Unemployment Tally Expected to Surge by Millions: Live Updates

Millions more are expected to be added to the unemployment ranks.

The coronavirus outbreak continues its devastating march across the American economy, and Thursday will bring fresh evidence.

The Labor Department will announce the number of new unemployment claims filed last week at 8:30 a.m. eastern. Several analysts expect the report to show that six million workers joined the jobless rolls, in addition to the nearly 10 million who filed over the previous two weeks.

With astonishing swiftness, the pandemic has shut down businesses large and small, as if “the economy as a whole has fallen into some sudden black hole,” said Kathy Bostjancic, chief U.S. financial economist at Oxford Economics.

The weekly tally is one of the best measures of the virus’s impact on the labor force, but it does not capture the full extent of the joblessness. Florida and Texas, with 15 percent of the nation’s payrolls, decided only in the middle of last week to close nonessential businesses, so the surge in claims in those states may not show up until the next report. And many applicants nationwide have been unable to file claims because state unemployment offices have been overwhelmed by the volume.

European stocks opened strongly on Thursday, continuing a Wall Street rally fueled by signs that some of the hardest-hit countries were making gains in the fight against the outbreak.

The jump in European trading followed a more restrained performance in Asia. Futures markets were predicting that stocks in the United States would open higher as well.

Markets have surged in recent days as the number of new, confirmed coronavirus infections and deaths have leveled off or fallen in some of the hardest hit parts of the United States and Europe. On Wednesday, the S&P 500 index in the United States ended 3.4 percent higher.

But the prospect of problems ahead will likely trouble investors for months to come. The latest blow was expected later on Thursday, when American official are expected to issue another set of weekly unemployment claims data.

Underscoring the uncertainty, U.S. Treasury bond prices were higher, showing continuing investor interest in parking their money in a traditional safe haven.

In other markets, oil prices on futures markets rose on continuing hopes that major petroleum-producing countries would agree to cut production.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index was flat. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was up 1.3 percent. The Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China rose 0.4 percent. South Korea’s Kospi index rose 1.6 percent.

In London, the FTSE 100 index was up 2.2 percent in early trading. Germany’s DAX was up 2.2 percent, while the CAC 40 index in Paris was 1.8 percent higher.

After a 3.4 percent rise on Wednesday, the S&P 500 has bounced up 23 percent from its low in a disastrous March, despite a darkening outlook for economic growth and corporate profits.

One reason: It’s the time to buy for investors able to stomach the market’s swoons.

Cole Smead, a portfolio manager at the Smead Value Fund, has been snapping up bargains in beaten-up parts of the market, like oil and energy producers, homebuilders and shopping mall companies, that are closely tied to short-term swings in the economy.

“We will never get these prices again,” said Mr. Smead, whose fund has $1.3 billion in assets.

As economically damaging as the pandemic will no doubt be, Wall Street is starting to see a path forward that wasn’t clear a few weeks ago. Slowing infection rates, hefty government relief packages and the Federal Reserve’s efforts to calm the markets have helped eased investors’ minds.

Some of the buyers are opportunistic hedge fund traders and mutual fund managers, driving sharp gains for blue-chip shares that were battered by the market sell-off. Some are traders feeling pressure to get into a rising market. And some are short-sellers forced to buy to minimize their own losses.

But mom-and-pop investors have largely been sitting out — a sign that the rally doesn’t reflect widespread optimism.

Even in the best of times, ticket vendors are a common target for customer complaints. But the pandemic is triggering widespread anger at companies like Ticketmaster and StubHub.

Online, fans are fuming about being unable to get refunds for concerts that have been postponed, often with no rescheduled dates in sight. As they see it, ticketing outlets are being greedy at a time of crisis, holding billions of dollars in consumers’ cash that people now need for essentials.

Their anger is being stoked by the sense that some vendors switched their refund policies mid-crisis to avoid repaying consumers. Whereas a few weeks ago, Ticketmaster said that people can get refunds “if your event is postponed, rescheduled or canceled,” now its website only lists cancellation as a basis for getting your money back, though it suggests there may be other circumstances in which refunds might be considered.

And last week a Wisconsin man sued StubHub — the biggest marketplace for ticket resales — after the company recently dropped its refund policy, offering instead coupons worth 120 percent of what customers had paid for canceled events.

For the companies, though, the problem is much more than a matter of optics.

The live entertainment industry has come to a grinding halt, with more than 20,000 events suspended in the last few weeks. If the pandemic does not subside soon, events during the peak summer touring season could be delayed as well.

Catch up: Here’s what else is happening.

Graham Bowley, Patricia Cohen, Ben Sisario, Carlos Tejada, Nicole Perlroth and Matt Phillips contributed reporting.

Source Article