Global markets rise as investor sentiment improves.

Global markets rose on Wednesday, offering hopes that stocks could break their two-day slump amid signs that oil prices might be stemming their tremendous losses.

European stocks opened higher after several Asian markets turned positive near the end of their trading day. Futures markets pointed to a positive opening for Wall Street as well.

A plunge in oil market had unnerved investors, but on Wednesday petroleum prices showed signs of stabilizing. Brent crude, the international benchmark, was down more than 10 percent in futures markets. But West Texas Intermediate, the American benchmark, was flat to positive — albeit from the historically low level of about $11 a barrel — during early European trading.

Bond prices also signaled continued investor optimism. U.S. Treasury bond prices fell, a signal that the markets were favoring putting money in places considered less conservative.

Japan stocks bucked the trend, with the Nikkei 225 index falling 0.7 percent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong rose 0.4 percent. The Shanghai Composite index in mainland China rose 0.6 percent. South Korea’s Kospi was 0.9 percent higher.

In London, the FTSE 100 index was up 1 percent in early trading. Germany’s DAX opened 1.1 percent higher, while the CAC 40 index in France was up 0.6 percent.

Early this winter, as dying patients flooded China’s hospitals and medical workers begged for protective gear on social media, some people in the country started asking why the government had suppressed information early on — and who should be held accountable.

Chinese news outlets — relying on the West’s free flow of information — have used words like “purgatory” and “apocalypse” to describe the tragic hospital scenes in Italy and Spain. They have also run photos of British and American medical workers wearing garbage bags as protective gear.

Reports about similar miseries in China are called “rumors” and censored, and the state-run media’s overall message is that Western countries should copy China’s model. It’s all part of how the ruling Communist Party maintains a facade of positive news — and, by extension, its own legitimacy.

The propaganda push is mostly working, and some young people are waging online attacks against individuals and countries that contradict their belief in China’s superior response. Their tools? A mix of lies and partial truths.

Southern Italy’s economic woes — and fragile health care system — figured prominently in the government’s decision to lock down the nation last month. So far the south only has about 1,500 of the 24,000 nationwide deaths that have been linked to the virus.

But the south’s unemployment rate of about 18 percent is almost triple that of the north. The region also accounts for much of the country’s off-the-books street economy, where many informal-sector workers have been unable to gain access to government relief packages.

“We don’t start from zero,” Cateno De Luca, the mayor of the Sicilian city of Messina, said of the local economy. “We start from less than zero.”

Now, as the Italian government plans to begin a gradual reopening on May 4, some southern officials have suggested that they would ban northerners from their regions if they rushed to lift the lockdown.

Vincenzo De Luca, the president of the southern region of Campania, said he had prepared a nearly billion-euro relief package for workers, and was urging the federal government to find a way to motivate thousands to come out of the black market’s shadows to ask for help.

He said one reason to pass an ambitious relief package was that organized crime may seek to exploit the crisis. The local media has reported that the local mob is using pretext of delivering food to be on the streets to sell drugs, or to shake down shop owners for donations to the poor.

Australia will capitalize on historically low oil prices by spending $59 million to buy oil to bolster its fuel reserves, a top official said on Wednesday.

“Now is the time to buy fuel, and we are doing that,” Energy Minister Angus Taylor told reporters. He said the move would ensure that manufacturers, miners and commuters can have access to adequate fuel supplies if the global oil trade faces further disruptions.

Mr. Taylor said the oil would be initially kept in the United States as the Australian government explored local storage options.

Australia is highly dependent on imports of liquid fuel from Asia and the Middle East, and has been looking to bolster its fuel supplies for years.

China’s state-controlled banking sector is pushing out extra loans as part of a government-led effort to limit the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. But non-performing loans are already starting to increase across the banking system, Chinese regulators announced on Wednesday morning.

The proportion of overall loans on which borrowers have failed to pay interest or principal has long been watched as a barometer of China’s financial health. Most Western bank analysts say that loans officially acknowledged as non-performing are just part of a larger pool of loans to businesses that would also default if banks did not keep lending them ever more money.

Huang Hong, the first vice chairman of the China Banking and Insurance Regulatory Commission, said at a news conference that the proportion of loans that are non-performing had crept up to 2.04 percent at the end of the first quarter, from 1.98 percent at the end of last year. He said that the proportion may continue to rise somewhat in the coming months, but that the increase would be manageable.

“We believe that there will be some increase in the future, but the magnitude will not be very large, because we are now resuming production and orderly development,” Mr. Huang said.

Another worry lies in possible fraud. Mr. Cao said the government had found over 3,000 regulatory violations last year at small and medium-sized financial institutions, often involving loans to people or businesses with personal ties to bank managers. Regulators are continuing to watch for misconduct, he said.

The Trump administration on Tuesday ordered Chevron, already hurting from plummeting oil prices related to the coronavirus, to stop producing oil in Venezuela and halt all remaining operations there by December.

Chevron is the last American oil company to produce oil in Venezuela. It had hoped to continue to function there in the hope that it would have a valuable asset whenever the politics of the country stabilizes. Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world, although its oil industry is in shambles because of corruption, mismanagement and American sanctions.

Halliburton, Schlumberger and other American oil service companies were also covered by the tightened sanctions, although they have virtually ended their operations already.

The Trump administration is stepping up pressure on some businesses and institutions to return emergency small-business loans that they took if they already have access to capital or face “severe consequences.”

“Harvard’s going to pay back the money,” President Trump said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Harvard, which has a $40 billion endowment, received $8 million in loan money. Shake Shack said this week that it would return its $10 million loan after a public uproar.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said it appeared that there was some ambiguity in the rules surrounding the loan program that made big companies think they were allowed to apply for the loans.

“The intent of this was for businesses that needed the money,” Mr. Mnuchin said. “The intent of this money was not for big public companies that have access to capital.”

Mr. Mnuchin said that the Treasury Department would release new guidance explaining the certification requirements for the loans and that companies that did not meet those requirements would have the opportunity to return the money. Those that fail to do so will face “severe consequences,” Mr. Mnuchin said without elaborating on what the penalties would entail.



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