Oil Plummets to 17-Year Low as Broken Market Drowns in Crude

Crude dropped to its lowest in 17 years as virus lockdowns cascaded through the world’s largest economies, leaving the market overwhelmed by cratering demand and an unmanageable surplus.

Futures in London fell as much as 7.6% to their lowest since November 2002 while also slumping in New York to trade below $20 a barrel. Physical oil markets are struggling to store fuel, hit by a double whammy of coronavirus restrictions eroding demand while Saudi Arabia and Russia dig in their heels over a damaging war for market share.

The kingdom said on Friday that it hadn’t had any contact with Moscow about output cuts or enlarging the OPEC+ alliance of producers. Russia also doubled down, with Deputy Energy Minister Pavel Sorokin saying oil at $25 a barrel is unpleasant, but not a catastrophe for Moscow.

“Demand concerns are critical but well known, what really took the market down were the signals we got from Saudi Arabia and Russia that they intend to continue their current path,” said Vivek Dhar, a commodities analyst at Commonwealth Bank of Australia. “Market hopes of a deal have come undone.”

OPEC nations aren’t giving support to a request from the group’s president for emergency consultations over tanking prices, according to a delegate. Algeria, which holds the cartel’s rotating presidency, urged the secretariat this week to convene a panel that assesses market conditions but the request has failed to gather the majority backing necessary to go ahead. Riyadh is among those opposing the idea.

The world normally uses 100 million barrels of oil day, but traders and analysts reckon as much as a quarter of that has disappeared in just a few weeks. The accelerating plunge in consumption is without precedent since a steady flow of oil became essential to the global economy more than a century ago. The great crash of 1929, the twin oil shocks of the 1970s and the global financial crisis don’t come close.

Brent crude for May lost as much as $1.90 to $23.03 a barrel on the ICE Futures Europe exchange before trading at $23.54 at 9:54 a.m. Sydney time. West Texas Intermediate fell as much $1.59 to $19.92 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange before trading at $20.29.

— With assistance by Javier Blas, Sheela Tobben, Alex Longley, and Grant Smith

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Trump touts coronavirus mask-sterilizing tech after FDA's limited approval

Hospitals burning through more coronavirus supplies than can be replaced: Study

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President Trump pushed the Food and Drug Administration to approve a mask-sterilizing technology developed by a nonprofit company in Ohio that would allow health workers fighting the coronavirus to reuse masks.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine criticized the FDA for issuing limited approval for the technology Saturday. But at a press conference Sunday, DeWine said the FDA's commissioner, Steve Hahn, told him "this would be cleared up today."

The FDA's current approval allows Battelle to decontaminate up to 10,000 N95 respirators per day, according to the agency. The company said it could do eight times that number with its Critical Care Decontamination System in West Jefferson, Ohio, if it gets full approval.

WHAT IS PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT?

"We understand Battelle now would like to expand that capacity, beyond their Ohio facility, and we are working with them, and the state of Ohio, expeditiously so they can scale up their N95 decontamination services to other locations outside of Ohio," an FDA spokesperson told FOX Business on Sunday.

Nurses leave Elmhurst Hospital Center where COVID-19 testing continues outside, March 27, in New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

"Hope the FDA can approve Mask Sterilization equipment ASAP," Trump tweeted. "As per Governor @MikeDeWine, there is a company in Ohio, @Battelle, which has equipment that can sterilize masks quickly."

Battelle told FOX Business the research firm is "thankful" for the initial limited approval. It previously said it is rapidly manufacturing more Critical Care Decontamination Systems to be deployed to needy hospitals across the country.

REUSING N95 MASKS IN CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC POSSIBLE WITH THIS TECHNOLOGY

"We continue to work with FDA to maximize the impact of the Critical Care Decontamination System by expanding use to other locations as well as increasing the number of respirator masks that are allowed to be processed each day," a company spokesperson said.

Hospitals are desperate for personal protective equipment for their workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic response.

Emergency medical workers wear protective masks due to COVID-19 concerns while delivering a patient to the emergency room at Brooklyn Hospital Center, Sunday, in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

COUNTIES WITHOUT VIRUS HAVE THIS IN COMMON

Battelle's method is the same as one confirmed last week by Duke Health, which found that N-95 masks can be safely reused after being decontaminated with vapor phase hydrogen peroxide.

Duke Health's process takes about four to five hours and involves hanging the masks in a room to be sprayed with the aerosol.

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"This is intended to conserve a critical resource, which is our people who support the entire health care process," Dr. Wayne Thomann of Duke University School of Medicine told FOX Business Thursday.

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NYC Mayor On His Coronavirus Response: Now’s Not The Time To ‘Look Backwards’

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) on Sunday danced around a question about his initial response to the coronavirus pandemic, claiming now is not the time to be “looking back,” despite having repeatedly bashed the federal government’s inaction in previous interviews.

De Blasio was asked during an appearance on CNN’s “State Of The Union” whether his comments earlier this month directing New Yorkers to “go about” their lives contributed to his city becoming a major “hot spot” of the pandemic. But the mayor said he preferred to focus on the future instead.

“We should not be focusing, in my view, on anything looking back on any level of government right now,” de Blasio told host Jake Tapper. “Everybody was working with the information we had, and trying, of course, to … not only protect lives, but keep the economy and the livelihoods together. … I mean, this was a very different world just a short time ago.”

“But the bottom line is, none of us have time to look backwards,” he continued. “I’m trying to figure out how we get through to … next Sunday, and then what we do the week after that. And that’s the only thing we should be talking about in this country.”

As of Sunday, at least 30,000 of the country’s more than 125,000 confirmed coronavirus cases so far were in New York City, far surpassing the numbers in other metropolitan areas nationwide.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released guidance last week encouraging anyone who visited the affected areas in New York to self-quarantine for 14 days. On Saturday, the agency issued a travel advisory urging anyone in New York, as well as New Jersey and Connecticut, to refrain from domestic travel for two weeks in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.

Despite warning of the potential risk posed by the virus, de Blasio was slower to order school closures than officials in other parts of the country. He defended his reluctance at the time, warning that many of the children enrolled in the city’s public school system ― the largest in the country ― could go without meals or supervision if schools were closed. But New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) eventually directed de Blasio to shut them down.

Though de Blasio suggested Sunday that it’s not a good use of his time to reflect on his initial response to the virus, he has repeatedly slammed the Trump administration for being slow to respond to the pandemic.

“He is consistently late and very marginal in what he does,” de Blasio told CNN of Trump’s inadequate response earlier this month.

Tapper pressed de Blasio on the apparent hypocrisy of his comments on Sunday.

“Mr. Mayor, you say you don’t think you should look backwards, but you’ve criticized Trump for ‘actions that are far, far behind the curve,’” Tapper said. “I mean, Mr. Mayor, weren’t your actions in this outbreak also far, far behind the curve?”

De Blasio defended his handling of the virus, suggesting he had called on the federal government to ramp up testing “weeks and weeks ago.”

“I think the big, historical point here is [that] if this country had had the testing when we needed it, this could have been a very different reality,” the mayor said. “But there’s no time to go back over that. There’s only time to focus on getting through next week and the week after that.” 

De Blasio’s office did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment. 

 

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Coronavirus takes life of Jefferies Group CFO

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Jefferies Financial Group Inc said on Sunday Peg Broadbent, chief financial officer of Jefferies Group LLC, has died from coronavirus complications.

TOP CHEF' FLOYD CARDOZ DIES OF CORONAVIRUS

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
JEF JEFFERIES FINANCIAL GROUP 14.34 -0.87 -5.72%

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Jefferies Financial CFO Teri Gendron has been appointed as the interim CFO of Jefferies Group, the company said in a statement.

(Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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Battered Bond Traders Have Another Dizzying Week to Prepare For

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Bond traders had better batten down the hatches again — after a brief stretch of relative calm, they’re about to contend with an array of crosscurrents, from quarter-end pressures to a torrent of dire economic data.

Ten-year Treasury yields swung 22 basis points last week from high to low, after four weeks when fluctuations averaged more than double that amount amid the turmoil fueled by the pandemic. The semblance of a respite came in part as stocks staged an impressive rebound from their nadir and as investors absorbed the Federal Reserve’s massive liquidity injections and the $2 trillion stimulus plan President Donald Trump signed Friday.

But the jury is out on whether equities have bottomed. And quarter-end brings fresh risks. The days ahead could trigger big shifts between asset classes because of investors’ need to rebalance, and potentially a resurgence of funding pressures despite the Fed’s efforts to tamp them down. There’s also the inevitable drumbeat of data showing the virus’s financial toll. The only question is how severe the job losses will get as the economy remains practically shuttered and authorities warn that infections will climb for weeks to come.

“The big volatility we’ve seen in both bonds and equities really has whipped people around and may cause some to move to the sidelines,” said Kevin Giddis, chief fixed-income strategist at Raymond James. With quarter-end approaching, “we are going to be pretty volatile going into that.”

The benchmark 10-year yield fell 17 basis points Friday, to 0.67%. The drop picked up in the afternoon as stocks slumped when the Fed said it will reduce the amount of Treasuries it will offer to buy as part of its efforts to improve liquidity in the world’s biggest bond market.

Last week’s Fed purchases helped the market absorb the $340 billion of Treasuries the government auctioned. This week there are only bills on the docket, with the debt likely to be sold at 0%. Bill yields in the open market trade below zero after the Fed slashed rates. Now there’s also fiscal stimulus to factor in.

A major challenge for investors is figuring out if it will all be enough to ease the economic pain. This week will surely bring a brutal stretch of figures. Releases on the manufacturing and services industries for March are expected to show contractions, and jobless claims may tally a fresh increase of 3 million, building on last week’s record 3.3 million filings.

“Massive government stimulus is dueling against the economic implications from the pandemic,” BMO Capital Markets strategists led by Ian Lyngen wrote Friday. “This tension is the primary debate among market participants.”

And then there’s quarter-end, which could at least briefly dash hopes for more normal trading conditions after some of the most severe dislocations in a decade. In a sign of how market functioning has improved, the spread between the bid and offer on the 30-year Treasury is well off its recent peak.

“The focus will be on the market returning to a healthier state and a normalization of the liquidity profile.” said Michael de Pass, global head of U.S. Treasury trading at Citadel Securities. “Exactly how the Fed’s involvement filters into Treasury-market liquidity is critically important. The Fed expanding its balance sheet at this rate will serve to dampen volatility and improve liquidity.”

Against that backdrop, the next few days will pose a test. The typical quarter-end strains are more worrisome than ever in light of this month’s volatility. JPMorgan Chase & Co. strategists predict that pensions and other investors will have to shift billions of dollars into equities to rebalance after the historic rout.

And the last few days of the quarter still may spark dislocations in repo markets even amid the Fed’s support for that crucial corner of the financial system. That’s because banks historically curtail activity during the period, causing outsized movements in borrowing costs.

What to Watch

  • Data ahead will undoubtedly drive home the economic pain from the pandemic. Here’s the calendar:
    • March 30: Pending home sales; Dallas Fed manufacturing activity
    • March 31: S&P CoreLogic home price data; MNI Chicago PMI; Conference Board consumer confidence
    • April 1: MBA mortgage applications; ADP employment change; Markit U.S. manufacturing PMI; construction spending; ISM manufacturing; Wards total vehicle sales
    • April 2: Challenger job cuts; trade balance; jobless claims; Bloomberg consumer comfort; factory/ durable goods orders
    • April 3: Nonfarm payrolls; Markit U.S. services PMI; ISM non-manufacturing
    • March 30: 13-, 26-week bills
    • April 2: 4-, 8-week bills

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Mnuchin Says Small Business Loans to Be Up and Running This Week

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Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said he expects to have a small business loan program up and running in the coming week while workers can expect aid from the $2 trillion stimulus package in the form of direct deposits or checks in about three weeks.

The administration is focused on getting “this money into the economy quickly,” Mnuchin said on “Fox News Sunday,” one of two television appearances for the day. “That’s a combination of small business loans that will be available this week” and checks to households which he called “bridge checks.”

“Any FDIC bank, any credit union, any fintech lender will be authorized to make these loans” to a small business subject to certain approvals, Mnuchin said.

Mnuchin was the White House’s lead negotiator on a $2 trillion economic stimulus package signed into law by President Donald Trump Friday to buffer the economy against the wide-scale shutdown and joblessness as the coronavirus swept through the country.

The magnitude of the economic devastation being wrought by the coronavirus pandemic was laid bare on Thursday when the U.S. government reported an unprecedented surge in the number of people seeking jobless benefits.

A total of 3.28 million people filed for unemployment insurance in the week ended March 21, dwarfing previous highs in Labor Department reports published since 1967.

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Global Airlines Raised More Than $17 Billion From Banks in Weeks

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Airlines worldwide raised more than $17 billion in bank loans in March to shore up their finances amid the coronavirus outbreak.

U.S. carriers were the most active, borrowing $12.5 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Delta Air Lines Inc. is the top borrower this month, obtaining $5.6 billion, followed by Singapore Airlines, which secured a S$4 billion ($2.8 billion) bridge loan, and United Airlines Holdings Inc., which raised $2.5 billion.

The airlines have borrowed new loans or drawn down on existing credit lines that they typically didn’t use before the health crisis. Companies in all industries globally have raised more than $230 billion from commercial banks since early March in response to the virus.

Eleven other airlines, including British Airways Plc and Etihad Airways PJSC, have about $8 billion in combined revolving facilities that they may not yet have drawn, the data show.

The aviation industry is asking individual governments for state aid, including carriers based in Germany, Thailand, and the U.S.

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States with the highest, lowest tax rates in the US

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Even though tax day has been postponed because of the coronavirus, Americans will still end up having to pay their taxes by July 15.

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However, the amount of taxes people pay depends on what state they live in. For example, some states have little to no income tax, but have high sales tax or high real estate tax.

Earlier this month, WalletHub published a report that calculated which states — as well as Washington, D.C. — have the highest and lowest tax rates overall.

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To calculate the results, the personal finance website looked at four types of taxes in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Those taxes were real estate tax, vehicle property tax, income tax and sales & excise tax.

Aside from the overall ranking, WalletHub also reported how states ranked in specific taxes on gas, cigarettes and food.

CORONAVIRUS STIMULUS CHECKS: SHOULD YOU WAIT TO FILE YOUR 2019 TAX RETURNS?

It found that Alaska had the lowest gas tax per gallon and California had the highest gas tax per gallon. The state with the lowest tax on cigarettes — per pack of 20 — was Missouri and Washington, D.C., had the highest tax on cigarettes.

Meanwhile, 35 states have no food tax whatsoever, but among the 16 states that do, Mississippi has the worst food tax rate.

To see the overall results, here are the states (including Washington, D.C.) with the highest and lowest tax rates, according to WalletHub.

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States with the highest tax rates

42. Rhode Island

43. Iowa

44. Ohio

45. Wisconsin

46. Nebraska

47. Kansas

48. Pennsylvania

49. New York

50. Connecticut

51. Illinois

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States with the lowest tax rates

10. Tennessee

9. Colorado

8. Idaho

7. Utah

6. Florida

5. Wyoming

4. Nevada

3. Montana

2. Delaware

1. Alaska

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Buffett-Backed BYD to Supply Electric-Car Parts to Rivals

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BYD Co., the Chinese electric-vehicle maker backed by Warren Buffett, will start offering a full suite of EV components to rivals and aspiring auto manufacturers to diversify its revenue sources amid sputtering car demand.

Among the parts that the Shenzhen-based company makes and now sells are electric-car batteries, powertrains and lights, founder Wang Chuanfu said in an online press conference on Sunday. BYD, China’s biggest maker of vehicles powered by alternative energy for the past six years, will use the brand name FinDreams for the parts business.

Electric-car sales have been slumping in China since July, when the country reduced purchase subsidies, and the decline has been exacerbated by the coronavirus outbreak. BYD, which is financially more stable than most local EV competitors, is betting the new business will help it return to growth quicker even as the market contracts.

“BYD will open its technology and products to the whole world,” Wang said. “FinDreams units will help change the role participants in Chinese auto industry play in the global new energy arena.”

BYD, founded as a mobile-phone battery maker, has been growing by expanding into new businesses over the past two decades. The company started car manufacturing in 2003 and rolled out its first vehicles powered by lithium-iron-phosphate batteries in 2006. It has since added electric buses, utility vehicles, energy storage equipments, monorail and insulated gate bipolar transistors to its offering.

To help fight the spread of the coronavirus, the company expanded to face masks and reached a daily production capacity of 10 million units this past week, according to Wang.

The versatility of its manufacturing operations has helped BYD become self-reliant on electric-car parts. While until recently it focused on making components only for itself, the company is now seeking to take advantage of a potential recovery and future growth of the market.

The annual value of batteries used in electric cars, electric buses and related energy storage is set to balloon about 10 times to a potential $500 billion by 2050, according to Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.

To demonstrate its competitiveness, BYD on Sunday unveiled test results of its so-called “blade battery,” touting it as a cost-competitive, safer and compact offering. Almost all carmakers are in talks with BYD over collaboration on the product, according to He Long, head of BYD’s car battery business.

Last year, BYD signed an agreement with Toyota Motor Corp. on EV battery supply and joint product development, with the companies setting up an jointly owned venture this month. BYD also cooperates with Daimler AG on making Denza brand electric vehicles.

— With assistance by Ying Tian

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London Restaurateurs, Chefs Talk About How to Survive the Coronavirus

London’s chefs and restaurateurs are counting the cost of the deadly coronavirus, working out how to keep their businesses going and focusing on the day when they can reopen.

The hospitality industry employs 3.2 million people, creating more than £130 billion ($162 billion) a year in economic activity, according to a 2018 report by the U.K. Hospitality Workforce Commission.

The British government has announced a raft of measures to help it, including a £330 billion package of loans, grants and tax breaks, as well as agreeing to pay 80% of  the wages of furloughed employees, up to £2,500 a month. Is this shutdown just a horrible blip, or could the recovery be a lot more complicated than simply reopening when allowed?

Andrew Wong ( A. Wong  and Kym’s):

“At first, the priority wasn’t about saving the world but about saving our staff. After (Chancellor of the Exchequer) Rishi Sunak announced his plans to pay employees, the emphasis switched to how we could help people: NHS (health) employees, the homeless, people in isolation. We now make 50-100 food packages a day. But I am still worried about the staff. Now, from the perspective of our immediate team, it is about looking after their mental health. Some of them are finding it quite difficult. It’s not normal for an entire generation to be stuck indoors and there are going to massive repercussions. We are in hospitality. We are not used to sitting alone in front of a computer for hours on end. They are used to interacting all day with their peers and guests. It might sound like millennials having a moan but it is a real problem. We are trying to engage. We are trying to launch an encylopedia, an archive of all the dishes that we have done over the last eight years and haven’t had time to put it together in one place. Everyone can help. As for the business, I think neighborhood restaurants like A. Wong are going to recover first when we reopen. Larger restaurant groups and those in the City  are going to be more dependent on the economy.”

Jason Atherton (Social Company, including Pollen Street Social):

“We are navigating this day by day  — trying to do a deal with the landlords, trying to do a deal with the tax people — just trying to sit tight until this blows over and reemploy as many people as possible. We have to be sensible and be kind to one another and if anything good comes out of all this, I hope it will end all the negativity in our industry. People are going to need support. When it ends, the reality will be that regular guests of your restaurants, like Pollen Street Social for 10 years, the key clientele will come back. People like comfort and places they know, with happy memories. I don’t know how quickly that will happen. We’re not going to go straight back in with 77 staff as we had at Pollen Street. People have gone back  home to France, to Italy, to the Netherlands to be with their families at this difficult time. I can’t wait to get back in my kitchen, prepping food and trying to make people happy.”

Ravinder Bhogal (Jikoni):

Our immediate priority is clarification from the government and understanding from banks and landlords. Restaurants are week-to-week businesses. We have already had so much support from our regulars and our neighbors, buying vouchers and tables for the future. I am optimistic it will come back and people will support us. We were in year three and had just started to come into profit. You have to be optimistic and for us it is about leading our team, and if we get really depressed it doesn’t help.”

Richard Corrigan: (Corrigan’s Mayfair, Bentley’s and Daffodil Mulligan):

“I am 56, I have been in the business a long time, I have seen  a few recessions in my time and rarely will we get back to the level from before. It is going to be leaner menus, more conservative, simpler. I am not a prophet, but my experience tells me if we go back to 50%, we will be doing really well. I would imagine we’ll have to stagger our re-opening: You don’t want to do it suddenly and there are no customers for three months. But I am sure everyone is looking to have a party when this is all over.”

Des Gunewardena (D&D London):

“People have talked over the years about how would we deal with a disaster like the financial crash of 2008 or 9/11. But they were like a walk in the park compared with what is happening now. We had revenue of £150 million a year and overnight that went to zero. I have cut my salary by 50% and all the directors have. We fully intend to reopen all our restaurants. Most are profitable, but what we will be very carefully looking at is if there will be a longer-term impact on the weaker restaurants.”

Natalie Diaz-Fuentes (Santo Remedio):

“Once we are able to re-open, the consensus is things will be slow to pick up, like opening a new restaurant again. You are going to start from a position you may have your rent piling up or loans and cash depleted. So you are going to be weaker than when you closed. This could lead to a recession and everyone knows eating out is something that suffers in a downturn.  Everybody  in the industry is worried because when you have to be closed indefinitely you run out of cash and then you don’t have a business.”

Chris Galvin (Galvin La Chapelle, Galvin at Windows):

“We are going to open into a global recession. We’ve got to find a way for people to be able to afford to come out again, so smaller, more manageable menus but changing much more frequently. Smaller menus means less prep, means less hours for a chef. Fewer dishes mean we can buy more responsibly. The poor devils we are not talking about are our suppliers. Suppliers, restaurateurs and diners are a holy trinity and we have to hold hands to make this work.”

Richard Vines is Chief Food Critic at Bloomberg. Follow him on Twitter @richardvines and Instagram @richard.vines.

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