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear your question…It’s ok. Let’s move to another one then,” he replied before the call ended abruptly.
Yvonne Tong, the broadcaster’s producer, called him back and asked for his comments on Taiwan’s virus containing efforts. “We’ve already talked about China,” he responded.
A spokesman for the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau said its secretary “holds the view that the presentation in that episode of the aforesaid programme has breached the ‘one-China principle’”.
“As the editor-in-chief of RTHK, the director of broadcasting should be responsible for this,” it said in a statement on Thursday
A pro-democracy lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting said he was “shocked” by the statement and that it was a “naked interference in the editorial and editorial autonomy of Hong Kong and the freedom of the press”.

Prepare for Covid-19 impact to last as long as a year, Iran’s Rouhani says
Najmeh Bozorgmehr in Tehran
Iranians should be prepared for the effects of the coronavirus pandemic to last up to one year, President Hassan Rouhani said, assuring citizens that plans were under way to avoid any shocks to the supply of medicine and basic commodities.
“In foreign currency allocation, the first priority is the health sector and medical and pharmaceutical needs, » Mr Rouhani said on Thursday, « and the second is the procurement of essential goods.
“We do not seem to have any problems in terms of foreign currencies to the end of this [Iranian] year [March 20 2021] and our plans are to procure goods on time while strategic reserves will remain stable,” he said to the committee set up to battle the fallout from Covid-19.
Struggling with the US’s toughest ever sanctions, the Islamic republic is concerned about its shrinking revenues and inability to support businesses hit by the impact of the illness, which could lead to layoffs in an economy suffering from two-digit unemployment rate.
The latest death toll on Thursday stood at 3,160, up from 3,036 on Wednesday, out of 50,468 confirmed cases.


Bank of America forecasts deepest US recession on record
Philip Georgiadis and Anna Gross:
Bank of America has sharply downgraded its expectations for global growth this year, as it warned that the US faces its deepest recession on record.
The Wall Street bank now expects world growth to contract by 2.7 per cent this year, having earlier forecast a more moderate decline of 0.3 per cent.
In the US, it sees three consecutive quarters of GDP contraction, with the economy shrinking 7 per cent on an annualised basis in the first three months of the year, 30 per cent in the second quarter and 1 per cent in the third.
The bank said its forecast for output to decline 10.4 per cent during the downturn would be the deepest recession on record, nearly five times more severe than the post-war average.
« The lack of an effective policy response to control the spread of the virus in developed markets and some emerging markets has led us to take down 2020 global growth, » Ethan Harris, Bank of America’s global economist, said.
« Deep recessions » are also looming in emerging markets across Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said Bank of America, due to a combination of lower external demand and the impending spread of the virus in those regions.

Russia to hold Victory Day parade despite pandemic
Henry Foy in Moscow
Russia has vowed to push ahead with its annual May 9 military parade in Moscow despite the coronavirus outbreak, its defence ministry has said.
The parade of soldiers, tanks and ballistic missiles through Moscow’s Red Square and the centre of the capital dates back to the second world war, and this year’s event will celebrate 75 years since the conflict ended.
Chinese president Xi Jinping and France’s Emmanuel Macron had previously said they would attend the parade, which is one of Russia’s most prominent and high-profile events.
“Everything is being done consistent with the plan,” Russian defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in an interview with newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, adding there were no plans to change the date, despite the global pandemic that has quarantined entire cities and shut down almost all cross-border travel.

People are eager to take part in this historic event and are working themselves into a sweat

Mr Konashenkov added that “unprecedented preventive measures” have been taken to protect against infection and parade participants were having their temperatures checked three times a day.

Senegal requests $221m in IMF funding
Neil Munshi in Lagos
Senegal has completed discussions to secure $221m in funding from the IMF to help cushion the economic blow from the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement the fund said the pandemic had caused remittances from Senegalese living abroad to drop and crippled the country’s tourism industry. The west African country has reported 175 confirmed cases so far.
The funds « will allow the authorities to meet the urgent budgetary and balance of payment needs, » the fund said.
The funding will need to be approved by the IMF’s executive board, which is set to consider it by mid-April.

Spanish death toll exceeds 10,000

Daniel Dombey in Madrid
More than 10,000 people have now died in Spain after contracting coronavirus, a record 950 of them in the last 24 hours, although the spread of the virus has decelerated since its peak.
Government figures released on Thursday showed a cumulative total of 10,003 coronavirus deaths, compared with 9,053 a day before.
There are now 110,238 confirmed cases of coronavirus — an 8 per cent increase on the previous day’s figure.
The relatively low rise in the number of cases — at earlier stages there were daily increases of 25 per cent or more — comes two and a half weeks into a nationwide lockdown that was intensified this week. But Spanish authorities acknowledge that the real figure is significantly higher, since the tests are mainly of people who have been hospitalised rather than the nation as a whole.
So far, 6,092 people have been treated for the effects of the virus in intensive care, while 26,743 have recovered.

Coronavirus to cause hundreds of billions of euros in losses, says ifo
Coronavirus will lead to production losses worth hundreds of billions of euros across Europe due to paralysis in the economy caused by lockdown measures.
Two months of partial closure in the UK – in which products and services deemed essential are still provided – will generate €193bn-328bn in losses, said the Munich-based ifo Institute, representing an 8 to 13 per cent fall in annual production. If the shutdown extends into a third month, the costs could rise to between €271bn-480bn.
“We urgently need companies to take precautions that would allow them to resume production while still containing the spread of the epidemic,” said ifo president Clemens Fuest. “If the shutdown lasts for more than a month, the production losses quickly reach dimensions that are well beyond the growth slump of previous recessions or natural disasters, at least in the history of the European Union.”
The ifo made forecasts for the UK, Italy, Spain, France, Austria and Switzerland.
In Italy, which has been particularly hard hit, ifo estimates that the costs of a two‑month partial shutdown will amount to €143bn-234bn; in Spain, a lockdown period of the same length would incur €101bn-171bn in losses.

Senior UK health official voices frustration over lack of testing
Laura Hughes and Bethan Staton in London
A senior British health official said that “everyone involved is frustrated” by the lack of coronavirus testing as the British government struggles to expand its capabilities.
Ministers face growing criticism of the speed at which the tests have been rolled out and the lack of clarity as to their role in the government’s exit strategy from the closure.
The government admitted on Wednesday that only 2,000 of the 500,000 front-line workers in the National Health Service have been tested for coronavirus. Thousands of people isolate themselves for fear of being infected.
“Everyone involved is frustrated that we have not yet reached the position we need to reach,” Paul Cosford, medical director emeritus of Public Health England, told BBC Radio 4. Today program Thursday. “We’ve not got as far as we’ve wanted to.
Sir Paul said his institute is working with other laboratory organizations such as Cancer Research UK to build similar testing capacity.
Read the full story here

Opinion: It is time to make amends to the low-paid essential worker
Sarah O’Connor in London
Economies around the world are going into hibernation. Governments that have imposed lockdowns to slow the spread of coronavirus are focused on how to help the millions who have been put out of work. But not everyone is hunkered down at home. Essential workers must go out to keep the lights on and their fellow citizens fed. This has exposed an uncomfortable truth: the people we need the most are often the ones we value the least.
The situation is particularly stark in the UK. Doctors and nurses have rightly received an outpouring of national gratitude, but they are not the only ones on the front line. The list of “key workers” also includes those who work in nurseries, care homes, food factories, warehouses and delivery drivers. These are some of the worst paid and most insecure jobs in the British economy.
Learn more here.

StanChart launches $50m fund coronavirus relief fund
Stephen Morris in London
Standard Chartered has started a $50m fund to provide assistance to people affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The money will be split evenly between an immediate donation to emergency relief efforts in the bank’s most important markets across Africa, the Middle East and Asia, with the remainder distributed « over the medium term to recover from the economic impact of the virus”, the London-based lender said in a statement.
« The group’s board and management team members will be making personal contributions to the fund, » it added, without providing specifics on the amount of executive pay being donated.
StanChart has previously pledged to provide as much as $1bn of loans, import-export financing and working capital at preferential rates for companies helping stem the spread of the virus and treat victims.

British Airways set to suspend 32,000 staff temporarily
Tanya Powley in London
British Airways is expected to announce plans to suspend about 32,000 employees as the airline seeks to cut costs in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The airline is in talks with union Unite about temporarily suspending staff, with an announcement expected later today. BA said talks were continuing with Unite.
The move could affect about 32,000 staff, a person familiar with the matter has said. This would range from cabin crew, ground staff, engineers to head office. Staff affected by the job suspensions are expected to receive some of their wages through the government’s job retention scheme.
BA agreed a deal with its 4,000 pilots last month, which will see them required to take two weeks of unpaid leave in each month April and May, with a deduction from basic pay spread over three months.
The expected move comes as airlines are looking at ways to cut costs as they battle the industry’s worst crisis in years.

Investors lose out on £13bn in dividend payments, says Peel Hunt
Investors have to look elsewhere to find income over the coming months as more UK companies scrap or delay dividend payments.
About 120 companies from the FTSE 350 and AIM 100 indices have cancelled or suspended their dividends, equating to a total loss to investors of £13.6bn, said trading house Peel Hunt.
More businesses in the building industry have cancelled dividends than any other sector. The 29 companies that have done so account for 78 per cent of the industry, while the next highest numbers are among industrial and travel and leisure companies.
Only about 40 companies from the same pool have committed to paying their dividends, which total £8.5bn, while roughly 100 companies have announced dividends but are yet to confirm if they are going ahead with payments that come to £13.6bn.

Global Covid-19 case count approaches 1m
Steve Bernard, FT data visualisation journalist
The worldwide coronavirus case count has risen towards 1m as the outbreak intensifies in Europe and the US, while Asia contends with a second wave.
Confirmed infections rose by 76,836 on Wednesday, bringing the current tally to 938,063. At the current rate of increase, the number of infections will reach the 1m mark by the end of Thursday.
The death toll also increased by 4,883 on Wednesday, another daily high, with the number of fatalities hitting 47,269.
America’s situation continues to worsen as the daily figure increased by 26,473 on Wednesday. New York State was once again hardest hit adding 7,918 cases to stand at 83,901 and 2,219 fatalities. Spain was the only country to record more cases than New York with 8,195 pushing its total over 100,000 to 104,118.
The UK also had its darkest day registering 4,324 new confirmed cases, a 44 per cent increase on Tuesday’s daily numbers. The country’s death toll increased by 563, a 31 per cent increase on Tuesday’s figure to stand at 2,352.
The global number of recovered cases rose by 15,872 yesterday, leaving a total of 193,989 free from the virus.

UK science institute develops rapid testing for frontline workers
Camilla Hodgson in London
London’s Francis Crick Institute has developed a rapid diagnostic coronavirus test and says it hopes to test 500 frontline workers a day from next week.
The research centre, which is a partnership between Cancer Research UK and several of the capital’s universities, said it aimed to increase testing to 2,000 people per day, and would be giving National Health Service staff priority.
« Institutes like ours are coming together with a Dunkirk spirit – small boats that collectively can have a huge impact on the national endeavour, » said Paul Nurse, director of the Crick Institute.
The test, which uses polymerase chain reaction testing and has been verified against the national standard, was developed in partnership with University College London Hospitals, NHS Foundation Trust and its diagnostic partner Health Services Laboratories.
Starting with UCLH, the Crick will offer its testing to other hospitals. In addition to performing tests at the Crick, more than 100 of the Institute’s scientists have volunteered to do shifts in Public Health England’s testing labs.

Ask the FT about how to access UK government help
Join a live discussion on Thursday with the FT’s chief business correspondent Daniel Thomas.
In response to the economic threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic, the UK government last week unveiled a £330bn package of bailout loans alongside an extraordinary offer of wage subsidies. But the speed of the response has left banks, regulators and Treasury officials scrambling to find ways to get the money to the companies that need it most.
Have you seen a significant decrease in revenue? Have you had to close operations temporarily or permanently? Will you furlough employees? And if so, how much of your workforce?

LandSec property group launches £80m fund for struggling UK tenants
George Hammond in London
LandSec, the UK’s largest listed property group by assets, has launched an £80m relief fund for its tenants struggling as a result of coronavirus.
The funds will be targeted at retailers, bars and restaurants on the company’s estate, which includes a number of properties in the City of London.
With the government mandating the closure of non-essential shops, many retailers and food and beverage businesses have struggled to pay their rent. On March 25, the rent day for the quarter, LandSec received just 37 per cent of the rent it was due from retailers.
The £80m fund is aimed at “customers who need our help most to survive,” said the company. £15m will be allocated to food and beverage businesses and the remainder will be distributed on a case by case basis.
Landsec also announced it was suspending its dividend on Thursday. “It just isn’t clear how long these circumstances will persist,” said interim chief executive Martin Greenslade.

Germany reports 140 more deaths as rate of new cases slows
Tobias Buck in Berlin
The rate of new cases slowed for a fifth day in Germany, as containment measures slowed the growth rate of the virus in more countries.
The biggest economic power in Europe reported 6,156 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, taking total infections to 73,522 since the start of the crisis. The number of Covid-19 deaths rose by 140 to 872, an increase of 19 per cent.
It was the fifth day in a row that new cases rose by less than 10 per cent from one day to the next – a notable slowdown in the growth rate compared with the previous week.
Germany’s case fatality rate rose to 1.2 per cent, higher than in recent weeks but still significantly below the death rate in countries such as Italy and Spain. In Italy, for example, more than one in 10 patients with Covid-19 have died so far.

Spain posts biggest increase in jobless figures
Daniel Dombey in Madrid
Spain has recorded the biggest jump in unemployment in its history, with more than 800,000 people losing their jobs as the coronavirus crisis hits the economy.
Figures for March released on Thursday morning showed the number of people making social security contributions had fallen by 833,979 – the biggest monthly slide on record.
Those officially registering as unemployed rose by 302,265, again by far the biggest such shift in Spain’s history. The disparity between the two figures is due to the fact that some who lose their jobs may not be eligible for unemployment benefit or may not yet have signed on.
Spain had a 14 per cent unemployment rate before the crisis struck and the importance of tourism and manufacturing in its mix has left it particularly vulnerable to the economic impact of efforts to fight coronavirus, notably a two-and-a-half week old lockdown and more recent measures to ban “non-essential” work temporarily.
The government is trying to limit job losses by making it easier for employers to lay off staff temporarily, rather than permanently.
Spain has the third-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world, after the US and Italy, and the second-highest death count.

Russia’s Covid-19 case count rises by 28% to 3,547
Henry Foy in Moscow
Russia reported a record 771 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, a 28 per cent jump that takes its total to 3,547.
The country has fewer cases than other major European states but its numbers have risen sharply over the past week.
After a fall in new cases on Wednesday, the recent surge sees Russia return to a trend of doubling infections every three days.

Pets at Home upgrades forecast as cat and dog owners stockpile
Patricia Nilsson in London
Pets at Home has upgraded its profit expectations for the full year, amid “exceptional levels” of demand as the pandemic outbreak has spurred people to stockpile pet food and grooming products.
The Manchester-based group, which was designated an “essential retailer” by the government, on Thursday said pre-tax profit for the year ending March 26 would be “slightly” ahead of £97.1m, the end range of previous guidance.
“In difficult times consumers turn to trusted brands and advice,” said Peter Pritchard, chief executive. “Never has our role as a pet care provider been more important, and never have we been more determined to serve the nation’s pet owners”.
Pets at Home said it would not be “appropriate” to give guidance for the year ahead. Its share price was down about 2 per cent in morning trading.
“The fact that they have benefited from stockpiling is not unexpected,” said Adam Tomlinson at Liberum.
He said management had shown confidence in the business by not suspending dividend payments, but added that the pets supply group was not immune from the economic impact of the pandemic.
Social distancing measures at shops would hit the business, Mr Tomlinson said, and some shops in close proximity to one another could have to close.

Quick corporate round-up from Cat Rutter Pooley’s opening quote
Hays, the global recruitment group, is doing an equity placing to raise £200m, equivalent to 12.4 per cent of its current share capital.
The global recruitment group joins a host of others as a trickle of company cash calls turns into a steady stream. Carnival, the Florida-headquartered but FTSE-listed cruise ship operator, is the biggest while more UK groups follow suit. Last week travel concession operator SSP tapped investors for £216m in new equity capital, yesterday Autotrader announced it was raising cash.
A relaxation of rules, which were announced on Wednesday, allows companies to dilute existing investors by issuing new shares up to 19.9 per cent of their capital on a non-preemptive basis to get cash in the door more quickly.
Normally only 10 per cent is allowed without a shareholder vote. That change recognises the desperate situation many businesses find themselves in. About half of UK companies plan to furlough staff because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to surveys, a higher proportion than the Treasury had expected.
In non-corona news on job moves: William Hill has found a new chief financial officer, after the previous candidate changed his mind about joining the bookmaker last week. It has recruited Matt Ashley from National Express. The company has itself a new chief operating officer. Stephen Parry will join from rival Flutter later in the year.
Feel free to sign up to Cat’s opening quote here.

India’s economic activity falls to four-month low amid lockdown
Benjamin Parkin in New Delhi
India’s manufacturing activity fell to a four-month low in March in an early indication of the disruption the country’s lockdown is having on the economy
The IHS Markit Indian manufacturing purchasing managers’ index fell to 51.8 in March, down from 54.5 a month earlier, with readings for output and new component orders declining.
While India was initially shielded from the immediate shock of Covid-19 as it spread across Asia, infections in the country accelerated in March and prompted the government to order a series of tough measures. Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24 announced a three-week lockdown that would see all but essential economic activity grind to a halt and citizens stay at home.
The move is expected to have a dramatic impact across India’s already slowing economy, including its manufacturers. But the current survey, which was taken between March 11 and 25, does not account for the extent of that dislocation.
« The reading has yet to capture the impact of the nationwide lockdown which began at the end of the month, » said Capital Economics in a note. « April’s reading, and possibly beyond, will be far worse. “
Capital Economics expects India’s GDP to reach a four-decade low of 1 per cent this year.

UK energy supplier Centrica to slash spending
Nathalie Thomas in Edinburgh
Centrica has become the latest UK company to cancel its dividend, withdraw its financial guidance and outline plans to reduce spending in response to the pandemic.
Britain’s biggest energy supplier said it had already witnessed a « significant » reduction in energy demand from businesses that were forced to close after the UK government imposed a lockdown last week, as it also suspended asset sales.
Centrica had been seeking to sell off its share of its upstream oil and gas production joint business – Spirit Energy – and its 20 per cent stake in the UK’s operational nuclear power plants.
The actions also include a further £400m reduction in spending this year. Electricity demand in Britain has declined by around 10 per cent since the restrictions came into force last Tuesday.

Brent crude rises sharply on hopes producers reach deal
Anjli Raval reports from London
Brent crude surged more than 12 per cent on hopes that major oil producers, led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, would reach a supply deal to alleviate the commodity’s price collapse triggered by the coronavirus outbreak.
US president Donald Trump said he had spoken in recent days with the leaders of Russia and Saudi Arabia and believed a deal to end a price war – that has taken Brent to its lowest level since 2002 – would be made in “a few days”.
Saudi Arabia lobbied for a deal to deepen and extend production restrictions before the March meeting of oil ministers, but Russia hesitated. This prompted Saudi Arabia to pursue a pump at will strategy, cutting prices for its crude and raising production to record levels.
« I think that they will work it out over the next few days… Both know what they have to do, » Trump told a White House press conference, without giving any further details.
Brent crude, the international oil benchmark, rose to $27.95 a barrel.
Saudi Arabia and Russia have both backed co-operation, yet there have been few signs of a strategy shift so far. On Wednesday, the kingdom increased production to more than 12 million barrels a day, its maximum level.
People close to the kingdom say the world’s largest oil exporter still wants a deal, but any production restrictions should be shared among all producers, including Russia.

UK papers attack government’s response to crisis
This morning’s newspapers make difficult reading for Boris Johnson’s government, which has come under criticism for its handling of the crisis.
Thursday’s front pages focus on two issues: the slow rollout of coronavirus testing, and the difficulties some health staff are having in accessing protective equipment.
Significantly, even typically supportive newspapers such as the Daily Telegraph are portraying this as government incompetence.
Here is a flavour:


FCA proposes credit card payments deferrals
The UK’s Financial Regulator has proposed a temporary payment freeze on loans and credit card bills for customers whose finances have been hit by the coronavirus crisis.
The Financial Conduct Authority said repayment should be frozen for three months, and that consumers should also be offered a £500 overdraft facility at zero interest, again for three months.
The measures will be put out for a brief consultation, and if confirmed would come into force by April 9.
Britain’s banks had asked regulators to relax the rules on credit card repayments as part of a series of measures to help customers cope during the coronavirus crisis.
Christopher Woolard, interim chief executive of the FCA, said:

If confirmed, this package of measures we are proposing today will help provide affected consumers with the temporary financial support they need to help them weather the storm during this challenging time.

News you might have missed
Mexico slashed its 2020 gross domestic product forecast and acknowledged it would have to spend its primary surplus because of the coronavirus crisis, as it predicted the economy could now contract by as much as 3.9 per cent.
Human rights groups and critics of Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday castigated the Philippine President for saying coronavirus quarantine violators should be shot if found causing “trouble” during community lockdowns.
Carnival Corporation has raised $500m in new equity, finalising the terms of a wider rescue deal that aims to stave off the risk of collapse for one of the world’s largest travel and leisure companies.
New Zealand’s central bank ordered the nation’s banks — most of which are owned by Australian lenders — to stop paying dividends and redeeming capital notes on Thursday

Australia refuses to allow international cruise ships to dock
Jamie Smyth in Sydney
Australian authorities are refusing to allow more than a dozen international cruise ships to dock due to fears of coronavirus infection, preventing the repatriation of 11,000 crew members in a dispute that trade unions warn risks creating a ‘humanitarian disaster’.
Peter Dutton, Australia’s home affairs minister, alleged on Thursday that some companies had been “lying” about the situation of the health of passengers and crew on board the ships that are lining up off the east and west coasts of Australia.
His comments followed new data showing almost a tenth of Australia’s total number of coronavirus cases can be linked to passengers and crew disembarking from cruise ships.
Tracking by New South Wales health officials show at least 464 cases in the state are linked to four cruise ships owned by multinational giants Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean.
One ship, the Ruby Princess, which is owned by Carnival, has been linked to 340 cases in New South Wales – an infection rate that has sparked a bruising political row between state and federal authorities over which arm of government was responsible for not adequately screening passengers.
“It’s clear that some of the companies have been lying about the situation of the health of passengers and crew on board,” said Mr Dutton, who revealed authorities were planning to send doctors onto the ships to undertake preliminary testing to determine the level of risk on each ship of coronavirus infections.

Coronavirus-hit cruise appeals for permission to dock in Florida
Jude Webber in Mexico City
A coronavirus-hit cruise liner on which four people have died and up to 10 passengers need immediate critical care will arrive in US waters early on Thursday, as its operator appealed for “compassion” to dock in Florida after a fraught Latin American journey in which it was repeatedly turned away from ports.
After transferring healthy passengers from the stricken Zaandam to a sister ship, the Rotterdam, at the weekend, the vessels were allowed through the Panama Canal as a humanitarian gesture after what Holland America Line president Orlando Ashford called a display of « not my problem syndrome”.
“Holland America Line is awaiting confirmation to disembark guests from Zaandam and Rotterdam in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, » it said in a statement, adding it was working with authorities to get the nearly 1,200 guests who are fit to travel onto flights home.

The mayor of Fort Lauderdale, Dean Trantalis, has opposed allowing the ship to dock, saying local hospitals are already under enough strain, but Holland America said it had lined up a facility for the “estimated less than 10 people” who needed emergency care.
The company wants to keep 45 passengers who are still exhibiting “mild illness” isolated on board; they would not disembark until they are recovered.
Nearly 100 passengers and 136 crew on the ships have presented influenza-like symptoms since March 22. There are now 808 passengers and 583 crew on the Rotterdam and 442 guests and 603 crew on Zaandam.
“Holland America Line calls for compassion and reason in the review and approval of our disembarkation plan by Florida officials,” the company said. Four elderly patients have already died on board the Zaandam.

Duterte says police can ‘shoot’ if lives at risk during lockdowns
John Reed in Bangkok
Human rights groups and critics of Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday castigated the Philippine President for saying coronavirus quarantine violators should be shot if found causing “trouble” during community lockdowns.
Mr Duterte, who has faced international condemnation for the shootings by police and armed vigilantes of drug suspects and others during his anti-narcotics crackdown, made the comments in a late-night speech on Wednesday.
“I will not hesitate,” the Philippine president said in remarks quoted by the website Rappler. “My orders are to the police and military, also the barangay [district government], that if there is trouble or the situation arises that people fight and your lives are on the line, shoot them dead. Do you understand?”
Senators from Mr Duterte’s small opposition condemned the remarks, as did Butch Olano, director of Amnesty International’s Philippine section, who described the shoot to kill remarks as « deeply alarming ».
Luzon island and greater Manila, where more than 12m people live, are under one of Asia’s strictest lockdowns. Earlier on Wednesday 21 residents of Quezon City, near Manila, were arrested after holding a protest to ask for government help.
Campaigners have accused Philippine authorities of mistreating some of those accused of breaking the government’s Covid-19 regulations, using punishments that according to Human Rights Watch included putting detainees in dog cages. The Philippine Congress last week passed a law giving Mr Duterte 30 new powers to fight the Covid-19 outbreak.

Les entreprises de médias sociaux ouvrent un nouveau front dans la lutte avec l’UE
Les entreprises de médias sociaux ont lancé un effort concerté pour bloquer la désinformation pendant la crise des coronavirus, ouvrant un nouveau front dans leur bataille pour arrêter la répression de leur activité par les régulateurs de l’UE.
The global health crisis has the potential to change the dynamics of long-standing competition between European regulators and the US technology sector. Cela survient moins de deux mois après que le chef de Facebook Mark Zuckerberg se soit rendu à Bruxelles, seulement pour voir l’UE rejeter sa vision de la manière dont le contenu en ligne devrait être réglementé.
It is still unclear whether their actions will translate into more favourable policy.
And while the removal of misinformation from global leaders has garnered attention, experts say the platforms continue to host harmful information in private forums, as well as in adverts, for example for unsubstantiated cures.
Learn more here.

Coronavirus pandemic reveals gaps in China’s surveillance state
To the outside world, China can often seem like a surveillance monolith, with the government accused of having access to all data held by companies in the country. But the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated a messier reality.
Although Beijing has tools that many other governments would not be able to usually deploy to track potentially infected people, such as location data from individual phones and facial recognition technology, the country’s ability to access personal data is at times limited.
Read the full FT story here

Mexico cuts GDP forecast for 2020 over coronavirus impact
Jude Webber in Mexico City
Mexico slashed its 2020 gross domestic product forecast and acknowledged it would have to spend its primary surplus because of the coronavirus crisis, as it predicted the economy could now contract by as much as 3.9 per cent.
The finance ministry, bowed to the inevitable and forecast a primary deficit of 0.4 per cent of GDP, compared with a target of a surplus of 0.7 per cent in a statement late on Wednesday. It also expected the public sector borrowing requirement to be 4.4 per cent of GDP, compared with 2.6 per cent previously.
Pemex, the loss-making national oil company that is struggling to fend off a second ratings downgrade to junk, could require more state aid but will seek new financing sources, the statement said, apparently opening the door to private sector participation in the state icon — something ruled out by president Andrés Manuel López Obrador until now.
« The government of Mexico … is evaluating additional support measures to those already implemented for this year. Nevertheless, Pemex will seek to make economies as well as alternative sources of income to face the effect on its finances of the reduction in the price of oil,” the statement said.
The GDP goal for 2020 is a range of minus 3.9 per cent to 0.1 per cent, compared with a previous target of 2 per cent growth this year that most economists thought was well out of reach even before the Covid-19 emergency. Market estimates are for a contraction of as much as 7 per cent.
The ministry, whose 2020 budget was widely considered overly optimistic, nonetheless believes the economy will bounce back in 2021 with growth of 1.5 per cent to 3.5 per cent.
The new assumption is for an average exchange rate of 22 pesos to the dollar and a price of $24 for the Mexican oil export mix, half the level on which the 2020 budget was drawn up, and oil production of 1.85m barrels of oil per day. Given that at current oil prices much of Pemex’s production is unprofitable, that goal also appeared ambitious.

Hong Kong’s economy provides early glimpse of global virus impact
Before the coronavirus claimed its first victims in Europe or the US, it was taking its toll on Hong Kong’s economy.
The finance- and tourism-dependent city, already weakened by US-China trade tension and anti-government protests last year, is an early indicator of the impact of the virus on hospitality and retail around the world.
Visitor numbers to the territory collapsed by 96 per cent in February, while the latest data shows unemployment figures creeping higher.
Attractions such as Disneyland have been shut for more than two months, and local hotels have slashed their prices as a “race to the bottom” beckons.
Read more here.

Carnival finalises terms of debt and equity rescue deal
Eric Platt in New York and Thomas Hale in Hong Kong
Carnival Corporation has raised $500m in new equity, finalising the terms of a wider rescue deal that aims to stave off the risk of collapse for one of the world’s largest travel and leisure companies.
The equity injection, which is lower than both the initial $1.25bn the company planned to raise and a subsequent target of $750m reported this week, is part of a wider deal worth more than $6bn.
Panama-based Carnival is one of the most prominent corporate examples of the devastating financial impact of the coronavirus, which killed passengers aboard several of its cruise ships and hit future bookings.
The finalisation of the fundraising comes after Carnival increased the size of the debt part of its rescue deal from $3bn to $4bn.
The bonds, which are secured against the company’s cruise ships and other assets which it says are worth $28bn, were priced at a yield of almost 12 per cent – a rate usually associated with the riskier portion of the corporate debt market.
Carnival is also raising $1.75bn in convertible debt that matures in 2023.
Read more about the deal here.

Coronavirus wreaks havoc among Asia-Pacific pension funds
Fears of retirees making panicked runs on investments, a new generation of workers facing higher premiums and a $1.4tn state fund defying tradition to move away from domestic bonds are all part of the turmoil that the coronavirus pandemic has wrought on Asia-Pacific’s pensions industry.
Investment funds and policymakers across the region, the first to be hit by the viral outbreak, have been forced to reassess their until now ironclad promises of money in retirement for ageing populations.
Read the full FT story by Jamie Smyth in Sydney, Edward White in Wellington and Leo Lewis in Tokyo here

US braces for severe spike in unemployment
A wave of coronavirus lay-offs is looming in the US as companies that had hoped for a short interruption to their operations prepare for a longer, more severe downturn.
Les grandes entreprises ont mis des centaines de milliers d’employés en congé sans solde cette semaine, se pliant à la réalité d’un arrêt prolongé et ouvrant la voie à un autre record historique de demandes de chômage lorsque les chiffres hebdomadaires officiels seront publiés jeudi.
Read the full FT story by Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson and Alistair Gray here

Mexico warns coronavirus emergency could last until September
Jude Webber in Mexico City
Mexico has launched a mobile app to help manage the country’s coronavirus emergency that Hugo López-Gatell, health undersecretary, said could last until September.
The number of confirmed cases in Mexico hit 1,378 on Wednesday, a 13 per cent rise on Tuesday as deaths rose to 37 from 29 a day earlier.
As cities hunkered down, the governor of the northern state of Nuevo León, Jaime Rodríguez, caused a furore by announcing a nationwide ban on alcohol sales from Friday, saying it was a non-essential industry.
Mexico City mayor Claudia Sheinbaum dismissed rumours of a so-called “dry law” as fake news.
Mr Rodríguez’s comments apparently sparked panic buying with images of long queues of cars outside beer stores lining up in the northern city of Monterrey.

Israel’s health minister tests positive for coronavirus
Mehul Srivastava in Tel Aviv
Israel’s health minister, Yaakov Litzman, and his wife Chava tested positive for Covid-19, the state broadcaster said, hours after prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu made the wearing of masks in public compulsory.
Mr Litzman is an ultra-orthodox rabbi, and has been under intense criticism for the surge of cases in the ultra-orthodox community, which until recently resisted the government’s instructions on closing synagogues and ending large prayer groups. He will enter quarantine at his home, his office said.
It is not clear when Mr Litzman was last in contact with Mr Netanyahu, who has been self-isolating since another ultra-orthodox aide also tested positive for the virus. Mr Netanyahu tested negative, but has remained in isolation out of caution.
Residents of the primarily ultra-orthodox town of Bnei Barak will face strict restrictions on their travel, the prime minister said, and sick inhabitants will be taken away for quarantine in converted hotels to try and stem the rate of new infections in the community.
Outside international travel and transmission within family members, at least a third of new infections in Israel have been traced back to synagogues — and the local press estimate that the ultra-orthodox, 10 per cent of the population, make up a majority of those requiring urgent hospitalisation.
« The ultra-orthodox public has well internalised the danger of the spread of the coronavirus, » Mr Netanyahu said while announcing the closure. « It is listening to the instructions and is behaving responsibly, with full backing from the rabbis. “
At least 26 people have died of coronavirus-related complications and 6,000 are confirmed ill in Israel.

New Zealand orders banks to halt dividend payments
Jamie Smyth in Sydney
New Zealand’s central bank ordered the nation’s banks — most of which are owned by Australian lenders — to stop paying dividends and redeeming capital notes on Thursday in a move to bolster their balance sheets during the coronavirus crisis.
The restrictions enter into force on Thursday and follow similar moves by European monetary authorities, which asked banks last week to refrain from paying dividends or share buy backs to enable banks to better support the economy during what is expected to be a deep recession.
Geoff Bascand, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand’s deputy governor and general manager for financial stability, said the measures would act as a buffer during a period of economic uncertainty and would prevent banks from paying dividends on ordinary shares or redeeming non-CET1 capital instruments.
“This initiative further supports the stability of the financial system by maintaining higher levels of capital during the period of falling economic activity resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Mr Bascand.
The block on bank dividends comes as the RBNZ steps up its support for the economy by unveiling a long-term lending facility that provides cheap funding to local banks to advance to small and medium businesses.
Analysts said the move by the RBNZ would put pressure on Australian banks’ dividends policies, as their New Zealand subsidiaries account for about a tenth of the dividends they pay out to shareholders.
“This will be an added pressure for the banks on higher dividend payout ratios to bring them back down under 70 per cent sooner,” said Nathan Zaia, analyst at Morningstar.

News you might have missed
Greece has banned swimming and water sports around its coastline as long as the country remains locked to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Sailing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, canoeing, kayaking and paddleboarding as well as snorkelling and spearfishing are included in the ban, said an official with the Department of Shipping.
Panama, not content with strict quarantine, has implemented a new strategy of social distancing: men and women are now only allowed to go out on different days. Women can go out on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and men are allowed to leave their homes on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Sunday is “everyone at home” day, according to the Ministry of Health. Panama has one of the highest cases of coronavirus in Latin America.

Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan has launched a new youth movement known as the “Corona Relief Tigers” to provide relief to the poorest segments of society as the country counts its losses following a de facto foreclosure.
American Airlines has contracted revolving loans totaling $ 2.7 billion, borrowing funds from credit agreements it entered into with banks in 2013, 2014 and 2016. The 2013 and 2016 revolvers have been fully exploited, while there are still An additional $ 110 million on the 2014 agreement.
The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Brazil more than tripled in the past week to 6,836 on Wednesday afternoon with 240 dead as President Jair Bolsonaro tried to ease political tensions over his response to the epidemic.
Three of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, Merck, Pfizer and Eli Lilly, have announced plans that will enable global employees with medical and laboratory expertise to offer their services to local health systems and those most affected by the coronavirus.
the Climate negotiations at the UN scheduled for Glasgow in November will be postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus, delaying a series of new global climate commitments. The talks, which would have been one of the UK’s largest diplomatic summits, will still be held in Glasgow on a date to be determined in 2021.
Mexico could suffer 17% this year lower remittances – which hit a record $ 36 billion last year – as a result of the coronavirus crisis, which severely damaged millions of Mexicans and the states of Michoacán, Oaxaca and Zacatecas, for which remittances represent more than 10% of GDP, according to a BBVA study.
Amundi, Europe’s largest asset manager has offered to suspend payment of its dividend, making it the first large global investment firm to make such a decision.
Two-thirds of nursing homes for the aged east of France were affected by the coronavirus pandemic, and 570 inhabitants died from the disease in the Grand Est region alone, according to regional health authorities quoted by French media. These 570 people are not recorded in the official death toll from coronavirus in France, which has reached 4,032, but to date only counts those who died in hospital.

Coming up today: A live Q&A on the UK’s rescue package
In response to the economic threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic, the UK government last week unveiled a £330bn package of bailout loans alongside an extraordinary offer of wage subsidies. But the speed of the response has left banks, regulators and Treasury officials scrambling to find ways to get the money to the companies that need it most.
Dan Thomas, the FT’s chief business correspondent, will be answering your questions about the rescue package in a live Q&A tomorrow. Click here to join the conversation.

American Hospital Association urges insurers to speed up payments
Hannah Kuchler in New York
The American Hospital Association is calling on health insurers to help keep hospitals open during the crisis, by speeding up payments and cutting administration.
US hospitals are suffering from reduced revenue after cancelling elective procedures to treat — or prepare to treat — patients suffering from Covid-19.
The AHA said they need help from private insurance, even after government measures to ease the burden, such as accelerating payments for the public-funded Medicare health insurance for seniors.
In a letter to the leaders of seven insurers including Anthem, United, and Aetna, Richard Pollack, chief executive of the AHA, asked that private insurers make payments more quickly and waive rules that require physicians to ask for authorisation before some treatments.
“You could make a significant difference in whether a hospital or health system keeps their doors open during this critical time,” he said.

Asia-Pacific stocks mixed after Wall Street drop
Asia-Pacific stocks diverged on Thursday, following a sharp drop on Wall Street after countries extended lockdowns to control the spread of the virus and predictions for the pandemic’s likely death toll rattled investors.
The Topix index in Japan was down 0.5 per cent and the S&P/ASX 200 in Australia shed 2.1 per cent. South Korea’s Kospi gained 1 per cent.
Overnight on Wall Street, US benchmark S&P 500 closed 4.4 per cent lower with banks and airlines among those hardest hit by renewed concerns over the pandemic. Surveys of manufacturers in the eurozone and Asia also highlighted the economic pain caused by the outbreak.
S&P 500 futures pointed to a 0.9 per cent gain when markets reopen in the US.

Trump looking at domestic flight ban to curb Covid-19 spread
Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington
Donald Trump said he was looking “very strongly” at banning domestic air travel, in a dramatic step to curb the spread of coronavirus that would have a severe impact on the reeling aviation industry.
Mr Trump said he may announce some recommendations soon, but added that he was conscious it would be a significant step because of the potential damage to the US airline industry.
“You really are clamping down on an industry that is desperately needed,” Mr Trump said. “That is a calculation that we’re looking at right now.”
Later in the White House briefing, Mr Trump suggested that any ban on domestic travel could be more limited, saying: « We are thinking about hotspots. “

Mr Trump spoke as the number of US coronavirus cases topped 206,000 and the death toll rose to 4,633, an almost 50 per cent rise from Tuesday. New York remains the worst hotspot with almost 2,000 deaths, while 355 people have died in New Jersey. Louisiana, a state with a much smaller population, has recorded 273 deaths.
Earlier on Wednesday, Mike Pence, the US vice-president and head of the White House coronavirus task force, said the virus could return in the fall or winter, but stressed that the US would be better prepared at that point.
“We will be in a much, much better place … if the coronavirus stays with us,” Mr Pence told CNN.
With the White House forecasting that as many as 240,000 people could die, Mr Pence was asked why the federal government was not following the example of many states and ordering a national “stay-at-home” policy. But he sidestepped the question, saying he had been “very inspired” at how people were heeding the social distancing guidelines that were recommended for 15 days and then extended by a month until the end of April.
Earlier on Wednesday, Ron DeSantis, the Republican governor of Florida, issued a stay-at-home order for the 21m residents of the state, which as a retirement destination has a much larger proportion of vulnerable elderly people.


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