Stock Markets on Edge as Grim Economic Data Arrives: Live Updates


Wall Street set to open higher after global markets fall.

U.S. stock futures wavered and global markets retreated on Wednesday, as investors weighed fresh data showing the extent of the economic damage wrought by the coronavirus pandemic.

Futures for the S&P 500 gained after trading flat, pointing to a slightly higher open on Wall Street.

Most indexes in Europe were 1 to 2 percent lower, after a generally down day in Asian markets. U.S. stocks had ended slightly lower on Tuesday after a rally throughout the day. Through Tuesday, the S&P 500 is up nearly 19 percent from its March 23 low. It’s still more than 21 percent below its high, reached on Feb. 19.

Investors had in recent days found solace in signs that the outbreak was peaking in some of the hardest-hit parts of the United States and Europe. On Wednesday, China lifted its lockdown on the city of Wuhan, where the virus emerged, in another sign of progress.

France suffered the worst quarterly contraction in growth since the aftermath of World War II as the impact of the coronavirus froze activity across large swaths of the economy and consumers locked indoors slashed spending, the French central bank reported Wednesday.

Economic output shrank by an estimated 6 percent from January through March, and is shrinking by around 1.5 percent for every two weeks that the population remains under confinement, the Bank of France said. Prime Minister Édouard Philippe said on Tuesday that France’s lockdown would be extended beyond an original April 15 deadline, without specifying a date.

With nonessential workers ordered to stay indoors, construction activity declined by 75 percent and industrial activity shrank by half during the quarter. One in four workers has been put on paid furlough, part of a massive support program funded by the government in a bid to reduce a surge in unemployment.

Finance Minister Bruno LeMaire this week warned that the magnitude of the situation faced by France may be “comparable to 1929,” a reference to the Great Depression.

Similarly grim data was released in Germany, where the gross domestic product is expected to shrink almost 10 percent from April through June, five leading economic institutes said Wednesday in a report prepared for the German government. That would be the biggest decline since quarterly record-keeping began in 1970, the institutes said.

Tenants are having rent problems, and that may mean trouble for landlords.

One week after the first of the month, tenants are struggling with rents.

The National Multifamily Housing Council, a trade group for big apartment owners and developers, compiled data tracking rent payments across some 13.4 million units nationwide. It showed that through the first five days of April, 31 percent of tenants had so far failed to pay their rent, compared with 18 percent in the same period a year ago.

“It’s only going to get worse,” said Bruce Brunner, a Minneapolis landlord. Of his 130 tenants, two dozen have been laid off or had their hours cut.

The $2 trillion CARES Act, signed by President Trump on March 27, should in theory help laid-off tenants keep up with the rent through expanded unemployment insurance benefits and one-time stimulus payments.

But much of the aid is directed to those already attached to some government program — like tenants who live in subsidized or public housing or landlords with mortgages backed by federal agencies.

“Landlords and renters will share in the pain, but we don’t yet know what the sharing balance will look like,” said John Pawlowski, an analyst with Green Street Advisors, a research firm in Newport Beach, Calif.

South Korea announced a new 36 trillion won — or $29.5 billion — stimulus package on Wednesday aimed at cushioning its export-driven economy from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

The new package added to a series of economic rescue measures totaling more than $80 billion that South Korea has announced in recent weeks to shore up its battered economy and help self-employed people and small- and medium-size businesses that have been hit the hardest.

The package announced on Wednesday will come in the form of cheap loans for the country’s exporters.

During an emergency meeting of senior economic policymakers, President Moon Jae-in said his government had also drawn up new measures worth 17.7 trillion won, or about $14.5 billion, to boost domestic consumption. He didn’t provide details.

“The global economy is being sucked into a severe depression and, as a result, our economy, heavily dependent on the external conditions, is facing a tsunami-like shock,” Mr. Moon said. “This is a tunnel, the end of which we cannot see yet.”

Mr. Moon revealed the new stimulus package as political parties in South Korea were campaigning for a crucial parliamentary poll next Wednesday. His governing Democratic Party had once appeared to face a tough campaign as Mr. Moon’s diplomacy with North Korea remained in a stalemate and discontent over a slowing economy deepened.

But the approval ratings of Mr. Moon and his party have been on the rise in recent weeks as South Korea was praised by other nations for its effective handling of the epidemic.


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