Central banks deploy trillions to keep economy running
By The Canadian Press
Airlines are warning they may need bailouts as the virus outbreak brings more countries into lockdown, while central banks are injecting trillions of dollars more into the financial system to grease the gears of the global economy.
Business confidence is sliding, meanwhile, suggesting major economies are diving into recession.
Amid weeks of incredible volatility in financial markets, here’s a look at the latest developments in the outbreak’s impact on world consumers and businesses.
FINANCIAL SUPPORT: The Federal Reserve in the United States and the European Central Bank both unveiled new financial support measures late Wednesday.
The Fed says it will establish an emergency lending facility to help unclog a short-term credit market that has been disrupted by the viral outbreak. The Fed said it will lend money to banks that purchase financial assets from money market funds, including short-term IOUs known as commercial paper. By facilitating the purchase of commercial paper, which is issued by large businesses and banks, the Fed hopes to spur more lending to firms that are seeking to raise cash as their revenues plummet amid the spread of the coronavirus.
The European Central Bank launched a new, expanded program to buy financial assets in a bid to calm markets. The purchases are aimed at keeping borrowing costs down and making sure the bank’s low rates get through to the economy. The purchases will total up to 750 billion euros ($830 billion) by the end of this year and will include government and private-sector bonds as well as commerical paper. The move comes as market borrowing costs for heavily indebted Italy rose and as the eurozone faces a drastic economic slowdown with many businesses closed.
MARKETS: Shares opened slightly higher in Europe after another day of mostly losses in Asia, with investors braced for more volatility.
Germany’s DAX rose 2.4 per cent and shares were also higher in London and Paris early Thursday. New York futures were flat. But Japan’s benchmark failed to hold onto early gains and South Korea’s Kospi sank 7 per cent. Fears of a prolonged recession due to the coronavirus crisis are prompting investors to shift to cash, pushing prices of most assets lower. The Dow lost more than 1,300 points, or 6.3 per cent, on Wednesday. Oil prices rebounded after a 24 per cent loss a day earlier, with U.S. crude gaining nearly 14 per cent.
ECONOMIC OUTLOOK: A leading German economic index fell by the most since 1991, indicating Europe’s largest economy is plunging into recession due to the disruption from the virus outbreak.
The Munich-based Ifo institute said Thursday its survey of business optimism fell to 87.7 points from 96 in February to its lowest level since August 2009, when the world was in the midst of a financial crisis following the bankruptcy of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers.
“The global economy is collapsing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic,” the institute said in an accompanying forecast.
“As things stand, the German economy could shrink by 1.5 per cent this year,” adding that “the downside risk in the present forecast is considerable.
AIRLINES: Germany’s Lufthansa said that airlines may need government help to survive if the coronavirus outbreak lasts for an extended time. Chief executive Carsten Spohr said: “The longer this crisis lasts, the more likely it is that the future of aviation cannot be guaranteed without state aid,” he said Lufthansa has already slashed routes and frozen new hires. The airline said members of its executive board also decided to take a 20% cut in basic pay for 2020.
The industry association estimated that Mideast airlines have lost more than $7 billion in revenue. It had earlier estimated that total costs worldwide could reach $113 billion.
More airlines halted international flight amid a near total collapse in demand for travel. Vietnam Airlines was the latest with a halt to all international flights until the end of April.
MANUFACTURING: More companies are closing factory gates a day after the top U.S. automakers announced shutdowns of production in America.
On Thursday, South Korea’s Hyundai plant in the Czech Republic said it would close for two weeks starting Monday. The plant produced almost 310,000 cars last year and employs some 3,300 people. The move echoes similar moves by major carmakers across Europe, including Volkswagen and Fiat Chrysler.
Ford, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler, Honda, and Toyota said earlier that they would shut down all factories in North America, citing concerns for employees who work in close quarters building automobiles. Nissan will close U.S. factories. Hyundai shut down its Alabama plant after a worker tested positive for the virus.
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