US jobless numbers surged from 3.3 million the week prior to 6.6 million last week, taking the total to almost 10 million people filing for benefits. Donald Trump responded to these record-breaking figures by signing an historic $2.2 trillion virus relief package into law. The package gives the unemployed $600 per person, in addition to their state benefits, for up to four months. This is a significant increase from the average benefits payment of c.$385 per person per month. It is expected that jobless numbers will continue to climb as workers and businesses alike access benefits; these stark numbers validate the consensus view that the US is already in recession.
Services PMI data shows a sedate return to the new normal for China and a somewhat grim picture for Europe. As China gets back to work, data sluggishly moved up from an historic low of 26.5 in February to 43 in March, a move in the right direction, but at a slower pace than expected. Europe, notably Spain and Italy, tells a very different story; both countries posted services data of 52.1 in February which collapsed to 23 and 17.4 respectively in March. While the Coronavirus continues to wreak havoc with the global economy, there are some tentative signs, in both Spain and Italy, that the infection rate is slowing.
Crude oil hit rock bottom last week tumbling to $25 a barrel having started 2020 at $66 a barrel. The slowing economy and excess supply have resulted in the collapse in oil price. In a move to stem further price falls, OPEC and others will meet this Thursday with a view to cutting supply. In an unprecedented move, which has not been witnessed before, Saudi Arabia will delay announcing its official oil selling price for May until after the meeting has taken place; prices were due on Sunday.