Asian Markets Fall as Investors Brace for Grim U.S. Jobs Data: Live Updates

Asian markets continue Wall Street’s slump.

Asian markets fell on Thursday after Wall Street’s slump, with investors expecting new government and corporate figures to further spell out the economic damage from the coronavirus outbreak.

Japan led major markets in the Asia-Pacific region lower, though the drops failed to match a 2.2 percent tumble in the S&P 500 on Wednesday. Futures markets were predicting glum openings for major markets in Europe and the United States as well.

Investors were selling ahead of what was expected to be another spate of bad economic news. Weekly unemployment claims data in the United States were expected on Thursday to show another mass shedding of jobs, and more companies are scheduled to report the hit to their financial results during the first three months of the year.

On Friday in China, officials in Beijing are expected to report a sharp drop in the country’s economic activity in the first quarter.

Not all market indicators were negative. Prices for U.S. Treasury bonds, a traditional investment safe haven, slipped in Asia trading. Oil prices rose in futures markets.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index was down 1.2 percent at midday. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index was down 1.1 percent. In Hong Kong, the Hang Seng index was down 0.7 percent, while the Shanghai Composite index

United Airlines warns its workers of a grim future.

The leaders of United Airlines issued a dire note to the carrier’s 100,000 employees on Wednesday, warning that staffing cuts may be coming and demand for air travel is likely to remain subdued into next year.

“The challenge that lies ahead for United is bigger than any we have faced in our proud 94-year history,” the airline’s chief executive, Oscar Munoz, and president, J. Scott Kirby, wrote in the letter, which was posted on the company’s website.

Traffic in the first two weeks of April was down 97 percent from last year and the airline now expects to fly fewer passengers in all of May than it flew in a single day during the same month last year, the executives wrote. And that decline is expected to last even as health concerns linger and travel restrictions are lifted at different times around the world.

The airline said earlier on Wednesday that it expected to receive $5 billion of federal funding intended to pay airline workers through September, but that stimulus is unlikely to prevent cuts beyond that, the executives warned on Thursday.

“The challenging economic outlook means we have some tough decisions ahead as we plan for our airline, and our overall workforce, to be smaller than it is today, starting as early as October 1,” they said.

The leaders struck a markedly different tone from the chief executive of American Airlines, Doug Parker, who said in a CNBC interview earlier in the day that he saw some “indications that the world is ready to start traveling again.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California signed an executive order Wednesday directing the state’s unemployment agency to pay benefits to workers like drivers for Uber and Lyft through a federal assistance program for the self-employed.

The move appears at odds with the rules of the program, however, and could create a conflict between the state and federal governments.

A recently enacted California law effectively requires companies like Uber and Lyft to classify their workers as employees, qualifying them for traditional unemployment benefits. As a result, they appear ineligible for benefits under the federal program for the self-employed, known as Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

A senior U.S. Labor Department official told reporters on Wednesday that recipients of the pandemic assistance have to be ineligible for traditional unemployment benefits.

The California labor secretary, Julie A. Su, said in an interview that she believed that the state’s move was legal because the federal government had “emphasized flexibility” in processing the emergency aid.

Uber and Lyft have long insisted that their drivers are contractors, not employees, and are challenging the California law in court. But they have urged their drivers nationwide to apply for the pandemic assistance.

Before the executive order, some Uber and Lyft drivers successfully claimed unemployment benefits in California. But the process could take months because the companies refused to submit income data needed to verify eligibility.

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