Coronavirus latest: US stocks rally on vaccine hopes

Linda J. Dodson

The Nikkei Asian Review is tracking the spread of the new coronavirus that originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

Global cases have reached 4,619,477, according to the World Health Organization.

The worldwide death toll has hit 311,847.

To see how the disease has spread, view our virus tracker charts:

(Source photo by AP) 

Here are the latest developments (Tokyo time):

Tuesday, May 19

3:00 p.m. Uber Technologies announces roughly 3,000 additional job cuts. The latest reductions appear to include the ride-hailing company’s autonomous driving R&D division.

2:30 p.m. Russia hopes to start trials of a coronavirus vaccine candidate within weeks, the country’s health minister is quoted as saying by Reuters.

2:18 p.m. The New York state side of Niagara Falls is part of areas set to start reopening, although tourism will not be allowed in the first phase of the plan, Gov. Andrew Cuomo says.

12:25 a.m. France, Italy and four other European nations will lift bans on stock short selling effective Tuesday, securities regulators say. The curbs were put in place in response to coronavirus-induced market volatility.

Monday, May 18

10:39 p.m. India’s capital eases coronavirus-related restrictions, allowing limited use of public transport, food deliveries by restaurants and construction. But “people across the city will not be allowed to step out of their homes from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., except for essential services,” Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal says.

Meanwhile, Indian foodtech firm Swiggy says it will lay off 1,100 employees over the next few days, following job cuts at peer Zomato.

10:30 p.m. U.S. stocks open sharply higher, lifted by hopes for a coronavirus vaccine after U.S. biotech company Moderna announces positive results from a phase 1 study. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbs nearly 700 points.

9:29 p.m. President Xi Jinping attempts to deflect criticism of China’s actions to counter the coronavirus outbreak in an address to the World Health Assembly. “The virus does not respect borders, nor is race or nationality relevant,” Xi said in a video speech to the decision-making body of the World Health Organization.

6:44 p.m. The coronavirus outbreak has pushed down inflation in China and elsewhere. China has reopened its factories and other businesses, but fears of a second wave of infections is seen putting downward pressure on consumption.

6:26 p.m. Vietnam’s legislature will convene half of its sessions via video links, for the first time ever, when it restarts on May 20.

5:49 p.m. Pope Francis leads the full reopening of St. Peter’s Basilica on Monday, and Catholic churches hold public Masses for the first time in two months in the latest easing of Italy’s coronavirus restrictions. The basilica, which on Friday was sanitized, was later opened to the public for masses after the pope left.

5:12 p.m. The Philippines reports seven new coronavirus deaths and 205 additional infections on Monday. Total deaths from the outbreak increased to 831, while confirmed cases have risen to 12,718.

Indonesia’s auto sales plummeted 90.6% on the year in April, a trade group said on May 18, as measures to contain the coronavirus kept customers away.

  © Reuters

5:04 p.m. Indonesia announces Monday that it would increase the stimulus package announced last month by nearly 50% to 641.17 trillion rupiah ($43 billion) to offset the impact of the pandemic on the economy. Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said the rise would widen Indonesia’s budget deficit to 6.27% of gross domestic product, up from 5.07% previously. The country registered 496 new cases on Monday, bringing the total to 18,010.

4:20 p.m. Indonesia’s April car sales plunged 90.6% from a year earlier due to measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus, according to the Association of Indonesia Automotive Industry. A total of 7,871 cars were sold in the country last month. The drop follows a 15% decline in March.

3:50 p.m. Chinese pressure keeps Taiwan from receiving an invitation to this week’s meeting of a key World Health Organization body, Taiwan’s foreign minister says, adding the parties involved have agreed to put the issue off until later this year. Non-WHO member Taiwan had been lobbying to take part in the WHO’s decision-making body, the World Health Assembly, which opens a meeting later today.

Pope Francis walks inside St. Peter’s Basilica to lead a private mass on the day of the full reopening of the basilica on May 18, as the Vatican eases steps aimed at fighting the coronavirus. 

  © Reuters

3:00 p.m. Mt. Fuji will be closed to climbers this summer to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Shizuoka Prefecture, which manages three of the four main routes to Japan’s highest peak, announces the closure of its routes to the 3,776-meter peak. Neighboring Yamanashi had already done so for its routes.

1:35 p.m. India records its largest single-day increase of infections with 5,242 reported in the past 24 hours, compared with 4,987 the previous day. The new cases bring India’s overall total to 96,169 with 3,029 deaths, according to the health ministry’s latest update.

11:50 a.m. Thailand’s economy contracted at its sharpest pace in eight years in the first quarter but by less than expected. The country’s GDP shrank 1.8% in January-March from a year earlier, data shows, versus a 4% decline forecast in a Reuters poll.

11:20 a.m. China’s new home prices rose at a slightly faster pace in April, the latest data shows, adding to signs the country’s property market is slowly recovering as coronavirus lockdowns are eased. The average new home price in China’s 70 major cities rose 0.5% in April from the prior month, following a 0.1% increase in March, Reuters calculated based on official data.

11:00 a.m. South Korea confirms 15 new cases, up from 13 a day ago. Total infections reach 11,065 with 263 deaths. The Seoul nightclub cluster is dissipating.

10:40 a.m. China reports seven new confirmed cases for May 17, up from five a day earlier. Two of the seven are in the northeastern province of Jilin, currently in a partial lockdown, taking the total number of new infections in Jilin to 33 since the first case of the current wave was reported on May 7.

Cebu Air, which last year finalized the purchase of about 30 Airbus SE jetliners, says it will defer the deal now that the pandemic has decimated travel demand.

  © Reuters

10:00 a.m. The Philippines’ Cebu Air says it will defer planned aircraft purchases and is in talks with the government for financial support as the pandemic decimates travel demand. Last year, the country’s largest budget carrier finalized the purchase of about 30 Airbus SE aircraft, worth $6.8 billion at list price.

8:52 a.m. Japan’s economy contracted 0.9% in January-March, or at an annualized pace of 3.4%, the Cabinet Office said Monday, showing that the world’s third-largest economy was in a technical recession even before a state of national emergency was declared over the coronavirus outbreak.

2:40 a.m. India extends the national lockdown for a third time to May 31, as the country struggles to contain the viral spread despite almost two months of business and travel restrictions.

1:40 a.m. The U.K. reports the number deaths from people testing positive for COVID-19 rising on Sunday by 170 to 34,636 — the lowest increase since March 24.

Sunday, May 17

10:50 p.m. Spain’s death toll fell below 100 for the first time in two month, as parts of the country prepared to ease lockdowns. Cases rose to 231,350 from 230,698 while deaths rose 87 to 27,650.

9:30 p.m. Wuhan conducted 222,675 nucleic acid tests on May 16, a near twofold increase from the day before. The Chinese city began looking for asymptomatic carriers after confirming last weekend its first cluster of COVID-19 infections since lifting the lockdown on April 8.

A child reacts while undergoing nucleic acid testing in Wuhan.

  © Reuters

5:38 p.m. Malaysia reports 22 new cases, bringing the country total to 6,894 with no new deaths, which stand at 113.

5:11 p.m. The Philippines reports 208 new cases and seven more deaths, bringing the country totals to 12,513 and 824, respectively. Most new cases were reported in Manila.

3:28 p.m. China reports five cases, down from eight the day before, bringing the country total to 82,947. Three were locally transmitted in the northern city of Jilin.

3:26 p.m. Japanese athletes who had been training for this year’s Olympics are now weighing whether to continue their quests for medals or move on with their lives — a choice that likely became evident after the Games were postponed.

2:28 p.m. Mongolia’s cashmere industry is suffering from the pandemic. Goat herders had been expanding for years to meet growing global demand for soft cashmere.

1:52 p.m. Thailand reports three new cases, bringing the country total to 3,028 as the country eases restrictions on economic activities. Thailand had reported zero cases on Wednesday.

1:24 p.m. China’s coronavirus aid has earned mixed reviews in Europe, but the assistance appears to be working in Belarus. China has sent 82 tons of rapid testing kits, masks, protective suits, respirators and other medical equipment over the past month.

11:29 a.m. Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin faces mounting pressure to prove he has the support of parliament’s lower house. Hanging over Muhyiddin is a no-confidence motion submitted by Mahathir Mohamad, his former mentor.

9:56 a.m. Brazil reports the total cases at 233,142, surpassing those of Spain and Italy. Brazil’s number is increasing rapidly, making it the fourth-largest in the world.

5:13 a.m. Data indicates that the European variant of the novel coronavirus is spreading globally to regions as diverse as New York, Brazil and Africa.

12:10 a.m. Pharma company Takara Bio will offer Japan’s first saliva-based PCR test for the novel coronavirus as early as this month, a method that will make mass testing much easier to implement.

Saturday, May 16

4:29 p.m. Singapore reports 465 new cases, bringing the country total to 27,356. The vast majority of new cases are from migrant workers living in dormitories, government says.

3:59 p.m. Cambodia reports that the last of 122 infected people in the country have recovered and been discharged from medical treatment.

1:51 p.m. India reports its total number of cases hitting 85,940, taking it past China, though a strict lockdown since late March has reduced the rate of contagion.

11:10 a.m. China reports eight new confirmed COVID-19 cases for May 15, up from four the previous day. Six of the eight cases are so-called imported infections, while two are locally transmitted in northeastern Jilin province. The number of new asymptomatic cases of the coronavirus rose to 13 from 11.

9:30 a.m. Italy’s government on Saturday approves a decree which will allow travel to and from abroad from June 3, as it moves to loosen one of Europe’s most rigid coronavirus lockdowns.

7:50 a.m. J.C. Penney files for bankruptcy protection on Friday, the latest among traditional brick-and-mortar retailers to crumble as prolonged store closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic deliver the final blow to troubled businesses.

7:30 a.m. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway said on Friday it has sold much of its stake in Goldman Sachs Group, despite the billionaire’s assurance that the banking sector was not a “primary worry” for him during the coronavirus pandemic.

4:50 a.m. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the state would join New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware in reopening beaches for the Memorial Day weekend, in a move designed to prevent people from crossing state borders for a respite from the coronavirus lockdown.

4:40 a.m. China’s economy shows signs of a resurgence thanks to Beijing stimulus efforts amid the pandemic, with industrial production growing 3.9% on the year in April.

To catch up on earlier developments, see last week’s latest updates.

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