May 4, 2020 / 8:11 AM / 22 days ago

Daily Briefing: May the fourth be with you...

Optimism over the re-opening of economies and the slowing of COVID-19 infections rates has been strangled by Donald Trump.

U.S. President Donald Trump gestures as he consults with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows during a commercial break as the president participates in a live Fox News Channel virtual town hall called "America Together: Returning to Work" being broadcast from inside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, May 3, 2020. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo added his voice to that of his boss in saying the novel coronavirus was likely manufactured in a lab in Wuhan. President Trump said tariffs would be "the ultimate punishment" for China, threatening to rekindle an 18-month long trade war that ended only in January.

World stocks are down half a percent and U.S. equity futures have fallen 0.7%. U.S. crude is back under $20 a barrel.

Parts of Asia, including China and Japan, are still off on holiday but Chinese offshore-traded yuan touched a six-week low against the dollar, while the Australian dollar eased to a one-week low. The dollar index has resumed its rise and Treasury and German government yields are down.

All kinds of other sobering news out there, too. As countries make plans to ease their lockdowns and parts of Europe start to get back to work, play and worship, companies are announcing big job losses.

A man jogs as Italy begins a staged end to a nationwide lockdown in Rome, May 4, 2020. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane

Prominent members of the lineup include Boeing, BA, Ryanair, Rolls Royce. All of that is yet to show up in jobs data, although Friday’s U.S. payroll figures for April are already expected around 20 million.

Earlier today, business PMI surveys across Asia showed the extent to which factory activity has been ravaged. Korean, Taiwanese and Japanese PMIs fell to 11-year lows while others such as India plumbed record troughs.  We await final PMI numbers from Spain, Italy, France and Germany.

That this downturn is going to be long and painful for the corporate sector, was confirmed by Warren Buffet who said he'd sold all of his airline stocks. A Deloitte survey showed Britain's largest companies expect the coronavirus to reduce their sales by more than a fifth this year.

More than 150 S&P 500 companies will report first-quarter earnings this week and over 100 of Europe’s STOXX600 members.

Today brings AIG and Tyson Foods. Over the rest of the week we hear from Disney, Total, Fiat Chysler, General Motors, BMW, ArcelorMittal, AB InBev, Nintendo, Uber, and Air France-KLM.

Banks in particular should be interesting because of soaring provisions -- BNP Paribas, Unicredit and Credit Agricole will report this week. Societe Generale may have to provision up to 5 billion euros against pandemic-linked losses, its CEO said on Saturday. Lloyds Bank's first-quarter pretax profits were almost wiped out by loan-loss provisions.

There is evidence of how big companies can benefit from central bank backstops – seen in Boeing's successful $25 billion bond sale last Thursday, with $70 billion in orders.

European shares are around 3% lower but in fact continental European markets are playing catch-up with Friday's sharp declines in UK and U.S. markets.

On aviation, more headlines on state support; Reuters reported Britain has hired Morgan Stanley to advise on an aviation rescue plan. Norwegian Air secured support from bondholders for a $1.2 billion debt-for-equity swap. Lufthansa is hopeful its bailout talks with the German government will conclude soon.

But there is life on the M&A front: Telefonica confirmed talks with Liberty Global over a possible merger between both companies' British units.

Other COVID-19-related headlines: Thyssenkrupp expects a new financial squeeze, despite the expected cash-in from selling its elevator division. The FT reported private equity firms Cinven and Advent want to offload risk on the 17 billion-euro Thyssenkrupp deal agreed in February. In healthcare, Roche has won U.S. approval for a coronavirus antibody test.

Emerging equities are down 2.5% and the perkier dollar is hurting currencies. The Turkish lira is at the weakest since August 2018. The oil price slump continues to cause problems for Saudi Arabia.

After Moody’s cut the outlook on its A1 sovereign rating to negative and the finance minister flagged “painful” measures against the crisis, Saudi shares tumbled 7% on Sunday. They are extending those losses today.

— A look at the day ahead from EMEA deputy markets editor Sujata Rao. The views expressed are her own —

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