Tesla, Defying Local Order, Plans to Restart Factory: Live Business Updates

Elon Musk says Tesla is restarting production despite a county order.

Elon Musk, Tesla’s chief executive, said Monday that the electric-car company was resuming production at its assembly plant in Fremont, Calif., even though it had not yet been cleared to do so by the local health authorities.

“Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules,” he announced on Twitter. “I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.”

The county’s health officer has said he hopes to work out an agreement with Tesla to open the plant on May 18. The plant is Tesla’s main source of revenue and has been closed since early April. County officials have not yet authorized the resumption of indoor manufacturing over fears that the coronavirus could spread among large groups working in proximity.

In email that was sent on Monday and was reviewed by The New York Times, the company’s head of human resources in North America, Valerie Workman, told employees they would be contacted within 24 hours about when to report for work.

The state has authorized a resumption of manufacturing, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that “we recognize localism” and that “if a county doesn’t want to go as far,” local orders would prevail.

Mr. Newsom said he understood that Tesla and local officials “had some very constructive conversations,” adding, “I’m certainly encouraged by what I’m hearing.”

But Mr. Musk’s brother, Kimbal, seemed unappeased, declaring Monday on Twitter, “The governor has enormous power. He chose to put it into the hands of the county and he can take back that decision. This is on @GavinNewsom entirely.”

In her email, Ms. Workman said employees uncomfortable returning to work could stay home on unpaid leave. She also said that “choosing not to report to work may eliminate or reduce” eligibility for unemployment benefits.

Asian markets fell in early Tuesday trading, as reports from China, South Korea and the United States offered sobering reminders to investors of how long and difficult the coronavirus recovery is likely to be.

Australian shares led the broad drop in the Asia-Pacific region. U.S. Treasury prices rose, signaling more investor unease. Futures markets were predicting that Wall Street would open more than 1 percent lower.

Investors had a menu of bad news to choose from. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, a central figure in the American government’s coronavirus response, was expected to warn U.S. lawmakers later on Tuesday that “needless suffering and death” would result if the country opened up too quickly. In China, the city of Wuhan, which seemed to have tamed its outbreak, has reported six new infections in recent days, while cases have also risen in the northern part of the country. That followed a disclosure over the weekend that South Korea, which has also seen success, had suffered a spate of new infections as well.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 was down 0.2 percent in midday trading. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was down 1.7 percent. The Shanghai Composite index in mainland China was down 0.6 percent. South Korea’s Kospi was down 1 percent. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 index was down 1.4 percent.

The blacklisting of the processors follows a threat made last month by China’s ambassador to Australia, Cheng Jingye, who called the inquiry proposal a “dangerous” move that could lead to a Chinese boycott of beef, wine, universities and tourism.

In a joint statement, Australia’s trade and agriculture ministers said the beef suspensions appeared to be based on highly technical issues.

“We’ve been speaking with industry leaders, colleagues and departments overnight,” the ministers said, adding that they were working with Chinese officials to “find a solution that allows these businesses to resume their normal operations.”

If the ban continues, the economic cost could be severe. Beef sales to China were worth $1.85 billion in 2019, up from $883 million in 2018.

Trade experts said that while small disputes over certification and other issues are a common feature in bilateral relations, China may also be signaling its discontent after a period of growing frustration that started before the pandemic. Australia has accused China of dumping steel, banned the Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE from supplying its 5G network and passed laws against foreign interference in its politics.

The beef ban, announced on Sunday night, arrived on the same day that the Chinese government warned of its plans to impose a tariff of up to 80 percent on Australian barley in relation to an anti-dumping investigation that began 18 months ago.

“It’s China trying to send a political signal that Australia needs to reconsider its position in foreign affairs,” said Weihuan Zhou, a senior lecturer in international law at the University of New South Wales. “I don’t think there will be a change to the current situation unless there is a dramatic political change in Australia.”

The United States is on the brink of the worst economic collapse since the Hoover administration. Corporate profits have crumpled. More than a million Americans have contracted the coronavirus, and hundreds of people are dying each day.

Conventional wisdom would explain the market’s comparatively modest losses this way: Because markets tend to be forward-looking, investors have already accounted for what’s expected to be a cataclysmic drop in second-quarter activity and are forecasting a relatively rapid economic recovery afterward.

But for decades, the market has been growing increasingly detached from mainstream of American life. There are a few reasons:

  • The giant companies that make up the S&P 500 operate under very different circumstances than the nation’s small businesses, workers and cities and states. They are highly profitable, hold significant sums of cash and have regular access to public bond markets.

  • Stock ownership is heavily skewed to the richest segments of the population, who are least likely to feel the pain of an economic downturn.

  • The Federal Reserve’s actions have also bolstered investors’ confidence that the bottom won’t fall out of the market.

Americans have long relied on the stock market as a proxy for the U.S. economy. The current economic fallout, however, could snap any illusions that the logic of the market is derived, in any consistent way, from real-world events.

Catch up: Here’s what else is happening.

  • Steak ‘n Shake permanently closed 57 restaurants in the first quarter because of the coronavirus pandemic, the company’s parent, Biglari Holdings, said in its quarterly earnings report. Biglari, whose properties include Western Sizzlin restaurants, Maxim magazine and First Guard Insurance, reported that revenue fell to $136 million in the first quarter, from $182 million the same quarter a year earlier. The company had 605 company-operated and franchise Steak ‘n Shake and Western Sizzlin restaurants as of March 31.

Reporting was contributed by Niraj Chokshi, Damien Cave, Matt Phillips, Gregory Schmidt, Carlos Tejada and Daniel Victor.

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