Stocks in Asia Decline, Following Wall Street: Live Updates

Asian stocks follow Wall Street down, but futures markets hint at a reprieve.

Asian markets on Wednesday followed Wall Street lower, though futures markets pointed to the potential for improved investor sentiment later in the day.

Japanese stocks fell more than 1 percent, leading a regional fall, one day after U.S. stocks fell more than 3 percent. The declines were fed in part by turmoil in oil markets, which continued on Wednesday. Prices for Brent crude, the global benchmark, were down more than 10 percent as of midday in Asia.

Bond prices also signaled continued investor discomfort. U.S. Treasury bond prices rose, a signal that the markets were favoring putting money in places considered conservative.

Still, futures markets suggested stocks in the United States and Europe would open moderately higher.

At midday in Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 index was down 1.1 percent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong was down 0.6 percent. The Shanghai Composite index in mainland China was down 0.2 percent. South Korea’s Kospi was down 0.6 percent.

The Trump administration on Tuesday ordered Chevron, already hurting from plummeting oil prices related to the coronavirus, to stop producing oil in Venezuela and halt all remaining operations there by December.

The move was Washington’s latest ratcheting up of sanctions against the socialist regime of President Nicolás Maduro, which relies on oil revenue to finance the ailing Venezuelan economy.

Chevron is the last American oil company to produce oil in Venezuela. It had hoped to continue to function there in the hope that it would have a valuable asset whenever the politics of the country stabilizes. Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world, although its oil industry is in shambles because of corruption, mismanagement and American sanctions.

Halliburton, Schlumberger and other American oil service companies were also covered by the tightened sanctions, although they have virtually ended their operations already.

The Trump administration is stepping up pressure on some businesses and institutions to return emergency small-business loans that they took if they already have access to capital or face “severe consequences.”

Shake Shack and Harvard University have been under fire this week for taking millions of dollars of stimulus money that was meant to help small businesses cope with the coronavirus pandemic. With Congress set to replenish the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program this week, the White House is planning to update its guidance to ensure that rich organizations do not take money that they do not need.

“Harvard’s going to pay back the money,” President Trump said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Harvard, which has a $40 billion endowment, received $8 million in loan money. Shake Shack said this week that it would return its $10 million loan after a public uproar.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said it appeared that there was some ambiguity in the rules surrounding the loan program that made big companies think they were allowed to apply for the loans.

“The intent of this was for businesses that needed the money,” Mr. Mnuchin said. “The intent of this money was not for big public companies that have access to capital.”

Mr. Mnuchin said that the Treasury Department would release new guidance explaining the certification requirements for the loans and that companies that did not meet those requirements would have the opportunity to return the money. Those that fail to do so will face “severe consequences,” Mr. Mnuchin said without elaborating on what the penalties would entail.

Caught between investors and short-handed borrowers, mortgage firms get a reprieve.

A federal housing regulator announced a plan on Tuesday to provide financial relief to dozens of mortgage servicing firms worried about paying investors who own bonds backed by mortgages that are in forbearance.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency said the firms had to make just four months of cash payouts to bond investors in mortgages that homeowners have stopped paying. After that, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — the government mortgage firms regulated by the agency — will assume that obligation, for up to eight more months, if necessary.

The new plan broadens an arrangement already in place for mortgages guaranteed against default by Freddie Mac. But it could create a new round of problems for Fannie and Freddie if tens of millions of people do not pay their mortgages for many months.

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