Trump, Putin discuss oil, Japan stops some postal services

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The outbreak of the coronavirus has dealt a shock to the global economy with unprecedented speed. Following are developments on Wedy related to the global economy, the work place and the spread of the virus.

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DROWNING IN OIL: President Donald Trump said he spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin about oil prices during a call Monday and also has spoken with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

“They are going to get together, and we’re all going to get together and we’re going to see what we can do because we don’t want to lose an industry,” Trump said during a White House press conference about the coronavirus pandemic. “You’re going to lose an industry over it, thousands and thousands of jobs.”

Trump bemoaned that with Saudi Arabia and Russia engaged in a price war despite weak demand, “there’s oil all over the oceans right now. The boats are all filled.”

“There’s so much oil,” he said. “In some cases, it’s probably less valuable than water.”

MIXED SIGNALS: The latest survey of Chinese manufacturers showed industrial output was resilient in March, despite shutdowns related to the coronavirus, which first emerged in central China. The Caixin purchasing managers index for March was 50.1, just above the 50 level that indicates expansion rather than contraction. That was an improvement from 40.3 in February and forecasts for a 45.5 PMI. Official PMI data released Tuesday also were better than expected. Jittery financial markets gained some solace from news that Chinese Premier Li Keqiang met with the State Council, or Cabinet, on Tuesday. An official statement indicated a need for more support for those hit by the outbreak and also included reserve rate cuts meant to ease pressure on banks.

In Japan, the central bank's quarterly “tankan" business survey released Wednesday showed sentiment deteriorating in January-March in the world's third-largest economy. The tankan measures corporate sentiment by subtracting the number of companies saying business conditions are negative from those responding they are positive.

The key index, which measures sentiment among large manufacturers, fell to minus 8 from zero in October-December, the worst result in seven years. Sentiment among non-manufacturers was also dismal as the service sector, tourism and other businesses have also been hit hard by the outbreak.

MEDIA MISERIES: Australia’s biggest newspaper publisher News Corp. said it will suspend printing of 60 local papers due to weak advertising revenue. Local newspapers in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia will be digital-only from next week. The newspapers depend heavily on advertising related to real estate auctions, house inspections, community events and restaurants — all of which have been closed.

News Corp. Australia's executive chairman, Michael Miller, said the top priority is to preserve jobs and position its business to counter the coronavirus crisis.

The COVID-19 outbreak has meanwhile brought a surge in new subscriptions to News Corp.’s online publications. The journalists’ union — Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance — has urged the government to help out several rural newspapers in New South Wales and Victoria that have already stopped printing due to lack of advertising.

POSTAL DISRUPTIONS: Japan's postal service said Wednesday that deliveries will halt to more than 150 nations, starting Thursday, as flights carrying mail get canceled over the growing pandemic. Mail will continue to the U.S., France, Australia, Hong Kong and a handful of places, although delivery may get delayed, Japan Post said. Mail from Japan had already stopped to China last month. Thailand has also announced suspensions of postal deliveries to most countries.

JAPAN'S JOB SEASON: Sony Corp. and other Japanese companies canceled ceremonies that traditionally welcome new job recruits, customarily held April 1. Last week, the Japanese electronics and entertainment company ordered all of its 20,000 employees in Japan to work from home, including 927 new hires. Sony Chief Executive Kenichiro Yoshida sent a video message, saying, “What we value most are people .... You will be creating the future Sony.” Tokyo-based Sony, which makes Spider-Man movies, said employees in the U.S. and Europe are also working from home. Production was temporarily shut down at its four plants in China but resumed in February.

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