U.S. stock futures were mixed and European stocks dipped on Wednesday, as investors considered the latest fiscal efforts to support economies and new friction between the United States and China.
Futures wavered, predicting a choppy start to trading on Wall Street. European indexes were about 1 percent lower. Asian markets ended the trading session mostly lower with the exception of China’s indexes, where positive gains reflected recent efforts by the government to encourage stock-buying.
Prices for United States 10-year Treasuries were lower, while oil futures were mainly unchanged.
The uncertainty in the markets seemed to mirror the mixed signals in the global economy as it continues to endure the coronavirus pandemic. In Britain, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, was expected to announce further steps to support businesses, homeowners and young workers. Among the proposals leaked in advance of his speech are a fund to create six-month work placements for people aged 16 to 24 who are receiving welfare payments and are at risk of long-term unemployment, and a measure aimed at stimulating the real estate market by relieving sales taxes on property transfers. .
Among the company trading lower on Wednesday was HSBC, the London-based bank with a big presence in Hong Kong. Analysts said investors were concerned by reports by Bloomberg News that the Trump administration might restrict the ability of Hong Kong banks to buy U.S. dollars. The move, intended to undermine the Hong Kong dollar’s peg to the U.S. dollar, would be a way to punish China for tightening political freedoms in Hong Kong. HSBC shares traded in Hong Kong fell more than 4 percent.
Among Asian stock indexes, the Nikkei in Japan fell 0.8 percent, Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 0.6 percent, and the Shanghai Composite ended the day 1.7 percent higher.
Many countries have rushed out apps to trace and monitor the coronavirus this spring, only to scramble to address serious complaints that soon arose over extensive user data-mining or poor security practices.
Human rights groups and technologists have warned that the design of many apps put hundreds of millions of people at risk for stalking, fraud, identity theft or oppressive government tracking — and could undermine trust in public health efforts. The problems have emerged just as some countries are poised to deploy even more intrusive technologies, including asking hundreds of thousands of workers to wear virus-tracking wristbands around the clock.
In mid-June, after a barrage of criticism from privacy advocates, Britain abandoned the virus-tracing app it was developing and announced it was switching to software from Apple and Google that the companies have promoted as more “privacy-preserving.”
In May, after Amnesty International identified major security flaws with a mandatory virus exposure-alert app in Qatar, the government quickly released an update with new security features.
In fact, “the vast majority” of virus-tracing apps used by governments lack adequate security and “are easy for hackers” to attack, according to a recent software analysis by Guardsquare, a mobile app security company.
“It’s a cautionary tale for governments aggregating such an enormous amount of data,” said Claudio Guarnieri, the head of Amnesty International’s Security Lab who identified the problems with the Qatari app. — Natasha Singer
United Airlines said on Tuesday that it was cutting back on the August flight schedule it announced just last week because travel demand was sliding again as coronavirus cases surged across much of the country.
United management told employees this week that it expected to fly about 35 percent as many flights next month as it did last August, down from the 40 percent it announced a week ago, the airline said in a securities filing released after the market close.
The airline said its flight schedule for the rest of the year was likely to look much like its reconfigured August plan because the recovery would remain choppy. The airline does not expect demand to recover fully until a “widely accepted” treatment or vaccine for the virus is available. United had operated about 12 percent as many flights in June as it did last year and expects to operate about 25 percent as many flights in July compared with the same month last year.
Demand for flights started to fall as the recent increase in cases nationwide — and the associated travel and quarantine restrictions — made flying less appealing, United said. Bookings for upcoming flights at the airline’s Newark hub, for example, had started to recover in the first half of June only to reverse course after Connecticut, New Jersey and New York, said on June 24 they would require travelers visiting from states with rising infection rates to quarantine for 14 days.
The airline also said that it planned to send out legally required notices to workers by mid-July warning of possible layoffs once federal aid to the aviation industry expires at the end of September. Those affected could be notified as soon as next month, United said. — Niraj Chokshi
Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., will reopen on Saturday, and the Walt Disney Company has been posting marketing videos online to highlight the safety procedures it has designed to protect visitors and employees.
Some of the 1,000-plus responses to that particular video were supportive. Others were incredulous, with people using words like “irresponsible” and “disappointing.
The pandemic has devastated Disney’s businesses, and reopening its signature tourist attraction — with restricted capacity and government approval — is a major part of the company’s comeback attempt. But in doing so, Disney is stepping into a politicized debate surrounding the virus and efforts to keep people safe, where even the wearing of masks has become a point of bitter contention.
The Florida Department of Health reported 7,347 new Covid-19 infections on Tuesday, with 1,179 in the central part of the state, which includes Orlando. Those numbers are down from last week but still among the highest in the country, leading some to question whether Disney is being responsible in opening up Disney World.
“The world is changing around us, but we strongly believe that we can open safely and responsibly,” Josh D’Amaro, Disney’s theme park chairman, said in an interview. “For those that might have questions or concerns, when they see how we are operating and the aggressive protocols that we have put in place, they will understand. This is our new normal.” — Brooks Barnes
Stocks on Wall Street dipped on Tuesday, cooling off after a five-day rally, as new economic data for Europe forecast a grim outlook for the year and cases of Covid-19 continued to spread.
The S&P 500 fell about 1 percent, after earlier swinging from losses to gains and back again. The slump came as shares of big technology stocks gave up early gains.
Tuesday’s sell-off came after the index had climbed more than 5 percent since June 29, despite mounting concerns about the coronavirus outbreak and new measures to slow its spread in parts of the United States.Stocks in Europe were sharply lower after the European Commission issued a forecast on Tuesday saying this year’s recession would be worse than previously predicted.
The European Union’s economy is now expected to shrink by 8.3 percent this year, a downgrade from the previous forecast of a 7.4 percent. Forecasters did say that it appeared the worst of the downturn may be past. “The recovery is expected to gain traction in the second half of the year, albeit remaining incomplete and uneven across member states,” the commission said.
Wall Street’s recent gains have come despite the surge of the coronavirus around the world. In the United States, more than 47,000 new cases were reported on Monday.— Mohammed Hadi and Kevin Granville