Wall Street is set to tumble as tech stocks take a hit.
U.S. stock futures fell on Friday as investors reeled from earnings reports by Apple and Amazon that showed the depth of the coronavirus impact on big business.
Futures for the S&P 500 were down more than 2 percent, signaling a sell-off on Wall Street when trading opens.
Amazon stock fell about 5 percent in pre-market trading after the company reported on Thursday that despite surging sales in the first quarter, costs to deliver products amid the pandemic had taken a big bite out of profits. Jeff Bezos, the company’s founder, said the expense of protecting workers, including protective equipment and Covid-19 tests, could swing it into a loss of as much as $1.5 billion in the current quarter.
Apple stock also fell, after it refused on Thursday to give any estimates for the current quarter. But the tech giant signaled confidence by announcing another big stock buyback, and said that its first-quarter revenue rose nearly 1 percent to $58.3 billion, despite lockdowns in China, where it assembles nearly all of its products.
The emergence of investor doubt could signal a turn for the markets, which have risen despite the steady drumbeat of negative news. Even with a retreat on Thursday, Wall Street closed out the month of April with a nearly 13 percent gain, its best performance since 1987.
While most financial capitals in Asia and Europe were closed on Friday for the celebration of Labor Day, the few that were open fell significantly. In London, the FTSE 100 was down nearly 2 percent, while markets in Australia and Japan were sharply lower. On holidays, markets can be susceptible to big swings because of the relatively few transactions being made.
In the oil markets West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. benchmark, gave up gains from earlier in the day and was 2 percent lower, at $18.47 a barrel. The international benchmark, Brent crude, was 2.6 percent higher, at $25.98.
The center of the U.S. oil boom is now the center of its demise.
As the coronavirus spreads around the world, people are no longer commuting to work, flying on planes and going on cruises, smothering the demand for oil.
It has been devastating for the industry. Oil field workers who dined on strip steak and lobster before energy prices went into a tailspin in March are now standing in line at food banks.
For over a decade, the Permian Basin has been the center of the American oil boom. Now, it’s the center of its demise. In just over a month, scores of drilling rigs have been dismantled and tucked away in storage yards. Pump jacks, the piston pumps that lift crude out of the ground, have seesawed to a standstill as operators shut down wells.
“We’ve had our ups and downs, even over the last 20 years, but this feels very different,” said Matthew Hale, the president of S.O.C. Industries, a pump truck and chemical services company that has operated in the Permian for 19 years. “We’re concerned about our industry, survival and what survival is going to look like.”
Shipping containers stack up around the world as supply chains fill to the point of bursting.
One of the stranger side effects from the coronavirus pandemic: 40-foot steel containers, packed with unwanted Chinese goods, piling up at docks in South Korea, Morocco and Togo.
Two months ago, retailers and manufacturers in the West worried that they might run out of goods from factories in China that had been temporarily closed because of the virus. Now the worry lies not in empty supply chains, but in supply chains that are full to bursting.
Department stores in the United States have been canceling and postponing orders. But a flood of goods that had already left factory gates in China is heading for stuffed warehouses and padlocked stores in the West.
Two of the world’s largest container shipping lines, Maersk and Mediterranean Shipping, are offering unorthodox solutions. They are each promoting programs that allow huge numbers of containers to be dropped off and stored at ports that previously were just transit points, such as Busan, South Korea; Las Palmas, Spain; Tangier, Morocco; Salalah, Oman; and Lome, Togo.
“Slow down your supply chain by increasing the ocean lead time,” Maersk now promises.
The accumulation of full containers may not last, for a reason that Chinese exporters and their workers also will not like. Surveys released on Thursday of Chinese purchasing managers showed that few orders are arriving at Chinese factories for further exports.
A Walmart store in Massachusetts is ordered to close until its workers are tested.
City officials in Worcester, Mass., ordered the closure of a local Walmart store on Wednesday after it was discovered that a number of the workers had tested positive for the virus.
The city said Walmart was complying with the order. The store cannot reopen until all 400 of the workers have been tested and the city’s medical director reviews the results.
It is the second Walmart to be closed in less than a week. On Friday, a Walmart store in Aurora, Colo., was ordered closed by local health officials after employees and shoppers complained of a lack of social distancing, crowding and employees not wearing face masks.
One employee of the store, an employee’s family member and a third-party contractor had died of the virus, according to the Tri-County Health Department in Colorado. Eleven additional confirmed cases were linked to the outbreak at the store.
The store was reopened on Sunday after a deep cleaning. The agency said Walmart had “enhanced metering of shoppers into the store” and employee screening for illness, using tools supplied by the health department.
Apple and Amazon report higher sales as consumers turn to tech.
With most of the United States on lockdown, technology companies like Amazon and Apple benefited as consumers found other ways to spend their money.
Apple said on Thursday that its revenue grew nearly 1 percent in the first three months of the year as the company made up for sales declines in China, which was locked down for much of the quarter because of the coronavirus.
The company’s income was bolstered by surging sales of its internet services and the Apple Watch and AirPods.
Apple typically forecasts its sales for the next quarter but declined to do so on Thursday. Analysts expect the current quarter to be much uglier because of virus-related shutdowns around the world.
Apple showed confidence in its financial footing, though, by announcing another $50 billion in stock buybacks.
The spread of the coronavirus played into the hands of Amazon’s core businesses, as consumers shopped more online and companies spent more on cloud computing. Those two pillars of Amazon’s business drove sales to their highest on record outside the holiday shopping season, the company said.
Amazon reported that it had $75.5 billion in sales in the latest quarter, up 26 percent from a year earlier, surpassing analysts’ expectations. Profit fell about 29 percent, to $2.5 billion, because it cost more to meet the increased customer demand.
Amazon’s chief executive, Jeff Bezos, signaled that the company’s profits may continue to fall in the near future. The company would typically expect to make around $4 billion in operating profit in the next quarter, but “we expect to spend the entirety of that $4 billion, and perhaps a bit more, on Covid-related expenses getting products to customers and keeping employees safe,” he said in a statement.
Asian economies push plans to allow business travel despite lockdowns.
As parts of Asia have managed to largely contain the spread of the coronavirus, they face continuing challenges restarting their economies. One issue: How to get the wheels of business rolling again when businesspeople can’t go anywhere?
Hong Kong, China and South Korea have begun taking steps to allow special channels for factory owners, salespeople, buyers and others who need to travel for work to begin to cross borders again, even as broader restrictions on movement remain in place.
Details of the plan are still being worked out. But those eligible would be required to demonstrate a need for their travel and would have to have their health monitored upon their return, Hong Kong officials said.
“Such activities are essential for Hong Kong’s ongoing development,” said Edward Yau, the Hong Kong secretary for commerce and economic development. “Of course, we need to strike a balance between making sure that the epidemic will not come back through this traveling, but at the same time facilitating legitimate reasons for crossing the boundary.”
Officials from China and South Korea have also reached an agreement in principal to create a fast track for business and other essential travel, Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said last month.
Under the agreement, which goes into place Friday for travelers between South Korea and 10 parts of China that see large numbers of business travelers, visitors will have to take tests for coronavirus infections both in their home country and after arrival in their destination. Beijing is also requesting that Korean businesspeople entering China via the new fast-track procedures move only between their places of residence and work, Korean officials said.
China and Singapore are exploring how to set up a similar arrangement, Mr. Geng said.
Own a small business? We have answers to your questions on bankruptcy.
All of the forecasts point in the same direction: A wave of small-business bankruptcies is coming.
More than 40 percent of America’s 30 million small businesses could close permanently in the next six months because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a poll by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
“It’s a crisis that will impact our economy for generations,” said Amanda Ballantyne, the executive director of Main Street Alliance, an advocacy group for small business.
Commercial bankruptcies in the first quarter of 2020 ticked up 4 percent from a year earlier, according to data from the American Bankruptcy Institute. And many of those filing were made before the pandemic, when the economy was healthy. Now, some owners are waiting to find out whether they will receive federal stimulus aid before deciding on bankruptcy.
Many may just disappear. For some, though, a bankruptcy law that took effect in February, the Small Business Restructuring Act, could help them survive the pandemic.
Catch up: Here’s what else is happening.
Ryanair, the Irish discount carrier that has been grounded since mid-March, said on Friday that it planned to cut up to 3,000 jobs, nearly 20 percent of its work force. The airline said that it expected to return to service in July and that it would take two years for passenger demand to return to pre-pandemic levels.
Boeing said on Thursday that it had raised $25 billion in a bond offering in an effort to inject liquidity into its business. As a result, the aerospace giant said that it would not seek additional funding through capital markets or aid from the federal government.
United Airlines reported a net loss of $1.7 billion in the first quarter and said it had about $9.6 billion in cash on hand to weather the crisis. The airline expects to burn through cash in the second quarter at an average daily rate of $40 million to $45 million, on par with its peers.
Macy’s, one of the biggest department store chains in the United States, announced a plan on Thursday to reopen all of its 775 locations, including Bloomingdales and Bluemercury, in the next six to eight weeks, the latest sign of how eager the nation’s largest retailers are to return to business.
Reporting was contributed by Tamir Kalifa, Clifford Krauss, Amy Haimerl, Kevin Granville, Alexandra Stevenson, Su-Hyun Lee, Austin Ramzy, Keith Bradsher, Jack Nicas, Karen Weise, Gregory Schmidt and Niraj Chokshi.