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With European economy in record drop, central bank gives aid – ABC News

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The European Central Bank is ramping up its measures to cushion the economy against a record downturn caused by the virus outbreak

FRANKFURT, Germany —
The European Central Bank is stepping up its efforts to cushion the economy against a record downturn that the bank’s president, Christine Lagarde, said was “of a magnitude and speed that are unprecedented in peacetime.”

The monetary authority for the 19 countries that use the euro currency on Thursday lowered the interest rate on the cheap, long term loans it provides to banks. It also offered a raft of new credit lines to banks at a negative interest rate, meaning banks get paid a bonus as an incentive to borrow and lend.

The idea is to support banks so they can keep lending to businesses, thereby helping the economy, which contracted by a record 3.8% in the first three months of the year from the quarter before, according to new official figures.

That decline is the biggest since statistics started being kept in 1995 and worse than the drop in 2009 during the Great Recession that followed the collapse of U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers.

“Measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus, COVID-19, have largely halted economic activity in all the countries of the euro area and across the globe,” Lagarde told an empty press room at the ECB’s headquarters in Frankfurt, Germany, after a meeting conducted by teleconference among members of its rate-setting council.

While Europe’s economic activity is plunging amid the shutdowns that idled everything from florists to factories, the labor market is holding up thanks to generous government support. Unemployment rose only slightly in March, to 7.4% from 7.3% in February, statistics agency Eurostat said. Millions of workers are being supported by temporary short-hours programs under which governments pay most of their salaries in return for companies agreeing not to lay people off.

U.S. unemployment rose to 4.4% in March from 3.5% in February, though the eventual picture is likely far worse. First-time claims for unemployment benefits have skyrocketed in the U.S. as 30 million people applied through the first three weeks of April.

The statistics in Europe likely understate the depth of the fall since shutdown measures were mostly put in place only in March, the last of the three months in the quarter.

Figures from eurozone countries France and Italy showed both fell into recession, defined as two quarters of economic contraction. The French economy shrank 5.8%, the most since the country’s statistics agency began keeping the figures in 1949. The drop was particularly pronounced in services that involve face to face interaction, such as hotels and restaurants, retail stores, transportation and construction.

The new ECB measures come on top of already announced stimulus efforts that include an ongoing 750 billion euros ($825 billion) in bond purchases. Those purchases help drive down market borrowing rates for companies and governments. In particular, they have kept a lid on financing costs for heavily indebted Italy, one of the countries hardest hit by the outbreak.

The bank did not cut its interest benchmarks, although the new credit offers amount to the same thing, since they lower the cost to banks of borrowing from the central bank – on the condition they loan the money to businesses so they can keep operating and paying their employees and suppliers.

The ECB did not change the amount of the bond purchases but said it was “fully prepared” to increase their size “by as much as necessary and for as long as needed.” ECB purchases of government bonds help stabilize the eurozone since governments will be borrowing heavily to pay for stimulus and because of falling tax receipts due to the virus outbreak.

The ECB has also eased requirements for bank capital cushions, relief that means banks are not pressed to restrict lending in order to shore up their own finances. The central bank made it easier for banks to tap cheap credit directly from the central bank by loosening collateral requirements.

The ECB had already lowered its key interest rate benchmarks to record lows before the virus outbreak during a period of sub-par growth in Europe.

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The extreme impacts from the lockdown economy: Morning Brief – Yahoo Canada Finance

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<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Monday, June 1, 2020” data-reactid=”16″>Monday, June 1, 2020

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Employment down, savings up, and an uncertain summer for the U.S. economy

June is here.

And as summer has arrives across the country, so too does something resembling a resumption of economic activity.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="We’ve noted recently that economic data has stopped getting worse, building the case that the most severe impacts of the lockdown-related economic stoppage are behind us.” data-reactid=”22″>We’ve noted recently that economic data has stopped getting worse, building the case that the most severe impacts of the lockdown-related economic stoppage are behind us.

But this still leaves the economy a long way from healed.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="As Bank of America outlined in a note last month, the current recovery is likely to play out in three phases: lockdown, transition, recovery. We are now in the transition phase. But what this phase might look like continues to be informed by some of the jarring data coming out of the economy’s March-April lockdown phase.” data-reactid=”24″>As Bank of America outlined in a note last month, the current recovery is likely to play out in three phases: lockdown, transition, recovery. We are now in the transition phase. But what this phase might look like continues to be informed by some of the jarring data coming out of the economy’s March-April lockdown phase.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="What we know is that tens of millions of workers have lost jobs. Last Thursday, initial jobless claims data brought total filings for unemployment insurance since this crisis began to north of 40 million.” data-reactid=”25″>What we know is that tens of millions of workers have lost jobs. Last Thursday, initial jobless claims data brought total filings for unemployment insurance since this crisis began to north of 40 million.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="And on Friday, the April data on personal income, outlays, and savings served as another stunning entry in the history books. In response to mass unemployment, we know that consumers saved at a record rate, cut spending at a record rate, and saw incomes rise due to enhanced unemployment benefits passed through the CARES Act.” data-reactid=”26″>And on Friday, the April data on personal income, outlays, and savings served as another stunning entry in the history books. In response to mass unemployment, we know that consumers saved at a record rate, cut spending at a record rate, and saw incomes rise due to enhanced unemployment benefits passed through the CARES Act.

Taken together, this data really tells the simplest story of what happened in the U.S. economy during the most severe stage of this crisis — millions of people lost jobs and saved every penny they could as a result. How we go forward from here will be informed by fiscal policy, the spread of the virus, and how many workers are re-employed quickly.

“Consumer spending fell off a cliff in April, collapsing by 13.6% [month-over-month] while the annual momentum plunged to its weakest pace on record,” Lydia Boussour, senior U.S. economist at Oxford Economics, said in a note to clients. “Meanwhile greater benefit payments temporarily lifted income momentum to its strongest pace on record.”

The CARES Act boosted personal income in April while spending rose at a record pace amid massive job losses during the most severe stage of shelter-at-home policies hurting economic activity. (Source: Oxford Economics)
The CARES Act boosted personal income in April while spending rose at a record pace amid massive job losses during the most severe stage of shelter-at-home policies hurting economic activity. (Source: Oxford Economics)

Boussour added that, “Amid extreme uncertainty, the savings rate spiked from 12.7% to 33.0% — the highest rate ever. This underscores how the global coronavirus recession is leading to more frugal consumer behavior which will dampen the recovery. This is particularly true as the boost from social benefits will gradually erode over time leaving households more financially constrained.”

And so it seems that Congress was able to keep U.S. consumers afloat while shelter-at-home policies and fears about the future kept most of those excess dollars coming into consumer stashed away. Savings during this initial phase of the pandemic and the recession could, it seems, help boost the economy into the second half of the year.

Michael Gapen at Barclays said in a note published Friday that, “under the assumption households have not spent the entirety of safety net payments already, the potential good news in the report on April personal income is that households have, on net, likely accumulated sizeable cash savings that could be spent in upcoming quarters should the U.S. economy successfully emerge from economic lockdowns.”

April’s personal income and spending data, then, serves as evidence of the consumer holding what amounts to economic dry powder as we emerge from shelter-at-home policies.

How quickly the labor market heals, however, is likely to be more important in shaping how eager consumers are to resume consumption in the months ahead.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="This coming Friday, the May jobs report is expected to show the unemployment rate rose to 19.6% last month with another 8 million Americans losing their jobs, according to estimates from Bloomberg. In the view of some economists, the stubbornly high level of initial jobless claims shows that businesses which initially closed on a temporary basis early in this crisis are now closing permanently.” data-reactid=”45″>This coming Friday, the May jobs report is expected to show the unemployment rate rose to 19.6% last month with another 8 million Americans losing their jobs, according to estimates from Bloomberg. In the view of some economists, the stubbornly high level of initial jobless claims shows that businesses which initially closed on a temporary basis early in this crisis are now closing permanently.

The more time that passes without answers for businesses and consumers, the more these temporary disruptions become permanent. Which is the whole story of the “transition” economy and the summer of 2020 — how many temporary changes can be prevented from becoming permanent.

The fewer the better. And the clock is ticking.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="By&nbsp;Myles Udland, reporter and co-anchor of&nbsp;The Final Round. Follow him at&nbsp;@MylesUdland” data-reactid=”52″>By Myles Udland, reporter and co-anchor of The Final Round. Follow him at @MylesUdland

What to watch today

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  • 9:45 a.m. ET: Markit US Manufacturing PMI, May final (39.8 prior)

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  • 10 a.m. ET: ISM Manufacturing, May (43.5 expected, 41.5 in April)

  • 10 a.m. ET: ISM Prices Paid, May (40.0 expected, 35.3 in April)

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South Korea Unveils $62 Billion 'New Deal' to Reshape Post-Virus Economy – BNNBloomberg.ca

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(Bloomberg) — The South Korean government unveiled a 76 trillion won ($62 billion) ‘New Deal’ spending plan to reshape the economy in the aftermath of the pandemic after slashing its growth forecast for the year.

The plan, first outlined by Moon in April, aims to refocus the economy through 2025 by supporting job growth and new industries. It will partly be funded by a third extra budget now being drafted, according to a statement on the policy outlook for the second half.

The extra spending will help an economy forecast to grow by just 0.1% this year, the slowest expansion since the 1998 Asian financial crisis. The latest projection was more optimistic than the contraction expected by the Bank of Korea and private economists, but the government acknowledged downside risks to its view should a second virus wave emerge.

South Korea’s trade-dependent economy is suffering as the pandemic hits overseas markets. New virus clusters have also sprung up at home, raising fear among the public and potentially hindering a domestic recovery. President Moon Jae-in’s administration has so far announced 250 trillion won in measures to prop up the economy, including direct support, loans and funds to stabilize financial markets.

While previous measures have been focused on helping the economy ride out the pandemic, the government’s long-term spending plan envisions the creation of 550,000 jobs by 2022. The plan seeks to have 100,000 specialists in artificial intelligence and software programming.

Some 31 trillion won will be spent on the project by 2022, when Moon’s term ends. Another 45 trillion won will be spent by 2025.

The focus is to promote the use of fifth generation wireless networks and artificial intelligence across industries and foster digitalization in South Korea’s least developed areas. Investment will also support startups focusing on green technologies, while the country seeks to make its manufacturing sector more energy-efficient.

South Korea to Make 5G, AI Centerpieces of ‘Korean New Deal’

Part of the new-deal fund will be used to retrain workers and expand employment insurance for universal coverage.

To accelerate South Korea’s economic recovery this year, the government said it will use funds from the upcoming extra budget to issue discount coupons to encourage spending. It will also lower the consumption tax on car purchases during the second half of the year. Tax incentives will be offered to companies that increase investment by more than their average in the past three years, the statement said.

The government said inflation will probably slow to 0.4% this year, slightly better than the BOK’s 0.3% estimate. It sees zero job growth, down from 300,000 in 2019. Exports are expected to fall 8% this year while imports drop 8.7%.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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South Africa partly lifts lockdown to try to fix battered economy – The Guardian

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By Tim Cocks

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South Africa partly lifted a two month-old coronavirus lockdown on Monday, letting people outside for work, worship, exercise or shopping, and allowing mines and factories to run at full capacity to try to revive the economy.

President Cyril Ramaphosa was widely praised when he ordered one of the world’s strictest lockdowns at the end of March, confining people to their homes, forcing miners and manufacturers to slash operations by half, and banning the sale of alcohol and cigarettes.

But the measures have battered the economy of Africa’s most industrialised nation, which was already in recession before the virus, owing mostly to power cuts at its dysfunctional state provider, Eskom.

The central bank expects it to contract by 7% this year.

The government hopes Monday’s move to “level 3” lockdown will sputter businesses to a start. It will inevitably increase the number of coronavirus infections, which over the weekend jumped past 30,000.

“The move to level 3 … marks a significant shift in our approach to the pandemic,” Ramaphosa was quoted in South Africa’s Independent as saying on Sunday at an editors’ forum.

South Africa has so far had fewer than 700 COVID-19 deaths, while vastly more people – half of whom live below the official poverty line – are at risk from hunger because of the shutdown.

Industry officials said the outlook for the manufacturing sector remained bleak, despite the opening up. Output fell for the ninth consecutive month in February.

Philippa Rodseth, executive director of the Manufacturing Circle association, said she expected demand to come “first and foremost in medical textiles and equipment and PPE (personal protective equipment), although that’s not going to contribute to overall aggregate demand”.

Ramaphosa’s move to re-open so quickly, long before new COVID-19 infections reach their peak, has been controversial.

Schools had been ordered to open on Monday for the last years of primary and secondary school, but teachers’ unions and governing associations urged their staff to defy the order, saying schools were not equipped to keep staff and pupils safe.

The education ministry backed down late on Sunday, saying pupils would only return the week after next. Teachers will report this week for training and to receive protective gear.

However, Western Cape province, which is run by the opposition Democratic Alliance, announced that its schools would re-open for those grades as planned on Monday, because they were well-equipped.

The province is the main coronavirus hotspot, with two thirds of cases.

The Marxist main opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) have meanwhile accused authorities of sacrificing poor and vulnerable workers to the interests of a wealthy elite.

The EFF and others have also criticised the government’s decision to re-open churches and other places of worship if they limit to 50 people, despite the risks of spreading the virus.

(This story corrects to make clear central bank expects economy to contract by 7%, not 4%).

(Additional reporting by Nqobile Dludla and Alexander Winning; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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