The US overtook China as the country with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases, while EU leaders failed to agree on fiscal measures to strengthen the economy.
- Nearly 530,000 cases confirmed worldwide with more than 24,000 deaths
- European Union leaders failed to agree on a fiscal deal to offset the economic turmoil caused by the outbreak
- The US has more than 85,000 confirmed cases, surpassing China as the country with the most cases
China and Hong Kong stocks rose on Friday as dismal industrial data boosted expectations of further stimulus to shield the world’s second-biggest economy from the ill-effects of the coronavirus pandemic.
The CSI300 index rose 1.6% and the Shanghai Composite Index gained 1.4%, while the Hang Seng index and the Hong Kong China Enterprises Index climbed 1.2% and 1.6% respectively.
Also helping lift sentiment in China was the decision by the Group of 20 (G20) major economies to inject over $5 trillion (€4.5 trillion) into the global economy to limit job and income losses from the global health crisis.
US stock futures, however, extended their declines, dropping by more than 2%. The US House of Representatives is set to vote on a massive $2.2 trillion (€2 trillion) stimulus package later today, aimed at providing support to firms and individuals hurt by the economic consequences of the pandemic. The US Senate unanimously approved the package on Thursday.
If lawmakers in the lower house of the US Congress pass the measure, analysts expect US stocks to rally.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she’s missing personal contact with colleagues while working from home during the coronavirus pandemic. Merkel, 65, has been in self-isolation since Sunday after coming into contact with a person who later tested positive for COVID-19.
The chancellor said she is “keeping very, very busy,” during a press conference Thursday evening. She said she spends a lot of time in video conferences and telephone group chats. “I miss being able to attend cabinet meetings personally,” Merkel said, adding that she missing not being able to see people in person.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government told the Trump administration to not put troops at the US-Canada border amid the coronavirus pandemic, calling the proposal entirely unnecessary.
“Canada and the United States have the longest un-militarized border in the world and it is very much in both of our interests for it to remain that way,” Trudeau said.
The Department of Homeland Security had made a request to the Pentagon about providing additional security along the northern border between entry points, according to the Wall Street Journal. But the paper reported that the Trump administration has since scrapped the plan.
Security forces in Argentina have detained more than 6,000 people who were violating new restrictions on personal movement.
The government has restricted movement to just errands to nearby grocery stores or pharmacies. Essential workers — doctors, nurses, police officers as well as supermarket, pharmacy and logistics workers — are exempt from the measures. The restrictions are in place until March 31.
Criminal charges have been filed against 6,191 suspects across the country, Argentina’s presidential office said.
South Korean authorities asked residents to stay inside and avoid large gatherings as daily new coronavirus cases hovered near 100 per day. South Korea reported 91 new coronavirus cases on Friday, bringing its total to 9,332. The country has reported similar numbers in the past two weeks after experiencing a high of 900 in February.
The government has encouraged South Korean residents to practice social distancing and self-isolation, saying such measures were needed to stop the smaller, but still steady, stream of new cases.
Japan said it does not feel the need to declare a “state of emergency” over the country’s coronavirus epidemic, despite Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calling the outbreak a “national crisis.” Top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that Japan is not in a situation where it needs to issue an emergency declaration.
Japan has confirmed 1,387 cases of the coronavirus, with 47 deaths. Abe has set up a new crisis task force to combat the pandemic. Japan has already postponed the Tokyo Olympics to 2021.
Mexico has 585 coronavirus cases, according to a Health Ministry official, up from 475. The country saw two more deaths as a result of the virus, bringing its death toll total to eight. The new figures come as the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua said it would set up a shelter for deported migrants for a two-week quarantine in “the next few days.”
The US House of Representatives — the lower house of Congress — will debate a proposed coronavirus aid bill for two hours on Friday, officials said, in a bid to speed up the expected passage of the stimulus package.
The US Senate voted 96-0 on Wednesday on a $2.2 trillion aid package to combat the outbreak. The measure would give $1,200 directly to individuals as well as subsidies loans, grants and tax breaks to businesses facing extinction due to the economic effects of the virus.
US President Donald Trump said he would be eager to sign the package into law.
The Federal Reserve said on Thursday that the economy “may well be in a recession.” The US government also reported a 3.3 million burst of weekly jobless claims.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Twitter that he and US President Donald Trump are preparing “a new strong initiative” in the coming days to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Car production in the United Kingdom is expected to drop more than 15% due to the coronavirus crisis, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said. Full-year output was already expected to decline slightly to 1.27 million vehicles this year, but it could now fall to 1.06 million assuming the UK secures a zero-tariff deal with the EU, SMMT said.
“The impact could be far more severe if the crisis, and therefore shutdowns, were to last for months instead of weeks,” it said.
The auto industry is Britain’s biggest exporter of goods and employs more than 800,000 people. Jaguar Land Rover and Nissan builds over half of the country’s cars at factories in central and northern England.
EU leaders couldn’t agree on fiscal measures to prop up Europe’s economies after a six-hour video conference. Germany and the Netherlands blocked a call from Italy, Spain and France to issue joint debt to help finance recovery, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel instead proposing the utilization of the European Stability Mechanism bailout fund.
EU leaders ultimately decided to give themselves two more weeks to work out the dispute between ailing European members in the south and the fiscally conservative north.