A French court orders Amazon to limit deliveries to essential goods.

Amazon said Wednesday that it may halt its operations in France after a court ruled that the company had failed to adequately protect warehouse workers against the threat of the coronavirus, and that it must restrict deliveries to only food, hygiene and medical products until it addresses the issue.

Amazon contested the findings of the ruling, handed down Tuesday by a civil court of first instance in Nanterre, and said it would appeal. The court gave the company a deadline of Wednesday evening to carry out the order or face a fine of 1 million euros (nearly $1.1 million) per day.

“We are perplexed by the ruling of a French court on Tuesday, made in spite of overwhelming evidence about the safety measures we’ve implemented to protect our employees,” Amazon said in a statement. “Our interpretation of the ruling suggests we might have to suspend the activities of our in-country fulfillment network in France.”

Amazon said it had provided temperature checks, masks, and enforced social distancing at its French facilities, which had received the approval of health and safety officials. The steps came after French labor inspectors visited several Amazon sites in early April and found that more action needed to be taken to ensure social distancing, and to address lack of materials such as hand sanitizers.

But several unions filed a lawsuit this month, saying Amazon had not consulted with them on plans to prevent employees from being exposed to the pandemic, which they said remained inadequate.

The Fed’s municipal bond plan could leave out cities with large black populations.

The S&P 500 dropped nearly 3 percent in early trading. Stocks in Europe were also lower, and Asia had a downbeat day.

The retreat Wednesday came the day after the S&P 500 hit a one-month high. Though still far from a Feb. 19 record, stocks in the United States have been steadily climbing in recent weeks as investors have begun to focus on the prospect of an eventual rebound from the economic collapse triggered by the pandemic.

But on Wednesday they were confronted by a number of reports that highlight just how badly the economy is faring. The Commerce Department said that retail sales in March dropped 8.7 percent as consumers were forced to stay home, and the Federal Reserve said industrial production and manufacturing output in the United States fell by the most since 1946.

The German Economy Ministry said economic output in Europe’s largest economy is likely to plunge almost 10 percent from April through June.

As they reported earnings, the nation’s banks also raised more warnings about the potential for a wave of defaults on loans, saying that they are stockpiling cash in anticipation of losses. Shares of Citigroup and Bank of America tumbled after those reports.

Oil producers were also sharply lower on Wednesday, following another slump in crude oil prices. Despite last weekend’s historic deal between the OPEC members and Russia to cut production, the world oil market remains massively oversupplied, with further falls in price possible, the International Energy Agency said on Wednesday.

The agency forecast that global demand for oil would fall about one-third this month, or 29 million barrels a day, because of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, while supplies will remain high because of production increases during the now-ended price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Until now, the largest one-month downturn in retail sales came in the fall of 2008, when the financial crisis led spending to fall nearly 4 percent for two straight months.

U.S. banks reporting quarterly earnings on Wednesday said they’re socking away money to prepare for a wave of loan defaults by consumers and businesses over the coming months.

  • Goldman Sachs reported a big surge in its trading revenue, accompanied by gains in investment-banking and in its nascent consumer-banking units, even as it set aside $937 million in additional provisions for potential virus-related losses, bringing its total allowance for future credit losses to $3.2 billion. Profits fell 46 percent for the quarter to $1.2 billion, down from $2.3 billion for the same period last year.

  • Citigroup, another of the country’s four largest banks, said it added to its reserves and that the move had cut into its quarterly profit. Citi earned $2.5 billion, a 46 percent drop from the same period a year ago. It added $7 billion to its reserves, bringing the total size of its pool to nearly $21 billion.

  • Bank of America’s quarterly profit fell to $4 billion in the first three months of 2020 from $7.3 billion during the same period a year earlier. The difference came mostly from a $3.6 billion increase in the amount of money the bank decided to set aside for bad loans this year. The total reserved by the bank during this quarter reached $4.8 billion.

  • PNC Financial Services Group made a similar disclosure. The regional bank said it was increasing its quarterly contribution to a reserve for loan losses by $693 million. In all, it moved $914 million to its reserves during the quarter, while earning $915 million.

Treasury rolls out a portal to help Americans access their relief payments.

The Treasury Department opened a free “Get My Payment” mobile app and web portal on Wednesday that allows Americans to submit their banking information in order to receive their economic relief payments via direct deposit and track the status of those payments.

To access the system, taxpayers must provide their social security number, birth date and mailing address. Treasury created the portal in order to get stimulus money to people more quickly than it could by mailing paper checks.

“We are pleased that more than 80 million Americans have already received their Economic Impact Payments by direct deposit in record time,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

People whose banking information is not on file with the Internal Revenue Service are expected to begin receiving paper checks in the coming weeks. There has been some concern that this might be delayed because of President Trump’s request that his name appear on the checks, which required a technical change to the processing system.

Treasury has insisted there will be no delays and that checks will start being sent later this week — ahead of schedule.

Southwest Airlines said it expected to receive $3.2 billion, about $1 billion of which would come in the form of a low-interest loan with a 10-year term. That loan is expected to include about 2.6 million warrants issued to the agency.

Alaska Airlines said it and its sister airline, Horizon Air, would receive $992 million, of which $267 million would be a loan. In exchange, Treasury would receive the right to buy almost $27 million in nonvoting shares.

The administration has been haggling with the airlines over the terms of the bailout, with Mr. Mnuchin pushing the airlines to agree to repay 30 percent of the money over five years. The Treasury Department also has been seeking warrants to purchase stock in the companies that take money. Airlines have complained that the Treasury was effectively turning the grants into loans by requiring repayment.

Catch up: Here’s what else is happening.

Reporting was contributed by Jeanna Smialek, Sapna Maheshwari, Ben Casselman, Mary Williams Walsh, Liz Alderman, Stanley Reed, Joe Gose, Erin Griffith, Vindu Goel, Alan Rappeport, Niraj Chokshi, Amie Tsang, Carlos Tejada and Mike Ives.



Source link