Small Business Shortfall Leaves Owners in the Lurch: Live Updates

For more than four decades, China has never acknowledged that its economy actually shrank, even during major economic crises. But that may change on Friday, when the country announces gross domestic product for the January-to-March quarter.

China’s National Bureau of Statistics already confirmed last month that domestic industrial production, retail sales and investment all suffered record, double-digit drops in the first two months of this year compared with the same period of 2019. That has prompted most, though not all, economists to guess that overall economic performance for the first quarter of this year will show a decrease from a year earlier.

The question is how big a drop it will be.

One survey of 18 Chinese and foreign institutions by Caixin, a Chinese news organization, found that they were forecasting that the economy was anywhere from flat to down 11.5 percent in the first quarter. The average forecast was for a drop of 6.6 percent.

A broader survey by Reuters of 57 analysts found an even wider range of predictions — anywhere from a nose-dive of 28.9 percent to a gain of 4 percent. But the average in the Reuters survey, a loss of 6.5 percent, was practically identical to Caixin’s.

Foreign banks, which come under only slightly less political pressure than Chinese institutions to issue sunny forecasts, have tended to be at the bearish end of the range.

Catch up: Here’s what else is happening.

  • The Transportation Department largely denied requests from JetBlue and Spirit Airlines to stop flying to several destinations, service that is required under the terms of the federal stimulus. The decision suggests that the department may be unlikely to grant the majority of such exemption requests, many of which have been issued by smaller carriers.

  • Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, said the company was developing its own coronavirus testing capabilities, including building a lab, and is preparing to start testing a small number of workers soon. In an annual letter to shareholders, Mr. Bezos also advocated “regular testing on a global scale, across all industries,” as a way to reopen the economy.

  • Morgan Stanley, the smallest of the major Wall Street banks, reported a 30 percent downswing in earnings for the first quarter. Driven by declines in its money management and investment businesses as well as higher costs related to both increased loss cushions and the quarter’s strong trading volumes, Morgan Stanley’s profits fell to $1.7 billion for the quarter, with overall revenues falling 8 percent, to $9.5 billion.

  • 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. He said the state would also extend aid to undocumented workers, many of whom have been unable to get federal relief during the pandemic despite paying local and state taxes.

Reporting was contributed by Michael M. Grynbaum, Alexandra Stevenson, Davey Alba, Neil Irwin, Nelson D. Schwartz, Liz Alderman, Alan Rappeport, Kate Kelly, Keith Bradsher, Niraj Chokshi, Caitlin Dickerson, Miriam Jordan, Jim Tankersley, Stacey Cowley, Emily Cochrane, Emily Flitter, Reed Abelson, Sapna Maheshwari, Ben Casselman, Noam Scheiber, Geneva Abdul, Mohammed Hadi, Carlos Tejada and Mike Ives.

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