COVID-19: Live Updates for Thursday, May 21

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Rolling updates on the latest developments and headlines from around the world on the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Gina Lee, Peter Nurse and Kim Khan

2:01 PM ET: More U.S. jobless benefits not needed – Kudlow

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economic adviser Larry Kudlow dismissed the idea of extending unemployment benefits even as he acknowledged that nation’s unemployment rate could still be in double digits when American vote in November.

1:14 PM ET: Actions have bought economy time – Fed’s Clarida

“The easing of financial conditions is buying some time until the economy can begin to recover,” Fed Vice Chairman Richard Clarida said in outlining the impact he sees from Fed programs announced so far to support financial, corporate bond, and other markets. “Whether it proves to be durable will depend importantly on the course that the coronavirus contagion takes and the duration of the downturn that it causes.”

12:56 PM ET: Mnuchin says more stimulus likely needed

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said “there is a strong likelihood we will need another bill” for economic stimulus from Congress, Bloomberg reported. Mnuchin added that stimulus isn’t immediately necessary, which the president has stated.

11:28 AM ET: GOP reportedly looking to give small business more time on loans

GOP whip Sen. John Thune “says Senate trying to pass bill today giving small business more time to spend their Paycheck Protection Program money. Would require agreement by all senators to pass quickly,” Politico reported.

10:00 AM ET: U.S. existing home sales plunge in April

The National Association of Realtors said existing home sales plunged 17.8% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.33 million units last month. The percentage decline was the largest since July 2010.

09:56 AM ET: Reserve Bank cuts its interest rate to 3.75%

The South African Reserve Bank cut its benchmark interest rate for the fourth time in four months in a bid to support an economy to slump deeper into recession as a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus halted most activity.

The committee voted to lower the repurchase rate to 3.75% from 4.25%, Governor Lesetja Kganyago said Thursday. That’s the lowest since the rate was introduced in 1998.

Of the five panel members, three favored a 50 basis-point cut and two preferred 25 basis points of easing.

09:53 AM ET: Amazon is scheduling Prime Day for September – WSJ

Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) is scheduling its annual Prime Day shopping promotion for September and allowing unlimited shipments of non-essential goods to warehouses, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.

08:47 AM ET: U.S. initial jobless claims totaled 2.43 million last week

The number of Americans applying for initial unemployment benefits totaled 2.43 million in the week ending May 16, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday, the smallest increase since March but still remaining at elevated levels.

It was broadly in-line with forecasts and was down from 2.68 million in the prior week. That figure was revised lower after Connecticut said it had misreported its numbers.

Claims have been gradually decreasing since hitting a record 6.86 million in the week ended March 28.

07:04 AM ET: South Africa could see 50,000 deaths – scientific models

South Africa could see up to 50,000 coronavirus deaths and as many as 3 million infections by the end of the year as the southern hemisphere winter leads to a higher rate of infection, scientific models showed on Thursday.

The country already has the highest number of infections and deaths on the continent, with more than 18,000 identified cases and 339 deaths, but a national lockdown entering its sixth week had slowed infections.

06:54 AM ET: Britain’s economy remained in severe contraction in April – survey

Britain’s economy flattened out a bit this month from its nosedive in April, but it remains in the grip of a severe contraction caused by the coronavirus lockdown, a business survey showed on Thursday.

An index measuring activity in the dominant services sector and in manufacturing rose to 28.9 in May’s preliminary purchasing managers’ index from 13.8 in April’s final reading.

06:47 AM ET: Around 10,000 Iranian health workers infected with coronavirus – ILNA

Around 10,000 Iranian health workers have been infected with the new coronavirus, the semi-official ILNA news agency quoted the deputy health minister as saying on Thursday.

“Around 10,000 health workers have been infected with the deadly disease in Iran and some of them have died,” Qassem Janbabai said, according to ILNA.

06:43 AM ET: British factories report sharpest fall in in four decades – CBI

British factories reported the sharpest fall in output in more than four decades during the three months to May as around half of them implemented partial shutdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Confederation of British Industry said.

The CBI said its balance for output over a three-month period dropped to -54 in May from -21 in April, its lowest reading since the series began in July 1975.

02:58 AM ET: U.K. dealing with technical issues of its track and trace app – minister

Britain is dealing with technical issues of its track and trace app that it hopes will help it keep the novel coronavirus outbreak under control, but will use traditional tracking means until it is rolled out, the security minister said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday a “world-beating” programme to test and trace those suspected of having been in contact with people who have tested positive for COVID-19 would be in place by June 1.

02:55 AM ET: Lebanon is a risk of major food crisis – PM

Lebanon is at risk of a major food crisis and many Lebanese may soon find it hard to afford bread because of an acute financial crunch and the fall-out of COVID-19, the prime minister warned.

Writing in the Washington Post, Hassan Diab also warned of a global food security emergency triggered by the pandemic. He said attempts to restrict food exports must be resisted and called on the and the European Union to set up an emergency fund to help the Middle East avoid a severe crisis.

02:09 AM ET: Asian data offers no clear sign the worst of coronavirus damage is over

Asian data laid bare the extent of damage to global trade with no clear sign that the worst is over even as the world takes tentative steps toward reopening.

An early trade report from South Korea, a bellwether for global commerce, showed exports may be set to drop more than 20% in May for a second month. Meanwhile, Japan’s overseas shipments also plunged by more than a fifth in April and a showed manufacturing activity weakening further in May.

00:56 AM ET: International trade falls to lowest level in at least four years – WTO

International imports and exports have fallen to their lowest level for at least four years, according to World Trade Organization figures. Warning that there was little prospect of the downturn ending soon, the global authority on trade said it believed import and export activity would fall precipitously in the first half of 2020.

00:52 AM ET: Europe needs to prepare for second wave – EU agency

Europe should brace itself for a second wave of coronavirus infections, according to the director of the EU agency responsible for advising governments on disease control.

“The question is when and how big. That is the question in my view,” said Dr Andrea Ammon, director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

00:42 AM ET: Japan to lift state of emergency in Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo

Japan will lift its state of emergency in Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo on Thursday as the number of new coronavirus infections drops, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said, amid hopes the move will help the world’s third-largest economy to recover.

Tokyo and four other prefectures, including the northern island of Hokkaido, would remain under the state of emergency – which has already been lifted for much of the country.

10:23 PM ET: Moderna’s chairman defends company’s vaccine data

Moderna (NASDAQ:MRNA) Chairman Noubar Afeyan defended his company’s data for its possible COVID-19 vaccine after some vaccine experts said that there was insufficient data to prove the vaccine’s efficacy.

Afeya said that his company would never put out data on the vaccine that looked different from “the reality.”

Moderna raised hopes for a COVID-19 vaccine when it reported on Monday that all 45 patients enrolled in the phase one trials developed binding antibodies after two doses. In addition, eight patients in the trial produced neutralizing antibodies, the key to immunizing against the virus. Data for the remainder patients is due to be released later.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation on Wednesday that could lead to Chinese companies such as Alibaba (NYSE:BABA) and Baidu (NASDAQ:BIDU) being barred from listing on U.S. stock exchanges.

10:11 PM ET: Mask-cleaning machines purchased by the Trump administration may damage masks

The process used by mask-cleaning machines purchased by U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration to sanitize masks could damage the masks and prevent their re-use.

The machines were purchased by the administration for around $600 million after the FDA was pressured to waive certain regulations.

Although the machines have the capacity for up to 20 treatments, scientists and nurses who used them said that the machines began to degrade after two or three treatments, thereby putting them at risk.

10:08 PM ET: Greece to gradually allow overseas flights in from July 1

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that the country will gradually resume direct flights from overseas into the country’s tourist destinations to gradually restart from July 1 to restart the country’s crucial tourism sector.

Seasonal hotels will reopen on June 15, restaurants will reopen on May 25 and the ban on traveling to islands for non-residents will also be lifted.

10:00 PM ET: Brazil reports yet another day of record cases

Brazil had another record day of cases as it reported 19,951 new confirmed cases over the past 24 hours. The country loosened protocols for the use of chloroquine on Wednesday.

Chile extended its quarantine measures in Santiago by a week, and Spain’s parliament extended the country’s state of emergency by another two weeks.

Turkey declared #MissonAccomplished as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s communications director Fahrettin Altun tweeted that the county’s COVID-19 outbreak has been contained.

Global cases are fast approaching 5 million as of May 21, Johns Hopkins University data said.

— Reuters contributed to this report.

Source: Investing.com

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