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Lawmakers push a top Fed official for faster action on lending programs.

Randal K. Quarles, the Federal Reserve’s vice chair for banking supervision, said the central bank’s lending programs for midsize businesses and municipalities should be coming soon as the central bank tries to balance effectiveness and speed.

“I don’t think we’re looking at months, but it would be premature for me to say how many weeks it would be before they’re operational,” Mr. Quarles said during testimony before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday.

Lawmakers grilled Mr. Quarles over several topics at the hearing, including why the Fed is still allowing banks to pay dividends and whether the central bank is willing to take enough risks to help shore up the economy.

Much of the questioning centered on when the Fed’s Main Street and Municipal Liquidity Facility will get up and running. The programs were first announced in late March and early April, but have yet to get underway, as the Fed takes time to design and implement efforts they have never tried before. Senators also pushed the Fed to expand its facilities to better serve certain groups — whether that be small cities or groups of middle-market companies — underlining how fraught the design of those programs is proving.

“It is the highest priority at the Fed right now, is to get the Main Street and Municipal facilities operational,” Mr. Quarles said. “Because those are innovations, that it is taking time.”

It was unclear how advanced the discussions were and whether a deal would come together, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks were confidential.

President Trump said California should allow Tesla to restart its electric car factory in the San Francisco Bay Area “NOW.” His remark came a day after the company’s chief executive, Elon Musk, said he was resuming production in violation of a local order prohibiting him from doing so.

Mr. Trump’s comments are in keeping with his effort to push state and local officials to allow businesses to reopen despite the advice of public health officials, who have called for a more gradual reopening to prevent a spike in coronavirus cases and deaths.

But it is not clear what effect the president’s statement would have on Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, and county officials, most of whom are also Democrats. In addition, the Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif., already appears to be making cars and Mr. Musk has dared local officials to arrest him.

The county’s health officer has said he hoped to work out an agreement with Tesla to open the plant on May 18. The plant is Tesla’s main source of revenue and has been closed since early April. County officials have not yet authorized the resumption of indoor manufacturing over fears that the coronavirus could spread among large groups working in proximity.

In an email that was sent on Monday and was reviewed by The New York Times, the company’s head of human resources in North America, Valerie Workman, told employees they would be contacted within 24 hours about when to report for work.

In her email, Ms. Workman said employees who were uncomfortable returning to work could stay home on unpaid leave.

The Fed, which initially announced on March 23 that it would start buying corporate debt, has said that it will purchase newly issued investment grade bonds and those that trade on the secondary market. It will buy the debt of recently downgraded companies and will tiptoe into junk bonds more broadly via E.T.F.s.

Outright corporate bond buying will start “in the near future,” the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said Monday night. While the Fed bought short-term corporate debt known as commercial paper during the 2008 financial crisis, buying longer-dated debt is new territory for America’s central bank.

Both the primary- and secondary-market bond buying programs exist as part of the Fed’s emergency lending authorities, which can keep credit flowing in the economy during times of crisis. While the central bank has rolled out several emergency programs since coronavirus lockdowns began, this will be the first one backed by new congressional funding to get up and running.

Lawmakers earmarked $454 billion for such programs as part of the so-called CARES package, which President Trump signed at the end of March. The Treasury administers those funds, and must sign off on the Fed’s facilities.

Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company, reported Tuesday that its net income fell by 25 percent in the first quarter of 2020 compared with a year earlier. Still, Aramco said it earned $16.7 billion — an amount that may allow it to retain the title of world’s most profitable company.

Aramco’s earnings are almost certain to fall further in the current quarter and later in the year. Aramco said that it received an average of $51.80 a barrel for its oil in the January-March period. Oil prices, which will largely determine Aramco’s earnings, have since fallen much farther.

Output, another key factor, is also likely to be lower. In an effort to bolster prices, the government said Monday that it had ordered Aramco to cut production to about 7.5 million barrels a day in June, about 25 percent below the average output for the first quarter.

The company said it would pay a dividend of $18.75 billion to shareholders for the quarter, in line with its commitment to pay out $75 billion for the year. Neil Beveridge, an analyst at Bernstein, a research firm, said in a note to clients that because the company was generating less cash than the dividend payment it would be “effectively borrowing to pay” shareholders.

U.S. stocks were flat and global markets mixed on Tuesday as reports from China, South Korea and the United States offered sobering reminders to investors of how long and difficult the coronavirus recovery is likely to be.

The S&P 500 rose about half a percent in early trading before paring gains. European markets were broadly higher after a drop in the Asia-Pacific region.

Oil prices rose slightly on Tuesday, after Saudi Arabia said it had instructed Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company, to deepen production cuts to help with the world’s glut of crude. Brent, the international benchmark, was up about 1 percent, to over $30 a barrel. West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. standard, was up more than 4 percent, to a little over $25.60 a barrel.

Researchers at Carbon Brief, an environmental website that tracks climate and energy policy, found that emissions fell around 15 percent in March and likely dropped another 30 percent in April.

Lower electricity consumption during a nationwide lockdown, which started in March, along with a surge in competition among renewable energy sources, has cut demand for thermal power. India is one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases on the planet.

Coal-fired power generation, which is linked with higher air pollution, fell 31 percent in the first three weeks of April, according to government data compiled by Carbon Brief. The supply of energy from renewables remained relatively stable during the lockdown, rising about 6 percent in March and dropping only slightly in April.

An activist investor picks a fight with a pharma firm.

Elliott Management, the $40 billion hedge fund run by the billionaire Paul E. Singer, on Tuesday escalated a campaign to shake up the drug maker Alexion Pharmaceuticals.

Major companies are asking workers to change their daily personal habits as well as their workplace conduct. BMW workers take their own temperature three times a day. Foxconn, the Taiwanese electronics giant that makes iPhones and other Western-branded gear in vast Chinese factories, has advised employees in a handout to avoid public transportation and walk, bike or drive instead.

Many employers have embraced government-endorsed health code functions recently built into some of China’s most popular smartphone apps, like Alipay and WeChat. One of the first services built to gauge a person’s infection risk, the health code function tracks users’ travel to see whether they have been to areas with high infections, though the creators and the Chinese government have not disclosed full details about how it works. When prompted by health workers, police officers or security personnel, a person would display a code colored red, yellow or green.

Catch up: Here’s what else is happening.

Reporting was contributed by Jeanna Smialek, Ben Dooley, Kate Conger, Mike Isaac, Michael J. de la Merced, Kai Schultz, Geneva Abdul, Stanley Reed, Niraj Chokshi, Alexandra Stevenson, Cao Li, Damien Cave, Matt Phillips, Gregory Schmidt, Carlos Tejada, Daniel Victor, Katie Robertson and Kevin Granville.





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