Global shares fall as hopes fade for quick economic rebound

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Global shares declined Thursday on pessimism about life getting back to normal soon amid the coronavirus pandemic, after the U.S. central bank chief warned of hard times to come.

France’s CAC 40 edged down 1.4% in early trading to 4,282.99, while Germany’s DAX slipped 1.2% to 10,417.31. Britain’s FTSE 100 was down nearly 2.0% at 5,788.99. U.S. shares were also set for declines, with Dow futures falling 0.4% to 23,083.0. S&P 500 futures were down 0.2% at 2,806.38.

Stephen Innes, chief global strategist at AxiCorp, said markets were jittery after comments from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, which set off worries about the risks of corporate failure in the U.S. and job losses.

“The roller coaster recovery continues to be the theme of the week,” Innes said, noting a second wave of COVID-19 infections could be ahead if lockdowns in any part of the world are eased too quickly.

Powell urged Congress and the White House to provide more help for the economy to prevent long-lasting damage to an economy already bleeding millions of jobs.

While costly, more assistance in government spending or tax policies would be “worth it if it helps avoid long-term economic damage and leaves us with a stronger recovery,” he said.

President Donald Trump has described a newly proposed $3 trillion aid package as “dead on arrival.”

Japan’s Nikkei 225 slipped 1.7% to finish at 19,914.78. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 lost 1.7% to 5,328.70. South Korea’s Kospi dropped 0.8% to 1,924.96. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng dipped 1.5% to 23,829.74, while the Shanghai Composite lost nearly 1.0% at 2,870.34.

India’s Sensex skidded 2.7% to 31,142.24. Shares also fell in Southeast Asia.

Japanese officials were preparing to announce an easing of the nationwide “state of emergency,” which has strongly requested that non-essential workers stay home. Some regions where infections aren’t spreading too much may get further reopened, although with some social distancing measures in place.

Japan has so far has reported 687 COVID-19 deaths, but has had no lockdown. Public discontent is brewing, but people are also worried about health risks and whether infections could start rising exponentially, as they did in New York, Brazil and elsewhere.

Major Japanese companies, such as Toyota Motor Corp. and Sony Corp., have announced sharp drops in profits as the pandemic took hold, and have not given profit projections, or only gave partial forecasts, for the year through March 2021.

Analysts say they expect the market to remain in a wait-and-see approach for weeks as investors gauge how economic reopenings underway are going. Investors want to see if second waves of coronavirus infections occur if governments lift their restrictions on businesses too soon. Another flare-up in trade tensions between the United States and China has also recently weighed on investor sentiment.

U.S. benchmark crude gained 50 cents to $25.79 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It fell 65 cents to $25.68 on Wednesday. Brent crude, the international standard, rose 67 cents to $29.86 a barrel.

The dollar fell to 106.83 Japanese yen from 107.03 yen. The euro inched down to $1.0810 from $1.0818.