Rolling coverage of the latest economic and financial news, as American companies slash payrolls at an unprecedented rate
- Breaking: US payrolls fall by 20.3m in April
- Worst data on record, by a mile
- UK construction in record slump
- German factory orders plunged 15.6% in March
- Coronavirus – latest updates
- See all our coronavirus coverage
It’s been another day of dire economic data, as the coronovirus pandemic hits firms across the globe.
After a choppy day’s trading, European stock markets have closed mostly in the red.
The Stoxx 600 index dipped by 0.4%, with America’s surge in unemployment reminding traders that the world economy is entering a steep recession.
Back in the UK, troubled department store chain Debenhams is to permanently close five additional sites.
The move puts more than 1,000 jobs at risk. All the stores are in shopping centres owned by property firm Hammerson including The Oracle in Reading and Birmingham’s Bullring.
The US private sector shed a record 20m jobs in April as coronavirus lockdowns and the resulting closure of non-essential businesses led to historic unemployment.
Non-farm private employers cut 20.2m jobs last month, according to payroll processor ADP. That compared with economists’ expectations for 20m and easily surpassed the previous record of about 835,000 in February 2009 during the financial crisis.
The report is a harbinger of the government’s April jobs report on Friday and adds to evidence of the pandemic’s widespread economic devastation. The Labor Department’s figures are projected to show a record 21 million decline in total nonfarm payrolls and a jobless rate surging to 16%.
More than 30 million people have applied for jobless benefits in the past six weeks, though not all of them are still unemployed. Another 3 million probably applied in the past week.
In all likelihood, total job losses probably exceed the 23 million new jobs created from the end of the last recession in 2009 until the pandemic took hold in mid-March.
The global recession caused by the Covid-19 pandemic has also driven up US oil stockpiles.
US crude oil inventories jumped by nearly 4.6 million barrels in the last week, the Energy Information Administration reports, despite some producers cutting output following the slump in prices.
#OOTT | US DoE Crude Oil Inventories 01-May: 4590K (est 8800K; prev 8991K)
– Distillate: 9518K (est 3000K; prev 5092K)
– Cushing: 2068K (prev 3637K)
– Gasoline: -3158K (est 1000K; prev -3669K)
– Refinery Utilization: 0.90% (est 0.45%; prev 2.00%)
Back in the UK, more than 400 oil rig workers have been flown off North Sea oil rigs in recent weeks with suspected Covid-19 symptoms or because they are at high risk of contracting it.
“The industry has been toiling with all the ramifications of social distancing and isolations, as well as how to test and when to test. It has been a pretty turbulent four or five weeks.”
“This apparent reduction is a small move in the right direction but we can’t stress enough the need to remain alert, to continue to follow protocols and to raise any concerns in both on and offshore working environments.”
Here’s a good video clip explaining the record fall in US employment:
The US stock market appears to be shrugging off the dramatic surge in US unemployment.
The Dow Jones industrial average is up 0.3% in early trading, gaining 76 points to 23,959. Quite a subdued reaction to the news that Twenty Million Americans lost their jobs last month.
“Equity markets seem quite happy about the prospects of factories and shops gearing up for more activity, but confidence, the key ingredient to secure a return to normal, remains elusive. Even though China has now gone weeks without a new case, the COVID19 curves are not flattening everywhere. Indeed, in some US states the trends continue to worsen and there are still lots of unanswered questions about how and why it spreads.
“Fresh outbreaks raise the threat of further lockdowns in some parts of the country. More damaging will be delays in restoring confidence to workers and shoppers that more normal activity is safe.
Bloomberg News’s analysis found that 20 states that have lifted restrictions don’t meet the White House guidelines for reopening.
Uber is also permanently close 180 driver service centres as part of its cost-cutting drive, Bloomberg reports:
Of the more than 450 driver centers Uber operates worldwide, 40% will shut down. The locations, called Greenlight Hubs, are used to sign people up to drive for Uber, teach them how to use the app and address issues that arise on the job. In March, as the virus was spreading in North America, Uber said it was temporarily closing all hubs in the U.S. and Canada.
Dara Khosrowshahi signaled that more “difficult adjustments” would be put forth in the next two weeks. “Days like this are brutal,” he wrote [in an email to employees].
Uber will eliminate 3,700 jobs and permanently close 180 driver service centers, the first in a series of cost-cutting measures https://t.co/PxmZFyaizu
Just in: Uber is adding to America’s unemployment misery, by cutting 3,700 jobs in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Due to lower trip volumes in its Rides segment and the Company’s current hiring freeze, the Company is reducing its customer support and recruiting teams by approximately 3,700 full-time employee roles.
In connection with these actions, the Company estimates that it will incur approximately $20 million related to severance and other termination benefits.
UBER TO CUT 3,700 EMPLOYEES, ABOUT 14% OF WORKFORCE, AS CORONAVIRUS CAUSES DEMAND TO PLUNGE
Paul Ashworth of Capital Economics fears that America’s jobless rate will hit at least 15% on Friday, when the government publishes April’s Non-Farm Payroll.
He points out that today’s ADP report isn’t completely comparable to NFP:
The ADP counts anyone on the active payroll rather than just people who were paid during the month, which is the official non-farm payroll definition. Within many people put on temporary layoff, that could have created a discrepancy, with those people still on the active payroll, but not counted in the official non-farm payroll figures and also qualifying as unemployed in the other official household survey.
We still estimate that non-farm payrolls fell by 22,500,000, with the unemployment rate rising to somewhere between 15% and 20%.
Heather Long of the Washington Post points out that America’s labor market has lost all the job creation gains of the last decade:
A decade of US job gains was wiped out in two months
ADP says 20.2 millions jobs were lost in April. Official government report comes out Friday https://t.co/uoaWRZnmHu
– services 16mn job losses with half in leisure & hospitality (8.6mn), followed by #trade and transportation (-3.4mn), other svc (-1.3mn), prof/biz svc (-1.2mn)
– goods -4.2nm with +half in construction pic.twitter.com/11WSR2PM4U
More Detail: pic.twitter.com/DJeMYLL4nj
ADP have also provided a sector-by-sector breakdown of the catastrophic job losses across America last month:
Goods producers cut 4.23 million jobs:
We’ve had a lot of bad data recently, but April’s US private sector payroll is a real shocker.
At 20.3 million, last month’s job losses obliterate the previous record of around 835,000 jobs lost in February 2009 after the financial crisis.
Another ominous sign for the April jobs report Friday..
20.2 million private sector jobs were lost in April, according to ADP. Shattered the previous record of 835K in February 2009.
Newsflash: More than 20 million Americans lost their jobs at companies across the country last month.
ADP, which processes payrolls for companies across America, has just reported that private sector employment decreased by 20,236,000 jobs from March to April.
Job losses of this scale are unprecedented. The total number of job losses for the month of April alone was more than double the total jobs lost during the Great Recession.
As such, the April NER does not reflect the full impact of COVID-19 on the overall employment situation.
US car maker General Motors has cheered Wall Street by beating profit expectations, and outlining plans to restart operations later this month.
Net income at the carmaker tumbled in the last quarter to around $300m, down from $2.16bn a year ago.
Considerable planning is under way to restart operations in North America.
Based on conversations and collaboration with unions and government officials, GM is targeting to restart the majority of manufacturing operations on May 18 in the U.S. and Canada under extensive safety measures.”
Despite the surge in UK government borrowing, there’s no shortage of willing buyers for British gilts.
Reuters has spotted that the UK borrowed for thirty years at a cheaper rate than ever before:
Britain’s government paid investors an interest rate of under 0.5% to borrow for more than 30 years on Wednesday, the lowest-ever yield at an auction for a conventional British government bond with a maturity of more than 10 years.
Investors bid for 2.6 times the 1.75 billion pounds ($2.17 billion) on offer of the 1.625% 2054 gilt, similar to the last sale of the bond on April 21, and the average successful bidder will receive an annual yield of 0.495%.
Overnight, Airbnb has set out plans to make 1,900 staff redundant – around a quarter of its global workforce – as it forecast that its revenues in 2020 will be half the $4.8bn it earned in 2019.
“We don’t know exactly when travel will return. When travel does return, it will look different.”
“People will want options that are closer to home, safer, and more affordable,”
Both sterling and the euro have fallen, after this morning’s dire PMI surveys.
The pound has shed half a cent against the US dollar to $1.238, its lowest in seven sessions, as traders digested the unprecedented drop in construction activity.
“The euro and sterling are in the firing line this morning, with a host of economic releases highlighting just how dire the economic picture is irrespective on continued gains seen throughout stock markets.
“From a PMI perspective, final readings are typically perceived as a somewhat drab affair as minimal adjustments are made to previous estimates.
Nearly 70,000 state-backed loans to small UK firms have been granted, totalling over £2bn, in the latest effort to protect Britain’s economy from the pandemic.
The Bounce Back Loan Scheme opened on Monday, and proved popular with struggling companies. Seven large lenders received more than 130,000 applications on Monday, the Treasury reports.
Almost 70k Bounce Back Loans worth £2.1bn approved on the first day.
Millions of pounds have already landed in people’s accounts, supporting those firms through the #coronavirus crisis.
Bounce Back Loans for small businesses – I’m still getting messages from Barclays customers saying the online application system isn’t working for them
This is the 3rd day since launch
There has been a massive demand for the Bounce Back Loan and it is taking longer then expected but I can assure you that is being worked on. You should receive the email at some point today, if not received already. Hope this helps. Thank you. [ASA]
Europe will experience a recession this year of a depth unmatched since the Great Depression and the UK will be one of the hardest hit, the European Commission has just warned.
Economic forecasts published by the Commission on Wednesday suggest that the UK will experience an 8.3% contraction by the end of the year, with investment down by 14% and a doubling of unemployment.
“While the immediate fallout will be far more severe for the global economy than the financial crisis, the depth of the impact will depend on the evolution of the pandemic, our ability to safely restart economic activity and to rebound thereafter. “This is a symmetric shock: all EU countries are affected and all are expected to have a recession this year.”
Eurozone heading for its worst GDP contraction on record at 7.75% this year according to @EU_Commission forecasts. In order of magnitude for 2020:
Despite this morning’s torrent of bad news, the UK stock market has nudged higher – with the blue-chip FTSE 100 and the smaller FTSE 250 index both up 0.5%.
That’ll please those investors who piled into shares last month, on hopes that the worst of the market slump is over.
Small investors poured into the stock market in April in the hope of picking up bargains, with record inflows into funds according to data provider Calastone.
A net £2.6bn was invested in equity funds in the UK in April, the highest monthly figure on record and six times more than a typical month, it said.
About 70% of the country’s 10,500 fish and chips shops have reopened as owners find new ways of doing business under lockdown.
Virgin Money is delaying its company wide rebrand– which will involve snuffing out the Clydesdale and Yorkshire bank names – due to Covid-19.
But the bank’s chief executive insisted the project has not been derailed due bad press linked to Richard Branson’s poorly-received attempts to tap government rescue money to save his Virgin Atlantic airline.
“Effectively we are continuing with the implementation of the our rebranding. We think it’s a great consumer brand and we’re delivering for our customers in a really customer-oriented way, which is in the DNA of that brand. So absolutely no changes to make in terms of that.
And all airlines I think are suffering from the same level of difficulty, so I’m not concerned about that.”
The Covid-19 lockdown has knocked the wind out of the building industry, warns Duncan Brock of the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply.
He fears it will take many years to recover:
“Only a few civil engineering and infrastructure projects were able to continue in April, but a tentative restart is expected in other areas such as house building and commercial construction in the short-term. As new plans from policymakers are developed over social distancing, building work may continue but not as we know it as restrictions and new safety rules are likely to make progress more difficult.
For a sector still not fully recovered from the skills shortages created by the financial crisis in 2008, the vacuum of output created by the pandemic has knocked the sector back another decade.”
Tim Moore, economics director at IHS Markit, reports that UK builders are (understandably) worried about the future after effectively shutting down in April.
Many are concerned about their cash flow, despite putting many workers on the government’s furloughing scheme.
A drop in construction activity of historic proportions in April looks set to be followed by a gradual reopening of sites in the coming weeks, subject to strict reviews of safety measures.
“However, the prospect of severe disruption across the supply chain will continue over the longer-term and widespread use of the government job retention scheme has been needed to cushion the impact on employment.
Construction firms reported that new business orders tumbled in April as customers shied away from signing contracts amid the lockdown.
Construction companies commented on the suspension of contract awards due to business closures among clients, as well as uncertainty about the duration of stoppages on site and feasibility of starting new projects.
Newsflash: Britain’s construction industry has suffered its worst ever monthly contraction, as builders downed tools to comply with the Covid-19 lockdown.
The UK construction PMI has slumped to just 8.2 for April, down from 39.3 in March, and far (far!) below the 50-point mark showing stagnation.
The vast majority of survey respondents (86%) reported a reduction in business activity since March, reflecting widespread site closures and shutdowns across the supply chain in response to the public health emergency.
Just in: The eurozone’s private sector shrank at an unprecedented rate last month, led by Spain and Italy.
Data firm Markit’s eurozone composite PMI, which tracks activity across its private sector, has slumped to 13.6 for April, down from 29.7 in March.
“The extent of the euro area economic downturn was laid bare by record downturns in every country surveyed in April, with output falling at unprecedented rates across the region’s manufacturing and services sectors.
With a large part of the region’s economy shut down while COVID-19 infections spiked higher, the economic data for April were inevitably going to be bad, but the scale of the decline is still shocking. The survey data are indicative of GDP falling at a quarterly rate of around 7.5%, far surpassing the worst decline seen in the global financial crisis. Jobs are also being lost at a rate never previously seen.
Ocado is continuing to profit from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The online grocer has reported a 40% surge in UK revenue so far this quarter, up from 10% growth in the first three months of 2020.
Growth in Retail Revenue in the Second Quarter to date is 40.4% up on last year, compared to 10.3% growth in the First Quarter.
The number of items per basket appears to have passed its peak but remains high, as more normal shopping behaviours have returned, and the share of fresh and chilled products in the mix, relative to ambient, is also returning to normal.
Ouch! Spain’s service sector has also suffered its worst monthly slump on record, with its PMI sliding to a mere 7.1 in April, from 23 in March.
That shows an “unprecedented” drop in activity.
India’s service sector is shrinking at an unprecedented rate, due to its Covid-19 lockdown.
The Indian service sector PMI, which measures activity across the sector, has taken an almighty tumble — dropping to just 5.4 from 49.3 in March. An extraordinary plunge, on an index where 50 points shows stagnation.
India April services PMI 5.4 from 49.3. Talk about locked down!!! pic.twitter.com/mv78wdadBs
Historical comparisons with GDP data suggest that India’s economy contracted at an annual rate of 15% in April.
It is clear that the economic damage of the COVID-19 pandemic has so far been deep and far-reaching in India, but the hope is that the economy has endured the worst and things will begin to improve as lockdown measures are gradually lifted.
India Services PMI: 5.4
Wow. The lowest ever anywhere? That’s worse than I’d have expected in the aftermath of nuclear war.
ITV has revealed the scale of the impact of the coronavirus, by furloughing 800 staff as advertising slumped 42% last month.
“We are now very focused on emerging from this crisis in a strong position, continuing to offer advertisers effective marketing opportunities and making preparations to restart productions safely.”
German carmaker BMW has also highlighted the economic cost of Covid-19 this morning.
BMW has reported a 20% tumble in vehicle deliveries in the first quarter of 2020, including a 30% slump in China.
The worldwide spread of coronavirus has left international automobile markets in an extremely weak overall condition after the first three months of the year. Initially, events were dominated by a slump in registrations in China in February and March.
However, all other major automobile markets subsequently reported declines, some of them drastic, especially from March 2020 onwards.
“The decisive factor for the adjustment is that the measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic are lasting longer in several markets and are thus leading to a broader negative impact than was foreseeable in mid-March.
It is therefore apparent that delivery volumes in these markets will not – as was previously assumed – return to normal within a few weeks. The highest negative impact is expected in the second quarter of 2020.”
Carmaker BMW posts 1Q revenues +3.5% to €23.25bn but gross profit -13% to €3.5bn. Deliveries -20% in line with German market, EU demand -25%, China -50%. Operating costs up on higher raw material costs. Cuts FY guidance.https://t.co/t4jZOAAYD4
Germany’s economy ministry blamed the dramatic fall in orders on the global economic shock of Covid-19, and warned that the situation will worsen.
In a statement, it says:
“It is to be expected that production will decline sharply from March onwards due to corona”
A little bit of context about the -15.6% print of ‘Germany Factory Orders MoM’ pic.twitter.com/itmSMr07Op
Demand for heavy-duty German tools, machinery, vehicles and other equipment slumped particularly sharply in March.
Orders for these capital goods fell over 22%, while intermediate goods [used to make something else] fell 7.5%. Consumer goods, though, only dropped 1.3%.
OUCH! #Germany March factory orders fall 15.6% MoM vs -10% MoM expected and biggest slump since the series began. Capital goods orders fall 22.6% MoM, Consumer goods orders fall 1.3% MoM. Basic goods orders fall 7.5% MoM. pic.twitter.com/JtLdNUXyr1
Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.
Domestic orders decreased by 14.8% and foreign orders fell by 16.1% in March 2020 on the previous month.
New orders from the euro area went down 17.9%, and new orders from other countries decreased by 15.0% compared with February 2020.