FINANCIAL MARKETS

Asian shares advance

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares advanced today in Asia, buoyed by surprisingly strong U.S. jobs figures that helped power a surge on Wall Street on Friday.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index rose 1.4% after the government reported the economy contracted at a 2.2% annual rate in the January-March quarter, better than the initially estimated minus 3.4%.

Elsewhere in Asia, Hong Kong's Hang Seng climbed 0.2% and the Shanghai Composite index gained 0.3%. In South Korea, the Kospi edged 0.1% higher.

India's Sensex surged 1.5%, while Thailand's SET added 0.8%.

Australia's markets were closed for a holiday.

OIL PRICES

OPEC plus deal

UNDATED (AP) — Crude oil prices rose after major oil producing nations agreed to extend a production cut of nearly 10 million barrels of oil a day through the end of July to counter the blow to demand from the coronavirus pandemic. That’s about 10% of global output.

OPEC has 13 member states and is largely dominated by oil-rich Saudi Arabia. The additional countries involved in the so-called OPEC Plus accord have been led by Russia, with Mexico under President Andrés Manuel López Obrador playing a considerable role at the last minute in the initial agreement.

U.S. crude for July delivery added 42 cents to $39.97 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Brent crude, the international standard, gained 61 cents to $42.91 per barrel.

NABE SURVEY

Survey: Business economists expect worst slump since 1940s

WASHINGTON (AP) — Business economists expect the United States to suffer its worst downturn this year in more than seven decades before growth resumes sometime next year.

Overhanging that forecast, though, is the risk that a second wave of the coronavirus could threaten the economy once again.

A survey by the National Association for Business Economics predicts that the gross domestic product — the total value of goods and services produced in the United States — will fall 5.9% for 2020 as a result of the recession triggered by the virus.

That would be the sharpest annual decline since GDP fell 11.6% in 1946, when the nation was demobilizing after World War II.

EU-VIETNAM TRADE

Vietnam ratifies significant trade deal with European Union

ANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Vietnam has ratified a significant trade deal with the European Union that is expected to boost the Southeast Asian country’s manufacturing sector and exports.

Lawmakers approved the deal during their first meeting in the National Assembly since the coronavirus pandemic, which has caused a dip in its economy. The trade agreement was signed last June and ratified by the European Parliament in February.

When it takes effect next month, the EU will lift most tariffs on Vietnamese goods and cut the rest over seven years. Vietnam will lift about half of its import duties on EU exports when the agreement starts and phase out the rest over 10 years.

Vietnam is the EU’s second-largest trading partner in Southeast Asia, with the trade turnover reaching $56 billion last year, according to the national general statistics office.

CHINA-TRADE

China’s exports and imports fall amid coronavirus woes

BEIJING (AP) — China’s exports and imports both fell in May as the coronavirus and trade tensions with the U.S. weighed on demand at home and abroad.

The Chinese customs agency says exports fell 3.3% compared to a year earlier to $206.8 billion and imports dropped 16.7% to $143.9 billion. The plunge in imports drove the country’s trade surplus up sharply to $62.9 billion.

The surplus reached $27.9 billion with the United States and $18.2 billion with the European Union. The fall in exports came after a surprise 3.5% rise the previous month.

Analysts were expecting the decline, attributing April’s rise to orders placed before virus restrictions hit overseas economies.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-JOBS

Left out: More workers now losing hope of getting back jobs

NEW YORK (AP) — Even as the U.S. economy begins to flicker back to life and even as job cuts slow and some laid-off people are called back to work, the scope of the devastation left by the viral pandemic has grown distressingly clear to millions who’d hoped for a quick return to their jobs: They may not be going back anytime soon.

With many businesses reopening, the government surprisingly announced Friday that contrary to expectations of more layoffs, the economy added 2.5 million jobs in May and the unemployment rate fell from 14.7% to 13.3%. But the harsh reality is that last month’s rehiring is not expected to continue at the same pace.

A study by the University of Chicago’s Becker Friedman Institute for Economics says that 42 percent of the layoffs caused by the pandemic could become permanent job losses. Many businesses, from tech start-ups to small shops and big retailers, may not survive the loss of revenue despite federal rescue aid.

That aid will run out soon. And despite gradual re-openings, public fear of the virus is still keeping many people away from bars, restaurants, hotels, hair salons and other retail establishments. Few have resumed traveling and sports and entertainment venues remain closed.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-UNEMPLOYMENT FRAUD

Criminals stealing unemployment benefits as claims surge

UNDATED (AP) — Criminals are seizing on a surge in job losses to steal unemployment benefits from Americans nationwide. The uptick in crime complicates an already tough situation for millions of financially strapped Americans and overwhelmed state unemployment offices.

A U.S. Labor Department official testified last week that at least $26 billion will have been wasted, going largely to fraudsters instead of those in need.

Security experts say the bulk of the fraud appears to be committed by criminals using stolen data to make claims using someone else’s identity.

With roughly 21.5 million people receiving jobless aid, it creates added opportunity for criminals. An extra $600 a week in benefits makes it even more lucrative.

GERMANY-ECONOMY

German industrial production down nearly 18% in April

BERLIN (AP) — Official data show that German industrial production plunged by nearly 18% in April compared with the previous month at the height of Europe’s coronavirus lockdowns.

The 17.9% decline reported by the Economy Ministry today follows an 8.9% drop in March, when Germany started shutting down.

Germany’s lockdown was less severe than those imposed in Italy, Spain and France and it never ordered factories closed, but companies did largely stop production in some areas — such as the automaking sector — and supply chains were disrupted.  

Germany started easing restrictions to public life on April 20 and the process has gathered pace since. 

JAPAN-ECONOMY

Japan says economy contracted less than earlier reported

TOKYO (AP) — Japan says its economy contracted less than initially estimated in the first quarter.

The Cabinet Office says the economy shrank at an annual rate of 2.2% in January-March, better than the earlier reported 3.4% contraction. Analysts say the revision wasn't surprising and a recovery is expected as countries reopen after their coronavirus shutdowns.

But Japan's economy, the world's third largest, has been stagnant for years and was in trouble even before the pandemic hit consumer spending and other main drivers of growth.

The country imposed only limited shutdowns to fight the new coronavirus, leaving less room for a rebound than in some other countries. Weak global demand is also weighing on exports.  

VIRUS OUTBREAK-RETAIL RAGE

Bloodied store manager describes life in the age of COVID-19

UNDATED (AP) — Retail workers across the country are facing insults, threats and even attacks from customers angry over being told to comply with coronavirus restrictions in stores.

One retail store manager has decided to fight back with a Facebook page called “Retail Life During COVID-19."

After posting a photo of the bruised and bloody face she suffered after being punched by an angry shopper in Modesto, California, Samantha Clarke quickly accumulated tens of thousands of followers.

Some told her their stories of similar harassment. Shoppers also weighed in, often thanking Clarke for bringing to their attention what retail workers are up against.