The Latest: France Pledges to Compensate Losses from Virus

Thailand Financial Markets
A Thai investor looks at an electronic board showing stock prices at Asia Plus Securities a private stock trading floor in Bangkok, Thailand, Friday, March 13, 2020. Shares plunged in Asia on Friday, with benchmarks in Japan, Thailand and India sinking as much as 10% after Wall Street suffered its biggest drop since the Black Monday crash of 1987. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

NEW YORK OAP (AP) – The Latest on financial markets:

Trading in U.S. futures was halted Friday with the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq all surging more than 5%. A “limit up” trigger intended to keep market volatility within a set range went into effect hours before the opening bell.

Markets in Europe were cheered by big announcements of financial support, particularly by Germany and France. The EU’s two biggest economies pledged hundreds of billions of dollars – and more if necessary – in guarantees to protect individuals and small businesses from the economic damage of the pandemic.

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France’s government is promising to compensate virus-related salary losses for “99%” of workers, as travel bans, school closures and other measures take a heavy toll on the economy.

It’s part of tens of billions of euros the government says it will stump up to support the economy, as French financial markets plunge and companies curb activity to try to stem the spread of the virus.

“Nobody with a job will lose a cent,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on BFM television Friday. “OK, for the highest salaries we might think of putting a limit on compensation, but we will provide for 99 % of employees” who see wage losses linked to virus containment measures.

He also loan guarantees to small and medium businesses struggling because of the virus.

“We will do whatever is necessary to support our economy and even more. How much will it cost ? Tens of billions of euros.”

France has more than 2,800 confirmed cases, including 61 deaths.

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The Germany government is pledging at least 460 billion euros ($513 billion) in guarantees to cope with the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

Germany’s economy minister, Peter Altmaier, said there was no limit to the amount the government was willing to use to support everyone from individuals, such as taxi drivers, to large companies, to prevent the corona pandemic from causing permanent harm to the economy.

Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said the 2008 financial crisis following the collapse of Lehman Brothers offered lessons for the current situation.

“We will use all means at our disposal,” he said at a joint press conference with Altmaier on Friday.

Scholz told reporters in Berlin that thanks to careful spending in recent years the government was in a position to spend heavily to put in place necessary measures such as tax relief for companies and relaxing labor regulations.

“We won’t do things by half-measures,” he said.

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China’s government on Friday freed up additional money for lending by reducing the amount of their deposits commercial banks are required to leave on reserve at the central bank.

The required reserve ratio will be cut by between 0.5 and 1 percentage points for banks that meet regulatory targets for lending to small and private businesses, effective March 16, the central bank announced. It said that should release an additional 550 billion yuan ($80 billion) for lending.

The People’s Bank of China said that was intended to lower financing costs and support economic recovery.

China often uses such reductions to increase the amount of money available for lending without changing interest rates. A similar cut in the reserve ratio in January released 800 billion yuan ($115 billion).

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Sweden’s central bank says it will lend up to 500 billion kronor ($52 billion) to companies via the banks to keep them from “being knocked out as a result of the spread of the coronavirus.”

In a statement, the Riksbank said the ” turbulence on the financial markets means that companies that are essentially robust may experience funding difficulties,” central bank governor Stefan Ingves said.

“It is then important that the banks continue to provide these companies with loans so that the credit supply is not threatened. The measures taken in this situation should be regarded as a form of insurance that enables Swedish companies -— particularly small and medium-sized enterprises – to feel secure that the credit supply will not fail.”

The central bank of non-European Union member Norway said Friday it had decided to reduce the policy rate by 0.50 percentage points to 1%.

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European markets have opened mostly higher after a turbulent trading session in Asia.

Shares rose in Paris and London but fell 6.1% in Japan following Wall Street’s biggest drop since the 1987 Black Monday crash.

Friday the 13th brought wild swings for some markets as governments stepped up precautions against the spread of the new coronavirus and considered ways to cushion the blow to their economies.

India’s Sensex gained 4% after plunging 10% when it opened, triggering a brief halt to trading.

U.S. futures were up more than 2% after the Federal Reserve and European Central Bank pledged more support for markets churned by a cascade of shutdowns across the globe.

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