Deaths Top 20,000; Singapore’s Economy Shrinks: Virus Update

Global deaths topped 20,000. Singapore estimated that its economy contracted the most in a decade in the current quarter, an early sign of the hit that’s in store for many.

Investors await passage of a giant U.S. stimulus package that governors say still doesn’t do enough for them. A dispute in the Senate over unemployment benefits threatens todelay passage of the $2.2 trillion U.S. virus-relief package, though Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he expects it will pass Wednesday night.

In Britain, the government moved to shut Parliament and Prince Charles tested positive. European Union leaders inched toward a rescuepackage. Spain had itsdeadliest day yet.

Key Developments:

  • Cases top 460,000; 20,857 dead, 113,687 recovered: Johns Hopkins
  • Fauci warns of potential for another cycle of infections
  • Republican governorssplit on Trump stay-at-home skepticism
  • Fired Americans send state unemployment websitescrashing
  • World leaders getsweeping powers they may never give up
  • Wall Streetbonuses could fall 40% this year

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Singapore’s Economy Shrinks Most in a Decade (8:16 a.m. Hong Kong)

Singapore’s gross domestic product fell anannualized 10.6% in the first quarter from the previous three months, far worse than the median forecast for an 8.2% contraction in a Bloomberg survey. The government said it now sees a sharp contraction in the economy of 1% to 4% for the full year.

The city was among the first outside of China to be hit with coronavirus cases earlier this quarter, and it is often seen as a bellwether for global trade given the openness of its economy.New Zealand’s economy could also contract by as much as 10%, initial estimates of economists show.

Abe Administration Agrees With Governor’s Request for Tokyoites to Stay Home (8:10 a.m. HK)

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the Abe administration agreed with Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike’s request Wednesday evening for residents of the capital city to stay indoors this weekend. That’s aftervirus cases in Tokyo jumped with 41 newly discovered infected people, a surge in a city that until now has mostly escaped the pandemic that has swept the world.

The metropolis is in a “critical moment” over a potential explosion in cases, Koike said Wednesday. She asked that citizens work from home and not go out at night during weekdays.

EU Vows to Be ‘Vigilant’ on Possible Hostile Takeovers (7:25 a.m. HK)

European Union regulators warned about hostile foreign takeovers of EU-based companies as a result of the economic slump triggered by the pandemic, putting the spotlight on medical businesses. The European Commission issued guidance to EU national capitals on enacting new bloc-wide legislation meant to prevent foreign direct investments from threatening national security.

Member countries must be “particularly vigilant” to ensure that “the current health crisis does not result in a sell-off of Europe’s business and industrial actors,” the Brussels-based commission said in the document published on Wednesday evening.

Fauci Sees Potential for Another Cycle of Infections (6:53 a.m. HK)

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at a White House briefing that it’s possible the coronavirus could become a seasonal affliction, with further waves of infections coming. He noted that the number of cases in the southern hemisphere is rising as the winter season approaches there.

“I know we’ll be successful in putting this down now. But we really need to be prepared for another cycle,” Fauci said. He said it’s vital that a vaccine be developed for the next cycle, along with a “menu” of treatment drugs that have been shown to be successful and safe.

At the same briefing, White House coronavirus task force member Deborah Birx highlighted that the number of new cases in New York City has been relatively constant the past three days, and said that “we’re close to working through the testing backlog.”

U.S. Governors Say Federal Stimulus Package Provides States Insufficient Funding (6:47 a.m. HK)

U.S. governors whose states have been hardest hit by the crisis say the fiscal package wending its way through Congressdoesn’t go far enough in providing funding to states and localities that are facing unprecedented financial pressures as they battle the coronavirus.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the $3.8 billion for his state and $1.3 billion for New York City is a “drop in the bucket.” Lost tax revenue will cost the state as much as $15 billion, he said. Governor Gavin Newsom of California, which has the third-highest U.S. case count, said he strongly believes the federal government will need to do more. Both are Democrats.

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican who chairs the National Governors Association, said at a press conference Wednesday that “we’re gonna come back and ask for additional funding for the states and local governments to help with this crisis in the next round of stimulus.”

Trump Expected to Have FEMA Direct Supplies Among States (6:24 a.m. HK)

The Trump administration is expected to soon direct how manufacturers will distribute crucial medical supplies — including protective gear and ventilators — to combat the outbreak, alleviating what U.S. governors have complained is a chaotic marketplace for the products.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will take charge of allocating the supplies nationwide, according to three people familiar with the matter, under a clause of the Defense Production Act.

Read full storyhere

California in Deal With Banks for Mortgage Relief (4:50 p.m. NY)

Wells Fargo & Co., US Bancorp, Citigroup Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. have agreed to a 90-waiver of residential mortgage payments for Californians affected by the virus, Governor Gavin Newsom said. He also is considering a state-wide moratorium on evictions, a move some cities and counties have already made.

“We’d reserve the right to look at a state overlay,” Newsom said at a briefing. “We have a team reviewing the legal parameters of that issue.”

N.J.’s Virus Numbers on Track to Echo N.Y.’s (4:20 p.m. NY)

Northern New Jersey is on track for the kind of viral surge that New York is experiencing, the state’s health commissioner said on Wednesday.

Judy Persichilli said the trends in her state were tracking those of neighboring New York, which projects a peak infection rate in 14 to 21 days.

“When we see this peak in New York, I think we can expect Bergen, Essex and Hudson counties will follow the trends,” she said at a news conference in Trenton on New Jersey’s response to the pandemic.

Read full storyhere

U.K.’s Johnson Threatens Action to Stop Profiteering (4 p.m. NY)

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he’s considering making profiteering illegal as Britain battles the coronavirus, following reports that some firms had been hiking prices on essential products.

“We are looking very carefully at what’s going on,” Johnson said at a press conference Wednesday. “I do not want to see people exploiting peoples’ need at a critical time, a national emergency.”

WHO: Countries Wasted Time Amid Spread (2:52 p.m. NY)

The world squandered a window of opportunity to fight the coronavirus and many actions should have been taken one or two months ago, according to World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The WHO chief himself didn’t call the coronavirus a pandemicuntil mid-March.

Worldwide lockdowns have created a second window of opportunity that shouldn’t be wasted, he said at a press briefing in Geneva. There are 150 countries with fewer than 100 reported cases, he said, adding that those in lockdown should use this time to contain the virus.

“The last thing any country needs is to reopen schools and businesses only to close them again because of resurgent cases,” he said.

New Cases Decline in Italy (1:50 p.m. NY)

Italy reported that new coronavirus cases fell on Wednesday, after nearly three weeks of lockdown measures. There were 5,210 new cases, compared with 5,249 a day earlier.

Fatalities from the disease over the past 24 hours totaled 683, compared with 743 on Tuesday, according to figures from the civil protection agency. Confirmed cases in the country now total 74,386.

The news came as the governmentbroadened rules that shield companies from hostile takeovers as the virus takes a heavy toll on the economy.

N.Y. Restricts Access To Malaria Drugs (12:15 p.m. NY)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo joined other states in restricting access to malaria treatments that President Donald Trump has touted for the novel coronavirus despite a lack of proof they will work.

Cuomo updated an executive order Monday evening to block pharmacists from filling prescriptions for the malaria drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine for any uses not approved by the Food and Drug Administration unless it is for a patient who has tested positive for Covid-19 and is part of a clinical trial. The medications are not approved to treat coronavirus.

The government doesn’t typically impose on the practice of medicine. Doctors are typically allowed to prescribe drugs for any illness or condition, not just those a specific medication is approved to treat. Ohio, Texas, Idaho and Nevada have also moved to limit access to the drugs.

Most NYC Covid-19 Dead Had Other Health Problems (11:30 a.m. NY)

Ninety-five percent of New York City’s almost 200 deaths from the new coronavirus had underlying health conditions, though almost half were under the age of 75, according todata published by the city’s health department on Tuesday.

The deaths, as well as data on cases and hospitalizations, mimic the patterns found in other cities with major outbreaks. New York City had more than 15,000 Covid-19 cases as of 5 p.m. Tuesday, the largest outbreak in the U.S.

Read the full storyhere

U.K.’s Sunak to Detail Support for Self-Employed (10:34 a.m. NY)

U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak on Thursday will announce a package of assistance for self-employed Britons. It’ll be Sunak’s fourth emergency package to help British companies and workers cope with the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Last week, he guaranteed 80% of the wages of those with jobs that are at risk because of the outbreak.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman also said authorities will crack down on people profiteering from the coronavirus crisis.

Putin Delays Vote on Plan to Stay in Power (9:50 a.m. NY)

President Vladimir Putin postponed a public vote on constitutional changes next month that would allow him to rule to 2036 as Russia attempts to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Putin, who has promised Russians final say on amendments to the constitution he has rushed through, said the vote planned for April 22 would be rescheduled at a later date.

Saying Russia couldn’t cut itself off from the pandemic, he said that people wouldn’t work next week, though workers would still get paid. He announced the delay during a hastily arranged national address Wednesday.

Though its totals remain well below those in some big European countries, Russia reported that coronavirus casesjumped by a third over the past day to 658.

Ackman Puts Part of His Fortune in Covid-19 Testing (9:04 a.m. NY)

Billionaire Bill Ackman said heinvested a portion of his personal wealth to help manufacture antibody testing kits produced by Covaxx, a newly formed subsidiary of closely-held United Biomedical Inc.

Ackman has repeatedly called for a complete shutdown of the U.S. for 30 days to help combat the spread of the virus. He has also called for antibody testing, like the one Covaxx develops, across the country to determine who has already contracted the virus.

Bullard Says 2Q Will See Most Pandemic Disruption (8:52 a.m. NY)

St. Louis Fed President James Bullard told CNBC the second quarter is likely to see the most disruption from the coronavirus outbreak, but the economy should bounce back by year’s end. “If we can get this to work right, everything will snap back to normal once this is over,” he said.

Bullard tempered earlier remarks predicting that the U.S. unemployment rate may hit 30% in the second quarter. “This number will be unparalleled, but don’t get discouraged.”

Switzerland Expands Entry Curbs (8:47 a.m. NY)

Switzerland on Wednesday stepped up the curbs on incoming travel to include all countries within the Schengen area. It previously had limited arrivals from Spain, Italy, Germany, France and Austria.

The Schengen area is a passport-free travel zone among 26 European nations.

India Delays Plans for Population Register (7:50 a.m. NY)

The government has indefinitelypostponed plans to begin surveys leading to its next census and a comprehensive population register. The process was to have begun in April and was seen as a precursor to a national citizens register that, along with a new citizenship law, had led to angry protests across India since December.

India is likely to agree on an economic stimulus package of more than 1.5 trillion rupees (about $20 billion), Reutersreported, citing two unidentified people familiar with the plans.

— With assistance by Rachel Chang, Jonathan Stearns, and Fola Akinnibi

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