Stocks tumbled on Wednesday, erasing back to back gains from earlier in the week, as investors were confronted by new signs of the coronavirus pandemic’s persistence.
The S&P 500 fell more than 2 percent, with shares of retailers, airlines and cruise companies — which are proxies for sentiment about the prospects of a recovery — faring poorly.
Nervousness about the economic outlook was evident in oil prices, and shares of energy companies also declined.
German officials this week reimposed local lockdowns after an outbreak at a slaughterhouse infected more than 1,500 people. In the United States, a surge in new cases in states including Arizona, Florida and Texas have prompted new warnings about the dangers of the pandemic.
Across the country, states are discouraging people from gathering in public and even reimposing some limits on activity. The governor of Texas on Tuesday told local officials they could restrict outdoor gatherings to 100 people and urged residents to stay home. In parts of central Idaho, where coronavirus cases have exploded in recent weeks, bars are shutting down and gatherings of more than 50 people are again outlawed.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, told American lawmakers on Tuesday that he was seeing a “disturbing surge” in some places. He urged the government to stock up on masks and other supplies.
Underscoring concern over the impact of the virus, the International Monetary Fund on Wednesday revised its forecast for global economic growth sharply lower. The I.M.F. now expects the global economy to shrink by 4.9 percent, compared with a 3 percent prediction in April. The recovery will also be slower than earlier expected, the fund said.
Shares in Europe were also sharply lower, a drop that reflected word from the Office of the United States Trade Representative that it was considering adding tariffs on other exports from Europe as part of its long-running complaint over subsidies for the aircraft maker Airbus. The office requested comments from U.S. companies on a $3.1 billion of list of goods it may tax.
The decline on Wednesday followed back-to-back gains on Wall Street that had lifted the Nasdaq composite to a record high. Led by large technology stocks like Apple and Amazon, the Nasdaq has outpaced the broader market in recent days, but it was also sharply lower on Wednesday.
The International Monetary Fund said Wednesday that the global economy faces an even deeper downturn than it previously projected as the coronavirus pandemic continues to sow uncertainty and businesses around the world struggle to shake off the virus.
In an update to its World Economic Outlook, the I.M.F. said it expected the global economy to shrink 4.9 percent this year, a sharper contraction than the 3 percent it predicted in April.
The fund noted that, even as businesses began to reopen, voluntary social distancing and enhanced workplace safety standards were weighing on economic activity. Moreover, the “scarring” of the labor force from mass job cuts and business closures means that the world economy will recover much more slowly, with the I.M.F. projecting 5.4 percent global growth in 2021, far below its pre-pandemic projections.
The I.M.F. now projects that the U.S. economy will shrink 8 percent this year before expanding 4.5 percent next year. Economies in the eurozone are projected to shrink 10.2 percent this year and expand 6 percent next year. The economy of China, where the virus originated and which imposed draconian containment measures, is expected to expand 1 percent this year and 8.2 percent in 2021.
Demand for gasoline is a proxy for economic activity, and the recent surge in coronavirus cases in states like Arizona, Florida and Texas could stem a rise in gas prices.
In Texas, the second-most populous state after California, prices could fall sharply after Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday urged people to stay at home to reduce the spread of the virus.
Demand for gasoline has recovered more than half of the drop it suffered when the coronavirus spread widely in April and many states and cities ordered people to stay at home and businesses to shut down, IHS Markit, a consulting and research firm said on Wednesday.
A survey of 15,000 gasoline stations by IHS taken before the new rise in cases found that use of gasoline was down about 22 percent in the second week of June compared with the same week a year ago. That’s a stark improvement over the second week of April, when gas purchases were down nearly 50 percent.
So far this year, gasoline sales have fallen the most in the Northeast, where the pandemic spread widely in March and April, causing tens of thousands of deaths. Demand is down by about a third in Massachusetts. By comparison, sales are down about 26 percent in California.
The average price for regular gasoline nationwide on Wednesday was $2.16 a gallon, down from $2.66 a year earlier, according to AAA. Prices at the pump have been rising in recent weeks. Oil prices remain roughly a third below at the start of the year.
“We can see a new preference for driving your car instead of public transportation or a short-range flight, and people do want to get out,” said Tom Kloza, global head of energy analysis at IHS’s Oil Price Information Service. “But that will be offset by less commuting and more working from home, the cancellation of sporting events, still-high unemployment levels and possibly a second wave of the virus in the autumn.”
Gold approaches a record as crisis buying stirs up demand.
Gold prices are within spitting distance of record highs, after a surge of buying pushed the precious metal up 17 percent this year.
Early on Wednesday, futures prices hovered around $1,780 an ounce, up more than 1.5 percent this month. Gold is now a bit more than 5 percent away from reaching the record levels of nearly $1,900 an ounce it touched in August 2011.
Gold traditionally is viewed as a hedge against potential inflation, and a safe asset for investors to have in their portfolios during times of growing political and economic uncertainty.
With multiple crises, including the biggest surge in unemployment since the Great Depression, hammering the United States economy ahead of highly contentious presidential election in November, demand for the metal has picked up.
Some in the markets also view the rapid expansion of the money supply by the Federal Reserve as a reason to expect future inflation to be higher, making gold an attractive investment.
During past episodes of supercharged money creation by the central bank — such as in the years after the deep recession that hit in 2008 — gold prices also surged sharply, in what many saw as a harbinger of future inflation.
A broad-based rise in prices never materialized, however, and gold prices spent much of the last decade tumbling.
After criticism, India may allow some international flights.
India is coming under increased pressure to open its airspace to international carriers after the United States and some European nations accused it of discriminatory practices under the garb of “repatriations” flights.
The U.S. Department of Transportation said on Monday that the Indian charter flights — organized by the government to bring Indian nationals home amid global travel restrictions — go beyond “true repatriations.” It accused India’s national carrier, Air India, of selling tickets in the open market, even while New Delhi officials keep U.S. airlines from flying to India. Future chartered flights, U.S. officials said, would require Washington’s approval.
The Indian government suspended international air travel operations on March 22 after imposing a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus. On many occasions, it failed to greenlight chartered flights operated by U.S. carriers.
India’s ministry of civil aviation said in a tweet on Tuesday that it was considering easing those restrictions to allow flights from U.S., French, British and German carriers.
A family member is asking for money. What do you do?
As the coronavirus continues to dismantle livelihoods across the country, advisers can expect family financial dramas to keep surfacing, according to a new survey from Commonwealth, a nonprofit group that researches financial opportunities and security for the financially vulnerable.
The survey, conducted in late April, collected responses from 944 people throughout the United States with household incomes under $75,000. Among them, 16 percent of those who had been permanently laid off reported receiving more financial support from family members or friends than they had before Feb. 1.
The rules for how much to lend and when, if ever, to expect repayment are being written in real time, like so much of life during the pandemic. Worries that relatives will be more generous than they can afford to be may not be misplaced.
Repayment plans should be laid out before money leaves a bank account, financial professionals say. But even then, lenders should prepare for lapses.
“In this situation, with Covid specifically, reflecting on would you be OK if you never got this money back is probably a good idea,” said Mariel Beasley, co-founder of the Common Cents Lab, a financial behavior research lab at Duke University.
Over the past several years, hospitals began to play innkeeper to open the door to more elective surgery, which is the lifeblood of their revenue.
They developed hotels near their operating rooms where patients, who often came from overseas for specialized treatments, could recover comfortably. Expanding into the hospitality business also allowed health care providers to avoid the high costs of being hosts themselves.
But as with so much else, the coronavirus pandemic has devastated medical tourism. To allow doctors to focus on emergencies, hospitals have canceled hip replacements and tummy tucks, while flight bans have grounded many foreign visitors.
“Unfortunately, the future looks bleak,” said Trey Hulsey, a co-founder of Hayakoum, a three-year-old service that handles travel arrangements for patients from the Middle East bound for hospitals in Boston, Houston and Philadelphia. “It’s just been one blow after another.”
Catch up: Here’s what else is happening.
Swissport, a provider of airport cargo handling and ground services, said Wednesday it would eliminate about half of its jobs in Britain. Over all, more than 4,500 workers out of 8,500 would be made redundant, the company said. Swissport said it is dealing with a 75 percent drop in revenue because of the pandemic.
GNC, the vitamin and supplement chain with about 5,000 locations around the world, filed for bankruptcy protection on Tuesday. The company said it would speed up plans to close as many as 1,200 stores and pursue a sale.
Spirit Aerosystems, a key Boeing supplier, said in a securities filing that Boeing had slashed an order for fuselage parts because of the effect the pandemic has had on global aviation. Boeing now wants only 72 shipsets, down from 125. (The aerospace giant had already cut its order from 216 earlier this year.)
Reporting was contributed by Clifford Krauss, Matt Phillips, Alan Rappeport, Mohammed Hadi, Tammy LaGorce, C.J. Hughes, Carlos Tejada, Sameer Yasir, and Niraj Chokshi.