Asian stocks rise as sentiment improves.
Asian stocks rose moderately Wednesday on signs that the global economy is slowly getting back to its feet after being idled by the coronavirus outbreak.
Japanese stocks inched lower, but the rest of the region was higher. Futures markets were predicting strong openings for Wall Street and Europe.
Major corporations — including Boeing, Airbus, Volkswagen, General Electric and Facebook — were scheduled to report their financial results for the first three months of the year. U.S. officials were also expected to unveil economic growth figures, while the Federal Reserve was expected to release a statement about the health of the American economy later in the day.
All of that could affect investor sentiment, which has been cheered in recent days by hints that the United States and other countries will slowly try to resume business as usual. Underscoring the optimism, prices for U.S. Treasury bonds — long considered a safe place to park money — fell in muted Asian trading on Wednesday.
In stock markets, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index was down 0.1 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index rose 0.2 percent, while the Shanghai Composite index in mainland China rose 0.5 percent. South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.9 percent.
Simon Property Group, the biggest operator of shopping malls in the United States, plans to reopen 49 properties between Friday and Monday, according to documents that were shared with retailers on this week and obtained by The New York Times. Most of the properties listed are in Texas, Indiana, Georgia and Missouri.
The malls will have shorter hours to allow for “enhanced sanitizing and disinfecting,” the company said in the documents, which were first reported by CNBC. Simon Property outlined safety protocols for employees, contractors and vendors, including required temperature screenings before work, protective face masks and social distancing.
Some of the guidelines suggest a somewhat dystopian mall experience. Security officers and employees will “actively remind and encourage shoppers” to maintain a proper distance from other shoppers and employees and to refrain from shopping in groups. Food court seating will be altered and spaced to encourage social distancing. Play areas and drinking fountains will be closed, while in restrooms, every other sink and urinal will be taped off.
The company said it would also provide masks, free temperature testing and sanitizing wipe packets to shoppers upon request. Simon Property did not return requests for comment.
Axios says it will return a small-business loan.
The media website Axios said on Tuesday night that it would return a $4.8 million loan it had received from the Small Business Administration, adding that it was near a deal to raise capital through other means.
Axios received the loan through the federal Paycheck Protection Program, a $342 billion fund created to help small American businesses cover payroll, rent and other expenses. The program, part of a vast economic rescue plan signed by President Trump in March, has been riddled with problems.
Axios said it was returning the money because the program had become “politically polarized.”
“The program has become divisive, turning into a public debate about the worthiness of specific industries or companies,” Jim VandeHei, the chief executive of Axios, said on the company’s website. He added that a new source of funding had emerged in the past week, allowing Axios to confidently return the money.
Several large companies, including AutoNation, Shake Shack and the owner of Ruth’s Chris Steak Houses, have also disclosed that they were returning money they had received through the program.
As the coronavirus outbreak ebbs in China, the country’s companies and officials have made big strides in restarting its economy. Its factories, brought to a standstill when the coronavirus outbreak swept through the country in January, are humming again, and even the air pollution is coming back.
But empowering consumers could be the tougher task. Many lost their jobs or had their pay slashed. Still others were shaken by weeks of idleness and home confinement, a time when many had to depend on their savings to eat. For a generation of young Chinese people known for their American-style shopping sprees, saving and thrift hold a sudden new appeal.
China’s consumer confidence problem offers potential lessons for the United States and Europe, which are only beginning to plan their recoveries. Even if companies reopen, the real challenge may lie in enabling or persuading stricken and traumatized consumers to start spending money again.
A number of economists have called on China to do more to help consumers. The United States and other countries have unleashed major spending programs that include direct payments to households, but China has largely refrained so far, in part because of debt concerns.
Catch up: Here’s what else is happening.
Ford Motor said on Tuesday that it lost $2 billion in the first quarter as factory and dealership shutdowns cut into auto production and sales for much of March. The automaker also said it expected to lose more than $5 billion on an adjusted, pretax basis in the second quarter, when the damage from the coronavirus is expected to be significantly greater.
Starbucks said its global same-store sales fell 10 percent, with sales in China down 50 percent in the first three months of the year. Over all, revenue was down 5 percent to $6 billion, the company said. The company said it expected a recovery, but warned that the blow from the pandemic would be “significantly greater” in the current quarter, which ends in June, because of the hit to business in the United States.
Alphabet, the parent company of Google, reported a 3 percent increase in profit in the quarter that ended in March, but warned that there was a significant slowdown in advertising spending during the final month as the coronavirus spread in the United States. Revenue rose 13 percent in the first quarter to $41.2 billion, exceeding projections from Wall Street analysts.
Uber is discussing layoffs of as much as 20 percent of its work force, or roughly 5,400 employees, according to two people familiar with the ride-hailing company’s deliberations. In addition, Thuan Pham, Uber’s chief technology officer, resigned last week, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the details were confidential. Mr. Pham was one of the longest-tenured executives at Uber, having started his career there in 2013.
Reporting was contributed by Ben Dooley, Keith Bradsher, Kate Conger, Mike Isaac, Neal E. Boudette, Michael Corkery, Sapna Maheshwari, Gregory Schmidt, Carlos Tejada and Mike Ives.