Global markets on upswing as investor sentiment improves.
Global markets rose on Wednesday, offering hopes that stocks could break their two-day slump amid signs that oil prices might be stemming their tremendous losses.
European stocks were higher after several Asian markets turned positive near the end of their trading day. Futures markets pointed to a positive opening for Wall Street as well.
A plunge in the oil market has unnerved investors for several days, but on Wednesday there were tentative signs of stability. Brent crude, the international benchmark, fell nearly 18 percent earlier in the day but then recovered to be almost flat, at about $19.25 a barrel — still a remarkably low price. Futures contracts for June delivery of West Texas Intermediate crude, the American benchmark, were down about 2 percent, at $11.35 a barrel.
Bond prices signaled some investor optimism. U.S. Treasury bond prices fell, a signal that the markets were favoring putting money in places considered less conservative.
Japan stocks bucked the trend, with the Nikkei 225 index falling 0.7 percent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong rose 0.4 percent. The Shanghai Composite index in mainland China rose 0.6 percent. South Korea’s Kospi was 0.9 percent higher.
Early this winter, as dying patients flooded China’s hospitals and medical workers begged for protective gear on social media, some people in the country started asking why the government had suppressed information early on — and who should be held accountable.
Chinese news outlets — relying on the West’s free flow of information — have used words like “purgatory” and “apocalypse” to describe the tragic hospital scenes in Italy and Spain. They have also run photos of British and American medical workers wearing garbage bags as protective gear.
Reports about similar miseries in China are called “rumors” and censored, and the state-run media’s overall message is that Western countries should copy China’s model. It’s all part of how the ruling Communist Party maintains a facade of positive news — and, by extension, its own legitimacy.
The propaganda push is mostly working, and some young people are waging online attacks against individuals and countries that contradict their belief in China’s superior response. Their tools? A mix of lies and partial truths.
As millions of Americans lose jobs, take pay cuts, close businesses and absorb family members into their homes, they are being forced to rethink where their money goes. Even before the scramble for new jobs can begin, people are cajoling creditors, looking for gig work or simply cutting back to get through the first few disorienting weeks.
More than half of lower-income adults in the United States say they will struggle to pay bills this month, compared with a quarter of their middle-income counterparts and 11 percent of those in the upper-income tier, according to a survey of nearly 5,000 adults by the Pew Research Center.
Researchers defined a three-person household earning $37,500 to $112,600 annually as middle-income. Over all, more than half of those who expect a federal stimulus infusion will use most of the money to cover essential expenses, while one in five say they plan to save the funds.
Southern Italy’s economic woes — and fragile health care system — figured prominently in the government’s decision to lock down the nation last month. So far the south only has about 1,500 of the 24,000 nationwide deaths that have been linked to the virus.
But the south’s unemployment rate of about 18 percent is almost triple that of the north. The region also accounts for much of the country’s off-the-books street economy, where many informal-sector workers have been unable to gain access to government relief packages.
“We don’t start from zero,” Cateno De Luca, the mayor of the Sicilian city of Messina, said of the local economy. “We start from less than zero.”
Now, as the Italian government plans to begin a gradual reopening on May 4, some southern officials have suggested that they would ban northerners from their regions if they rushed to lift the lockdown.
Vincenzo De Luca, the president of the southern region of Campania, said he had prepared a nearly billion-euro relief package for workers, and was urging the federal government to find a way to motivate thousands to come out of the black market’s shadows to ask for help.
He said one reason to pass an ambitious relief package was that organized crime may seek to exploit the crisis. The local media has reported that the local mob is using pretext of delivering food to be on the streets to sell drugs, or to shake down shop owners for donations to the poor.
Unable to film new commercials during the coronavirus pandemic, advertising agencies are turning to technologies that can seamlessly alter old footage, sometimes putting viewers in a position of doubting what they are seeing.
In the ad, a much younger Mr. Mayne is seated at the “SportsCenter” desk in 1998. He reports on the Bulls’ sixth championship title — before taking a turn toward the prophetic.
“This is the kind of stuff that ESPN will eventually make a documentary about,” Mr. Mayne says. “They’ll call it something like ‘The Last Dance.’ They’ll make it a 10-part series and release it in the year 2020. It’s going to be lit. You don’t even know what that means yet.” As a vintage State Farm logo appears in the background, he adds, “And this clip will be used to promote the documentary in a State Farm commercial.”
The producers made the commercial by layering video of Mr. Mayne’s 60-year-old mouth onto footage of his 38-year-old face. To many viewers, the stunt provided a welcome moment of levity in depressing times. Others were made uneasy by the smoothness of the patch, describing it as a type of deepfake.
Ad agencies said similarly manipulated ads will become more common.
Australia will capitalize on historically low oil prices by spending $59 million to buy oil to bolster its fuel reserves, a top official said on Wednesday.
“Now is the time to buy fuel, and we are doing that,” Energy Minister Angus Taylor told reporters. He said the move would ensure that manufacturers, miners and commuters can have access to adequate fuel supplies if the global oil trade faces further disruptions.
Mr. Taylor said the oil would be initially kept in the United States as the Australian government explored local storage options.
Australia is highly dependent on imports of liquid fuel from Asia and the Middle East, and has been looking to bolster its fuel supplies for years.
China’s state-controlled banking sector is pushing out extra loans as part of a government-led effort to limit the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. But non-performing loans are already starting to increase across the banking system, Chinese regulators announced on Wednesday morning.
The proportion of overall loans on which borrowers have failed to pay interest or principal has long been watched as a barometer of China’s financial health. Most Western bank analysts say that loans officially acknowledged as non-performing are just part of a larger pool of loans to businesses that would also default if banks did not keep lending them ever more money.
Huang Hong, the first vice chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, said at a news conference that the proportion of loans that are non-performing had crept up to 2.04 percent at the end of the first quarter, from 1.98 percent at the end of last year. He said that the proportion may continue to rise somewhat in the coming months, but that the increase would be manageable.
“We believe that there will be some increase in the future, but the magnitude will not be very large, because we are now resuming production and orderly development,” Mr. Huang said.
While the United States has relied on the federal government to provide loans to small businesses — only to have the pool of money run out quickly — China has put heavy pressure on banks to lend more. But Cao Yu, another vice chairman of the regulatory agency, said at the news conference that some very small businesses could not meet creditworthiness tests and were not receiving loans.
Another worry lies in possible fraud. Mr. Cao said the government had found over 3,000 regulatory violations last year at small and medium-sized financial institutions, often involving loans to people or businesses with personal ties to bank managers. Regulators are continuing to watch for misconduct, he said.
Catch up: Here’s what else is happening.
Delta Air Lines, one of the major companies set to participate in the federal government’s $25 billion bailout of the airline industry, is scheduled to report its first-quarter earnings on Wednesday.
General Motors said on Tuesday that it was shutting down its four-year-old car-sharing service, Maven, the latest such venture to close its doors. Maven, which allows customers to rent cars by the hour, has struggled to build a substantial following. It was forced to suspend services in March because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Lyft said Tuesday that it was withdrawing its financial guidance for 2020. The ride-hailing company had said it expected revenue of $4.5 billion to $4.6 billion this year, but demand has plummeted since early March.
Netflix reported first-quarter earnings on Tuesday that showed a surge in demand for the service with stay-at-home orders in place around the world. The company said 15.7 million new customers signed up in the first three months of the year. Before the pandemic, Netflix expected about seven million.
Reporting was contributed by Isabella Kwai, Keith Bradsher, Edmund Lee, Clifford Krauss, Vindu Goel, Kate Conger, Neal E. Boudette, Mohammed Hadi, Alan Rappeport, Carlos Tejada, Mike Ives and Kevin Granville.