Analysts Expect Bleak U.S. Retail Sales Data: Live Business Updates

Fresh evidence of the pandemic’s economic devastation is due Wednesday.

Another bleak economic reckoning from the coronavirus pandemic is expected on Wednesday with a preliminary report on U.S. retail sales in March. The figures, due at 8:30 a.m. Eastern, are expected to show the biggest plunge in the nearly three decades of record keeping.

Grocery stores, pharmacies and other sellers of essential items experienced a surge in demand last month. But that was almost certainly outweighed by a steep decline in other categories as businesses shuttered and shoppers restricted their spending.

Morgan Stanley Research expects the Commerce Department report to show a seasonally adjusted drop of 8.3 percent from February’s total sales, which include purchases in stores and online as well as money spent at bars and restaurants. A consensus estimate tallied by the financial data company FactSet indicates a 6.8 percent decline.

Even those bleak figures do not fully capture the economic deep freeze. Most states did not issue shutdown orders to nonessential businesses until late March or early April, meaning data for the current month could be worse still.

Until now, the largest one-month downturn in retail sales came in the fall of 2008, when the financial crisis led spending to fall nearly 4 percent for two straight months.

German government expects a deep recession.

The German government on Wednesday issued a bleak assessment of the effects of the coronavirus, saying that the economy was headed for a steep recession and a surge in joblessness.

Economic output will plunge almost 10 percent from April through June, the German Economy Ministry said. The country is expected to rebound later in the year, but gross domestic product at the end of 2020 will still be 4 percent lower than in 2019, the government said.

The effect of the virus on manufacturing, shopping and service businesses like hair salons will end a job boom that has lasted a decade, the government said. In March, the German unemployment rate was 3.2 percent, among the lowest in Europe. But more than one million people are working reduced hours under a government “short work” program that compensates employees for some lost wages.

“The collapse in global demand, the interruption of supply chains, behavior changes by consumers and uncertainty among investors are having a massive effect on Germany,” the ministry said.

More trouble is predicted for oil markets as price slumps.

The decision to have Mr. Trump’s name appear on the checks, which is a break in protocol, was made by the Treasury Department after Mr. Trump suggested the idea to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, according to a Treasury official. The president’s name will appear on the “memo” section of the check because Mr. Trump is not legally authorized to sign such disbursements.

The decision to have Mr. Trump’s signature on the checks was first reported by The Washington Post, which said the move would result in a delay for getting the checks out the door because of technology changes needed to include the new signature.

Representatives for the I.R.S. and the White House referred questions to the Treasury Department. A Treasury official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, denied that the decision would delay the disbursement of the checks, and said that they would be mailed beginning next week.

Many Americans may not see the president’s signature. Those who are eligible for stimulus payments and have provided their banking information to the I.R.S. will receive the money through direct deposit.

Global markets failed to build on gains from Wall Street in early trading on Wednesday, with investors anticipating a stream of bad news from companies reporting their financial results for the first three months of the year.

European markets fell following a downbeat day in Asia, despite a 3.1 percent rally in the S&P 500 in the United States on Tuesday. Futures markets were predicting Wall Street would open lower as well.

Markets rose on Tuesday on a steady stream of news about progress in fighting the coronavirus in hard-hit places like New York, while authorities in some European countries are discussing when some normal business and social activity might resume. Still, data expected later Wednesday was expected to show a drop in retail sales in March. The International Monetary Fund on Tuesday also released estimates showing shrinking economies in much of the world this year.

Further signaling unease, prices for U.S. Treasury bonds, long seen as a safe place to park money, rose. Oil prices fell.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index fell 0.5 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was down 1 percent, while mainland China’s Shanghai Composite index fell 0.6 percent.

U.S. airlines agree to the terms of a $25 billion bailout.

The terms of the agreement were not disclosed on Tuesday. The Treasury Department said that Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, United Airlines, SkyWest Airlines and Southwest Airlines would be participating in the payroll support program, which was created as part of the economic stabilization package that Congress passed last month.

“We welcome the news that a number of major airlines intend to participate in the Payroll Support Program,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement, saying the agreement would “support American workers and help preserve the strategic importance of the airline industry while allowing for appropriate compensation to the taxpayers.”

American Airlines said it would receive $5.8 billion as part of the deal, with more than $4 billion in grants and the remaining $1.7 billion as a low-interest loan. The funds are intended to be used to pay employees, and the airlines that take them are prohibited from major staffing or pay cuts through September.

Southwest Airlines said it expected to receive $3.2 billion, about $1 billion of which would come in the form of a low-interest loan with a 10-year term. That loan is expected to include about 2.6 million warrants issued to the agency.

The administration has been haggling with the airlines over the terms of the bailout, with Mr. Mnuchin pushing the airlines to agree to repay 30 percent of the money over five years. The Treasury Department also has been seeking warrants to purchase stock in the companies that take money. Airlines have complained that the Treasury was effectively turning the grants into loans by requiring repayment.

Stocks on Wall Street rose on Tuesday, following global markets higher after China reported a smaller-than-expected hit to trade and some countries began to take tiny steps to reopen their economies.

The S&P 500 rose about 3 percent, with shares of companies that have been hard hit by the coronavirus-related shutdowns — like airlines, cruise companies and casino operators — all faring well.

Stocks have been slowly climbing their way out of a slump that had wiped trillions of value from financial markets in late February and early March, as investors have begun to look for signs of the eventual recovery from the outbreak. In parts of Europe, a small-scale return to normalcy has begun: Spain allowed some construction work to resume and a few factories to reopen on Monday, and Austria and Italy followed with a gradual easing of restrictions that allowed some shops to reopen.

Stocks were also helped on Tuesday by March trade data from Chinese customs officials that was better than expected. But the optimism may not linger, as China’s reopening could be a long and painful process, worsened by slumping demand for its goods in countries dealing with the coronavirus outbreak.

But investors will be tested by a slew of corporate earnings results due out starting this week. On Tuesday, shares of big banks fell after JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo both announced that they were taking substantial provisions for coming loan losses. JPMorgan dropped about 3 percent, while Wells Fargo was down by about 4 percent, and Citigroup was down about 3 percent.

Energy stocks also fell, following crude oil futures lower.

Catch up: Here’s what else is happening.

Reporting was contributed by Sapna Maheshwari, Ben Casselman, Mary Williams Walsh, Stanley Reed, Joe Gose, Erin Griffith, Vindu Goel, Alan Rappeport, Niraj Chokshi, Carlos Tejada and Mike Ives.

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