Business Briefs – April 20, 2020

China’s Economy in Worst Downturn Since ‘60s in Virus Battle

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 released Friday showed 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. The pandemic began in China in December and it is the first major economy to start to recover after the ruling Communist Party declared the virus under control last month. Factories have reopened but other businesses that employ millions of workers still are closed.

U.S. Restaurants Expect Big Changes When Their Doors Reopen

NEW YORK (AP) – U.S. restaurants are thinking ahead to the day when their dining room doors reopen to a changed world. Restaurant owners say there may be physical differences, like masked waiters, disposable menus or fewer tables so patrons can sit further apart. There will be signs explaining cleaning procedures and glass dividers to protect cashiers. Disinfectant wipes might sit next to napkin dispensers. In some places, local regulations will likely dictate how and when restaurants can open. That’s what has happened in Hong Kong and China, which make restaurants take patrons’ temperatures and regulate how far apart tables must be.

IMF, World Bank Pledge Help Amid Calls for More Debt Relief

WASHINGTON (AP) – The 189-nation International Monetary Fund and its sister lending agency, the World Bank, are pledging to step up their efforts to cushion the blow to the global economy from the coronavirus pandemic. The two agencies’ assurance came at the end of their spring meeting where they heard calls for them to provide more debt relief to poorer nations being battered by the health crisis. IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva and World Bank President David Malpass both stressed that their agencies are well aware of the rising threat from a health crisis that is expected to plunge the global economy into the deepest recession since the Great Depression.

Company: 4 Georgia Poultry Workers Dead From Coronavirus

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) – A major U.S. meat producer says four of its poultry workers in Georgia have died after becoming infected by the coronavirus. Tyson Foods spokesman Gary Mickelson confirmed Friday the deaths of four infected employees in the rural southwest Georgia city of Camilla. He said three of them worked in the company’s chicken processing plant there, while the fourth person was employed outside the plant at one of Tyson’s nearby support operations. Tyson’s senior vice president for human resources, Hector Gonzalez, said in a statement the company is requiring workers to wear face masks, installing dividers at work stations and giving employees more space in break rooms. Tyson has not said how many employees have tested positive for COVID-19.

Damage From Twister Threatens To Disrupt Ford Supply Line

DETROIT (AP) – A tornado strike at a critical Ford manufacturing plant threatens to disrupt the automaker’s supply chain. Ford disclosed in a regulatory filing Friday that the BorgWarner factory in Seneca, South Carolina, which makes a key transmission part for many of Ford’s most profitable vehicles, was severely damaged Monday when a twister rolled through. Seneca produces transfer cases for F-Series pickup trucks, Ford Explorer and Expedition SUVs, Transit vans and the Lincoln Aviator and Navigator

Gas Prices Still Plunging Amid Low Demand, Record Inventory

TRENTON, N.J.& (AP) – Gas prices are still plunging around the nation amid the coronavirus outbreak, with demand down as much as 50 percent in some places as inventory has risen to a record high.

AAA Mid-Atlantic says the national average gas price Friday was $1.82, down six cents from a week ago. Drivers were paying $2.83 a gallon a year ago at this time.

Analysts say crude prices hit a low last week not seen since 2002, as demand has dropped to levels not seen in over half a century, and that imbalance means prices at the pump should continue to decline.

Neiman Marcus to File for Bankruptcy as Soon as This Week

(Reuters) – Neiman Marcus Group is preparing to seek bankruptcy protection as soon as this week, becoming the first major U.S. department store operator to succumb to the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak, people familiar with the matter said.

The debt-laden Dallas-based company has been left with few options after the pandemic forced it to temporarily shut all 43 of its Neiman Marcus locations, roughly two dozen Last Call stores and its two Bergdorf Goodman stores in New York.

Neiman Marcus is in the final stages of negotiating a loan with its creditors totaling hundreds of millions of dollars, which would sustain some of its operations during bankruptcy proceedings, according to the sources. It has also furloughed many of its roughly 14,000 employees.

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