World shares advancing … US benchmark crude plunges … Australia wants China to be transparent
BANGKOK (AP) – World shares are advancing today. In early European trading, the CAC 40 in Paris jumped 3.5%, Germany’s DAX climbed 3.2% and Britain’s FTSE 100 added 2.4%. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei closed 3.2% higher. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong advanced 1.6%, the Shanghai Composite index gained 0.7% and South Korea’s Kospi surged 3.1%. U.S. futures point to further gains, with the contract for the S&P 500 up 2.9% and the contract for the Dow industrials up 3.1%.
BANGKOK (AP) – U.S. benchmark crude has plunged below $19 per barrel. The rollover of the future contract for benchmark U.S. crude oil, from May to June delivery, brought a sharp technical dip in the price, which sank as much as 8.5%. By mid-afternoon in Bangkok, it was down $1.61 at $18.26 per barrel, it’s lowest level since 2002. Brent crude, the international standard, gave up 12 cents to $27.70 per barrel.
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) – An Australian government minister is calling on China to be transparent about the origins of the coronavirus. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, who recently recovered from COVID-19, tells Nine Network, “I do think there will be a reset about the way in which the world interacts with China. We do want more transparency.” U.S. officials revealed intelligence agencies are assessing whether the respiratory virus escaped from a biological lab in Wuhan, China, where the pandemic began.
BEIJING (AP) – China faces a drawn-out struggle to revive its economy after it suffered its biggest contraction since possibly the mid-1960s while fighting the coronavirus. Official data show the world’s second-largest economy shrank by 6.8% from a year earlier in the quarter ending in March after factories, offices and shopping malls were closed to contain the outbreak. Consumer spending, which supplied 80% of last year’s growth, and factory activity were weaker than expected.
MILAN (AP) – European car sales tanked last month amid strict lockdown measures to contain the coronavirus that shutdown dealerships for at least half of March and dried up consumer spending. The European carmaker’s association says new car registrations ”recorded a dramatic drop” of 55% to 567,308 units. The drop is worse even than during the 2008-9 financial crisis, which triggered a six-year slump in car purchases. Italy, the first country to be hit by the virus in Europe, suffered the worst drop at 85%.