May 7, 2020

Stock Markets in Asia Fall as Investors Await Payroll Data: Live Updates

Asian markets fall ahead of new gauges of damage.

Asian markets fell moderately on Thursday as investors held their breath over data that could add to the picture of how the world economy is dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.

Hong Kong and Australia led the declines in the Asia-Pacific region. Futures markets signaled muted openings in Europe and on Wall Street.

Washington is expected on Thursday to post the latest monthly payroll data, showing the extent of the toll of the outbreak and efforts to contain it. While an ebb in new cases in some of the hardest-hit places has given investors some reason to cheer, they also face the prospect of a surge in new infections in other places, particularly as lockdown efforts ease.

Highlighting the worries, prices for U.S. Treasury bonds, typically seen as a place to park money during times of turbulence, were higher in early Thursday trading. In one bright spot for investors, oil prices on futures markets rose, offering hope that a particularly turbulent market may be stabilizing.

In Tokyo, where trading resumed after a string of holidays, the Nikkei 225 index was down 0.2 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was down 0.5 percent. In mainland China, the Shanghai Composite index was flat. South Korea’s Kospi bucked the trend, rising 0.2 percent.

In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 index was down 0.5 percent.

Wall Street drifts lower as oil prices reverse early gains.

After a day of swinging between gains and losses, stocks on Wall Street ended with a small decline Wednesday.

Markets had been buoyed this week by signs that the countries hardest hit by the virus were slowly emerging from economically devastating lockdowns, though gains on Monday and Tuesday were small — as was Wednesday’s decline. The S&P 500 fell less than 1 percent.

The rest of the week will bring more concrete evidence of the severity of the damage caused by the shutdown, with a monthly report on unemployment Friday to provide a comprehensive look at the number of Americans out of work.

Already, reports on jobless claims have shown that more than 30 million workers in the United States sought unemployment benefits over the six weeks through April. Another weekly update is due on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the ADP National Employment Report showed the private sector work force had plunged by 20 million jobs in April. Separately, new data from the European Commission predicted a deep recession on the continent this year.

Oil prices, which had rebounded over the past two days, fell on Wednesday. The price of benchmark crude in the United States retreated to a little over $23 a barrel. Brent crude, the international benchmark, fell below $30 a barrel.

The North American plants of the three big U.S. automakers have been closed since mid-March. Mostly.

A handful of General Motors workers have labored on — including several dozen at a plant in Bedford, Ind., that makes chassis for Chevrolet Corvettes.

A G.M. spokesman said the factory’s continuing operation was aimed at reducing a chassis shortage and helping resume Corvette production more quickly once the company reopens an assembly plant in Bowling Green, Ky.

The spokesman said that the Bedford plant was running three shifts a day — with about 20 people per shift, down from about 250 hourly workers normally — and that the workers had volunteered for the assignment, at their usual wage.

The company said Wednesday that it planned to “restart the majority of manufacturing operations” in North America on May 18.

The G.M. spokesman said that aside from the Bedford plant, the company had continued work at a Texas plant to finish building a sport utility vehicle before the plant changed over to a new model, and in Lockport, N.Y., to make replacement parts for existing vehicles.

Brian Rothenberg, a United Automobile Workers spokesman, said the union had cooperated with such efforts if the return to work was voluntary and adequate safety measures were in place.

Religious groups tap a small-business aid program.

Religious organizations around the United States are looking to a troubled federal loan program for help as donations dry up.

Around 9,000 Catholic parishes have received Paycheck Protection Program loans administered by the Small Business Administration, said Patrick Markey, the executive director of the Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference, which works with dioceses on financial issues.

“Everybody’s trying to keep their people on the payroll and hoping that with the P.P.P. they can do that until they start meeting again, and then no one gets let go,” he said.

A survey by the Jewish Federation of North America found that at least 533 loans had been distributed to Jewish organizations with a total value of $276 million. The median value of the loans was $246,000, said Rebecca Diner, a spokeswoman for the group.

The loans are meant to stabilize small businesses and are forgivable by the government if the majority of the funds go toward payroll. The government distributed $342.3 billion in loans in the first round of the program, which ended in mid-April. It has distributed $183.5 billion in loans in a second round as of Wednesday evening.

But the program has been plagued by complaints that big businesses have received the money ahead of smaller establishments, like independent restaurants and retailers.

It has also attracted ample interest from nonprofit organizations like religious congregations worried about a downturn in donations and other sources of revenue. That includes some private schools with large endowments that have kept the loans in the face of backlash from the administration and their own alumni.

Catch up: Here’s what else is happening.

  • Lyft on Wednesday gave investors their first detailed look at how the coronavirus had affected its ride-hailing service. Revenue fell 6 percent from the previous quarter, to $955.7 million. Lyft lost $398 million, up 10 percent from its loss in the previous quarter.

  • BuzzFeed’s chief executive and founder, Jonah Peretti, told staff Wednesday that 68 noneditorial employees, from the business, studio and administration teams, would be furloughed for three months, with a goal of keeping losses this year to under $20 million, according to an email obtained by The New York Times. Mr. Peretti also said cuts to the news division would be necessary and that he would begin discussions with the union about them. BuzzFeed has already instituted staff-wide graduated pay cuts for those making more than $40,000 a year.

Reporting was contributed by Kate Conger, Noam Scheiber, David McCabe, Carlos Tejada and Daniel Victor.

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