FINANCIAL MARKETS

Shares skid after oil prices dip into negative territory

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian shares skidded today after U.S. oil futures plunged below zero with storage for crude nearly full as demand collapses due to the pandemic.

Shares fell in Tokyo, Hong Kong and Shanghai and New York stock futures retreated after the S&P 500 sank 1.8% Monday, giving up some big gains from last week.

In a stunning development, the cost to have a barrel of U.S. crude delivered in May plummeted to negative $37.63. It was at roughly $60 at the start of the year.

Traders are still paying more than $20 for a barrel of U.S. oil to be delivered in June, which analysts consider to be closer to the “true” price of oil. Crude to be delivered next month, meanwhile, faces a stark problem: traders are running out of places to keep it, as factories, automobiles and airplanes sit idled around the world.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-LOANS

Publicly traded firms get $300M in small-business loans

UNDATED (AP) — An Associated Press investigation has found that a relief fund Congress created to protect small businesses amid the coronavirus crisis has helped companies with thousands of employees, past regulatory run-ins and risks of financial failure even before the economy got walloped.

The Paycheck Protection Program was supposed to infuse small businesses, which typically have less access to quick cash and credit. Its $349 billion in emergency loans could help keep workers on the job and bills paid on time.

But the AP found 75 companies that collectively received $300 million were publicly traded, and some had market values well over $100 million. 

VIRUS OUTBREAK-CONGRESS

Virus aid exceeding $450B remains stuck in negotiations

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration and congressional leaders insist a final deal is in reach on an aid package for small businesses that could exceed $450 billion.

But both sides have been struggling for days to push an agreement across the finish line.

As small businesses suffer from a coronavirus-impaired economy, President Donald Trump says he hopes to see a Senate vote today.  

Most of the funding would go to replenish a payroll loan program that’s out of money. Additional help would be given to hospitals, and billions more would be spent to boost testing for the virus.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-GEORGIA

Georgia to reopen some businesses as early as Friday

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has announced plans to restart the state's economy before the end of the week, saying many businesses that closed to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus could reopen as early as Friday.

The governor in neighboring Tennessee planned to let businesses in most of his state begin reopening as soon as next week.

Georgia's timetable, one of the most aggressive in the nation, would allow gyms, hair salons, bowling alleys and tattoo parlors to reopen as long as owners follow strict social-distancing and hygiene requirements. Elective medical procedures would also resume. By Monday, movie theaters may resume selling tickets, and restaurants limited to takeout orders could return to limited dine-in service.

Such a swift reopening runs counter to the advice of many experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top authority on infectious diseases, who warned again Monday that resuming business too soon risked a fresh spike in infections.

GERMANY-DAIMLER-VOLVO

Volvo, Daimler to found truck fuel cell joint venture

BERLIN (AP) — Volvo and the truck division of Daimler say they have agreed to set up a joint venture to develop and produce fuel cell systems for heavy vehicles.

The two firms say they will be equal partners in the new enterprise.

Daimler Truck will put all its current fuel cell activities into the joint venture, and the Volvo Group will buy a 50% stake in the venture for around 600 million euros ($652 million).

The companies hope that joining forces on fuel cells will lower development costs and bring forward the introduction of fuel cells for heavy transport.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-MEAT PLANTS

States work to keep meat plants open despite virus outbreaks

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Governors in the Midwest are working to keep large meatpacking plants operating despite coronavirus outbreaks that have sickened hundreds of workers and threaten to disrupt the nation’s supply of pork and beef.

In Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly sent personal protective equipment and testing supplies to counties with meat processing plants. Gov. Kristi Noem said she didn't think it would be difficult to fulfill federal requirements to reopen a shuttered facility in South Dakota. And Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds warned of the dire cost of closing plants, even as she acknowledged the certainty of more clusters of infection at the facilities.

JBS USA said Monday it was suspending operations at a large pork processing plant in southwestern Minnesota because of an outbreak of COVID-19 among workers — the latest facility to be closed in the public health crisis. It employs 2,000 people. Minnesota Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm said 33 JBS employees and six close relatives had tested positive as of Saturday.

FANS-TICKET LAWSUIT

Fans sue MLB, teams over ticket money, ask for class action

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A pair of fans in New York sued Major League Baseball, Commissioner Rob Manfred and the 30 teams, asking for their money back for tickets and for certification of class-action status.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles by Matthew Ajzenman, who said he bought a partial season plan for more than 20 Mets games; and Susan Terry-Bazer, who said she purchased six tickets for a May 9 game at Yankee Stadium against Boston.

The lawsuit says fans are “stuck with expensive and unusable tickets for unplayable games in the midst of this economic crisis.” It also says MLB is refusing to issue refunds. Ticketmaster, Stubhub, Live Nation and Last Minute Transactions are among the defendants.

MLB has said it is awaiting government and medical direction, and it does not know when the season can begin.

CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES-UTILITY

PG&E's bankruptcy plan strides toward approval in California

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — California regulators are being advised to approve Pacific Gas & Electric's plan for getting out of bankruptcy.

The proposal has new controls designed to prevent a recurrence of the utility's past bad behavior that has resulted in deadly wildfires, infuriating blackouts and high electricity rates.

If approved, a proposed decision issued Monday by an administrative law judge will enable PG&E to clear another key hurdle in its frantic race to end one of the most complex bankruptcy cases in U.S. history by June 30 or risk losing billions in state funding. The California Public Utilities Commission, the company's chief regulator, will vote on the recommendations laid out in Allen's 117-page decision on May 21.

More than 82,000 wildfire victims are currently voting on a plan to create a $13.5 billion fund for those who lost family, homes and businesses. The voting is due to be completed May 15.

AUSTRALIA-VIRGIN

Indebted Virgin Australia goes into voluntary administration

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s second-largest airline, Virgin Australia, says it has entered voluntary administration as it tries to strengthen its finances amid a debt crisis.

Virgin says in a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange that it has appointed a team of Deloitte (deh-LOYT’) administrators to “recapitalize the business and help ensure it emerges in a stronger financial position on the other side of the COVID-19 crisis.”

The move came after the Australian government refused Virgin’s request for a 1.4 billion Australian dollar ($888 million) loan.

Rival Qantas Airways argued that it had three times more revenue than Virgin and was therefore entitled to a AU-$4.2 billion ($2.7 billion) loan if the smaller airline was not to gain an unfair advantage.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-NEW ZEALAND

New Zealand could pull off bold goal of eliminating virus

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — While most countries are working on ways to contain the coronavirus, New Zealand has set itself a much more ambitious goal: eliminating it altogether.

And experts believe the country could pull it off. Geography has helped. If any place could be described as socially distant it would be New Zealand, surrounded by stormy seas, with Antarctica to the south. With 5 million people spread across an area the size of Britain, even the cities aren't overly crowded.

And Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has taken bold steps, putting the country under a strict lockdown in late March, when only about 100 people had tested positive for the new virus.

New cases of infections have dwindled from a peak of about 90 per day in early April to just five on Tuesday, leaving the goal tantalizingly close. Only 13 people have died so far.

Even if New Zealand does purge itself of the virus, the economic effects will linger. Before the outbreak, tourism was booming.