Asian Markets Signal End to Global Rally: Live Updates

Stock rally fades as global markets waver.

A two-day rally in global stocks looked set to ebb on Wednesday, as Asian stocks wavered and futures markets predicted a flat Wall Street opening.

Tokyo stocks were down significantly at midday after being closed for several days because of holidays. Other markets in the Asian-Pacific region were mixed. U.S. Treasury bonds, typically seen by investors as a safe place to park money in times of trouble, fell modestly.

Global stocks have been buoyed this week by prospects of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic slowly emerging from economically devastating lockdowns. But other clouds have dimmed investor hopes, like the risks of the United States opening too quickly and Washington’s increasingly bellicose rhetoric against Beijing.

Stocks on Wednesday lost the boost they had received from oil prices, which have rebounded over the past two days. Crude prices fell modestly on futures markets.

In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index was down 2.8 percent. Stocks in mainland China, which markets have also been closed this week for a holiday, were flat. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index was up 0.7 percent. South Korea’s Kospi was up 1 percent. In Australia, the S&P/ASX 200 was down 0.7 percent.

Stocks on Wall Street rallied along with oil prices on Tuesday, as investors were encouraged by efforts to reopen economies, as well as by signs from Europe and China that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic may be over in some of the hardest-hit places.

The S&P 500 climbed nearly 1 percent in a second day of gains.

Underscoring the optimism across financial markets, oil prices surged on Tuesday. The price of benchmark crude in the United States rose about 20 percent to $24.49 a barrel. Brent crude, the international benchmark, was up about 14 percent at $31.

The stock market gains — the S&P 500 is up about 30 percent over the past six weeks — have come even as companies report discouraging financial results and warn of the economic damage being caused by the pandemic. For example, on Tuesday, a measure of demand and employment in the services industry showed a sharp slowdown in April to the lowest level since March 2009, as stores and restaurants were shuttered and consumers stayed home.

Investors have managed to shake off such grim data and other signals that the United States economy is in an unprecedented decline, because it shows what has already happened rather than what might come as stay-at-home orders are lifted and governors gradually move to reopen their economies.

Still, even as the overall mood was lifted on Tuesday, investors showed they were concerned about lasting damage. Shares of cruise operators plunged after Norwegian Cruise Line, one of the world’s largest, said that there was “substantial doubt” about its ability to survive the pandemic. And Hertz stock also cratered after the company, which is teetering on bankruptcy, said it had negotiated an extension on a missed payment on the lease for its rental fleet.

Even as they have substantially reduced service, the largest U.S. airlines are averaging just 17 passengers on domestic flights and 29 on international flights, according to a copy of congressional testimony from the head of Airlines for America, an industry group.

At the same time, airlines are collectively burning through about $10 billion a month as they cut costs and await the return of passengers, Nicholas Calio, the industry group’s chief executive, said in the testimony, prepared for a Senate hearing about aviation on Wednesday.

“While the industry will do everything it can to mitigate and address the multitude of challenges, no factual doubt exists that the U.S. airline industry will emerge from this crisis a mere shadow of what it was just three short months ago,” Mr. Calio said in the prepared remarks.

The pandemic has virtually wiped out air travel with traffic volumes down 95 percent and more than 3,000 aircraft grounded. More than 100,000 airline employees are working reduced hours or have accepted pay cuts or early retirement, Mr. Calio said.

Mr. Calio addressed complaints from some consumers that airlines were strongly encouraging them to take vouchers instead of refunds for canceled flights, saying that if the carriers refunded all canceled tickets at once they might have to seek bankruptcy protection.

He also thanked Congress for injecting nearly $50 billion in grants and loans into the industry in March and said that the funds would help provide stability “throughout a challenging summer, going into a very uncertain fall season.”

Transportation and denser housing have been the two focal points of urban residential development for the last decade, as cities like Seattle and San Francisco try to combat a severe shortage of affordable housing. But some developers worry that the coronavirus pandemic will stop the momentum as social distancing and telecommuting bec
ome the norm.

In areas where car commute times continue to climb, and freeways are at capacity, building denser communities along transit lines is seen as a panacea.

These projects, known as live-leave developments or more formally as transit-oriented developments, can be no-frills projects that focus on housing and getting people in and out fast. Or they can be more centered on amenities, meant to attract not only residents but commercial developers who find the density attractive for restaurants, coffee shops and boutiques.

Most experts say that the demand for transit-oriented development will still exist in some form after the crisis, but that the pandemic will leave a legacy.

Developers are already starting to consider new design plans. Expect more open spaces, broader sidewalks, slimmer roads and promenades in the future.

Reporting was contributed by Carlos Tejada, Kevin Williams, Niraj Chokshi and Mohammed Hadi.

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