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European markets are wobbling after a strong start.


Credit…Jonah Markowitz for

The coronavirus outbreak continues its devastating march across the American economy, and Thursday will bring fresh evidence.

The Labor Department will announce the number of new unemployment claims filed last week at 8:30 a.m. Eastern. Several analysts expect the report to show that six million workers joined the jobless rolls, in addition to the nearly 10 million who filed over the previous two weeks.

With astonishing swiftness, the pandemic has shut down businesses large and small, as if “the economy as a whole has fallen into some sudden black hole,” said Kathy Bostjancic, chief U.S. financial economist at Oxford Economics.

The weekly tally is one of the best measures of the virus’s impact on the labor force, but it does not capture the full extent of the joblessness. Florida and , with 15 percent of the nation’s payrolls, decided only in the middle of last week to close nonessential businesses, so the surge in claims in those states may not show up until the next report. And many applicants nationwide have been unable to file claims because state unemployment offices have been overwhelmed by the volume.

Global markets fumble Wall Street’s rally.

European stocks were mixed on Thursday, failing to follow through on a Wall Street rally fueled by signs that some of the hardest-hit countries were making gains in the fight against the outbreak.

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Stock indexes in Europe started strongly, up about 2 percent, but then lost steam through the morning. Asian stocks were mixed. Futures markets on Wall Street seemed uncertain which way the S&P 500 would go when trading started.

Markets have surged in recent days as the number of new, confirmed coronavirus infections and deaths have leveled off or fallen in some of the hardest hit parts of the United States and Europe. On Wednesday, the S&P 500 index in the United States ended 3.4 percent higher.

But the prospect of problems ahead are likely to trouble investors for months to come. The latest blow was expected later on Thursday, when American officials were expected to issue another set of weekly unemployment claim data.

Underscoring the uncertainty, U.S. Treasury bond prices were higher, showing continuing investor interest in parking their money in a traditional safe haven.

In other markets, oil prices on futures markets rose, with Brent crude, the international benchmark, gaining nearly 4 percent on continuing hopes that major petroleum-producing countries would agree to cut production.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index ended the trading session flat. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index finished 1.4 percent higher. The Shanghai Composite Index in mainland China rose 0.4 percent, and South Korea’s Kospi index gained 1.6 percent.

While the world spends on relief efforts, China is holding back.

China is holding back on national spending to mitigate the affects of the coronavirus outbreak. Unlike the United States, Europe and Japan, which are on a spending blitz to keep their respective economies afloat, Beijing has yet to step forward with a hefty financial package of its own.

The United States created a $2 trillion rescue package. Japan approved a nearly $1 trillion economic stimulus plan and, in a rare show of unity, Europe has pledged billions of euros to prevent a full-fledged financial crisis and deep recession.

But in a striking contrast to China’s role during the 2008 global financial crisis — when the government poured nearly half a trillion dollars into the economy — its financial assistance has been muted this time. Beijing is pushing state-owned banks to lend more, but it has refrained from pouring money into its financial system or announcing a rescue package.

A growing number of critics argue China should do more to mitigate job losses and business closures. Prominent economists are calling on Beijing to get the country’s consumers spending again with a nationwide voucher system.

The humble phone call makes a comeback.

Phone calls are making a comeback. The nation’s biggest telecommunications companies were prepared for a huge shift toward more internet use from home, but did not expect the return of plain old voice calls.

Verizon is now handling an average of 800 million wireless calls a day during the week, more than double the number made on Mother’s Day, one of the busiest call days of the year. Verizon added that the length of voice calls was up 33 percent from an average day before the outbreak. AT&T said that the number of cellular calls had risen 35 percent and that Wi-Fi-based calls had nearly doubled from averages in normal times.

In contrast, internet traffic is up only 20 percent to 25 percent from typical daily patterns, AT&T and Verizon said.

The rise of the phone call is all the more surprising given how much Americans abandoned voice calls in recent years. Since 2000, some 90 million American households stopped using landline phones, according to USTelecom. Wireless calls replaced much of that calling activity, but the volume of minutes spent on phone calls has not changed much over the past decade as people turned to texting and to apps like FaceTime and WhatsApp.

Bargain-hunting: “We will never get these prices again.”

After a 3.4 percent rise on Wednesday, the S&P 500 bounced up 23 percent from its low in a disastrous March, despite a darkening outlook for economic growth and corporate profits.

One reason: It’s the time to buy for investors able to stomach the market’s swoons.

Cole Smead, a at the Smead Value Fund, has been snapping up bargains in beaten-up parts of the market, like oil and , homebuilders and shopping mall companies, that are closely tied to short-term swings in the economy.

“We will never get these prices again,” said Mr. Smead, whose fund has $1.3 billion in assets.

As economically damaging as the pandemic will no doubt be, Wall Street is starting to see a path forward that wasn’t clear a few weeks ago. Slowing infection rates, hefty government relief packages and the Federal Reserve’s efforts to calm the markets have helped eased investors’ minds.

Some of the buyers are opportunistic hedge fund traders and mutual fund managers, driving sharp gains for blue-chip shares that were battered by the market sell-off. Some are traders feeling pressure to get into a rising market. And some are short-sellers forced to buy to minimize their own losses.

But mom-and-pop investors have largely been sitting out — a sign that the rally doesn’t reflect widespread optimism.

Cancellation policies fuel anger at ticket vendors.

Even in the best of times, ticket vendors are a common target for customer complaints. But the pandemic is triggering widespread anger at companies like Ticketmaster and StubHub.

Online, fans are fuming about being unable to get refunds for concerts that have been postponed, often with no rescheduled dates in sight. As they see it, ticketing outlets are being greedy at a time of crisis, holding billions of dollars in consumers’ cash that people now need for essentials.

Their anger is being stoked by the sense that some vendors switched their refund policies midcrisis to avoid repaying consumers. Whereas a few weeks ago, Ticketmaster said that people could get refunds “if your event is postponed, rescheduled or canceled,” now its website lists only cancellation as a basis for getting your money back, though it suggests there may be other circumstances in which refunds might be considered.

And last week, a man sued StubHub — the biggest marketplace for ticket resales — after the company recently dropped its refund policy, offering instead coupons worth 120 percent of what customers had paid for canceled events.

For the companies, though, the problem is much more than a matter of optics.

The live entertainment industry has come to a grinding halt, with more than 20,000 events suspended in the last few weeks. If the pandemic does not subside soon, events during the peak summer touring season could be delayed as well.

Japan is reluctant to close businesses, even under emergency declaration.

Even after Japan declared a state of emergency to fight the coronavirus pandemic in its largest population centers earlier this week, the central government is urging governors to wait two weeks to ask businesses to close for fear of damaging the economy.

Shinzo Abe officially announced the emergency declarations earlier this week for seven prefectures that include Tokyo, , Osaka and Yokohama and represent a population of 56.1 million people. The government does not have the legal power to issue stay-at-home orders or compel businesses to close, but governors can request that businesses suspend operations to help contain the spread of infection.

While some of the governors want to ask businesses to close now, the central government wants them to wait to see if individual citizens will flatten the curve of infections by refraining from going outside and working from home. On Thursday, the health ministry announced 511 newly confirmed cases — a 46 percent jump over a day earlier.

A special adviser to the prime minister, Yousuke Isozaki, said in a tweet on Thursday that the central government had “differences” with the governors. “Tokyo Metropolitan Government wants to make a request to close certain businesses,” he wrote. “Other prefectures are reluctant because they cannot compensate the businesses. The government’s stance is that they cannot compensate for business closure so we want to wait and see for two weeks.”

In announcing the state of emergency this week, Mr. Abe warned citizens to avoid closed spaces where crowds meet — places like nightclubs, karaoke bars and live music halls.

One municipality is taking matters into its own hands. Gotemba, a city of about 88,000 in the foothills of Mount Fuji, is offering owners of businesses such as bars and nightclubs a maximum of 1 million yen (about $9,200) in compensation for closing between April 16 and 30.

Catch up: Here’s what else is happening.

  • WeWork has not made scheduled rent payments to the landlords of some of the buildings where it operates its co-working spaces, according to a person briefed on the situation. The decision to hold back rent is part of WeWork’s efforts to renegotiate better deals with building owners as the company tries to cut costs and limit its losses.

  • The used-car retailer CarMax said on its website on Wednesday that it would furlough 15,500 employees, effective April 18. The company’s president and chief executive, Bill Nash, will forgo half of his salary, and the company’s senior leadership will take an unspecified reduction in pay.

Graham Bowley, Keith Bradsher, Cecilia Kang, Patricia Cohen, Ben Sisario, Carlos Tejada, Nicole Perlroth, Matt Phillips, Motoko Rich, Hisako Ueno and contributed reporting.

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