Business & Finance
The Economist

The Economist May 9, 2020

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United States
The Economist Newspaper Limited
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51 Issues

in this issue

1 min.
coronavirus briefs

The worldwide death toll from covid-19 rose above 250,000. Infections surged in Russia, to over 10,000 a day. Mikhail Mishustin, the prime minister, tested positive for the disease. The first infection was officially confirmed in Sana’a, Yemen’s capital, which is held by Houthi rebels. Reports from Nigeria, Somalia and Tanzania of a sharp rise in unexplained deaths suggested that official tallies of covid-19 are misleadingly low. New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said border restrictions would remain for “some time to come”. But she would like a quarantine-free travel “bubble” with Australia. In Germany shops were allowed to reopen, with social distancing. Football matches will resume in the Bundesliga, but without spectators. For our latest coverage of the virus and its consequences please visit economist.com/ coronavirus or download the Economist app.…

7 min.
the world this week

Politics Reversing course, Donald Trump said that America’s coronavirus task-force would continue, but also focus on rebooting the economy. More states began easing their lock-downs. Florida allowed shops to trade if they limit customers, except in the heavily populated corridor between Miami and Palm Beach. In Michigan, the scene of rowdy anti-lock-down protests, the Republican legislature refused a request from the Democratic governor to extend her stay-at-home order. She extended it anyway. America’s Supreme Court worked remotely for the first time, hearing arguments via teleconferences. The normally reticent Clarence Thomas, a justice on the court since 1991, asked questions, only his third comments during hearings in more than a decade. Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is 87, was in hospital with an infection and took part from there. America’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo,…

5 min.
a dangerous gap

STOCKMARKET HISTORY is packed with drama: the 1929 crash; Black Monday in 1987, when share prices lost 20% in a day; the dotcom mania in 1999. With such precedents, nothing should come as a surprise, but the past eight weeks have been remarkable, nonetheless. A gut-wrenching sell-off in shares has been followed by a delirious rally in America. Between February 19th and March 23rd, the S&P 500 index lost a third of its value. With barely a pause it has since rocketed, recovering more than half its loss. The catalyst was news that the Federal Reserve would buy corporate bonds, helping big firms finance their debts. Investors shifted from panic to optimism without missing a beat. This rosy view from Wall Street should make you uneasy (see Finance section). It contrasts…

5 min.
the food miracle

IF YOU LIVE in the rich world and want an example of trade and global co-operation, look no further than your dinner plate. As the lockdowns began in the West two months ago, many feared that bread, butter and beans would run short, causing a wave of stocking-up. Today, thanks to fleets of delivery lorries filling supermarket shelves, you can binge-eat as you binge-watch. This capitalist miracle reflects not a monolithic plan, but an $8trn global supply chain adapting to a new reality, with millions of firms making spontaneous decisions, from switching rice suppliers in Asia to refitting freezers. The system is far from perfect: as incomes collapse, more people are going hungry. There are risks, from labour shortages to bad harvests. And there is an irony in seeing the industry…

3 min.
the new scold war

YOU MIGHT have hoped that a pandemic would bring the world together. Instead covid-19 is tearing it apart. As the disease has spread, relations between America and China have plunged into an abyss from which they will struggle to escape. Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, says he has “enormous evidence” that the virus behind covid-19 came from a laboratory in Wuhan—though America’s intelligence agencies as well as its closest intelligence partners say proof is still lacking. To punish China for letting the disease spread, the Trump administration has reportedly considered demanding reparations or cancelling some Treasury bonds held by China—though nervous American officials later dismissed this crackpot idea. China has branded Mr Pompeo “insane” and a “political virus” (see United States section). State-run media are calling for an international investigation…

3 min.
my tweet is your command

WHEN HE BECAME president of El Salvador last year, Nayib Bukele promised change. A millennial who knows that a selfie is worth 1,000 words, he broke the grip of the two parties that had governed since the end of a civil war in 1992. On their watch El Salvador’s murder rate became the world’s highest and Salvadoreans left the country in droves. Three of the past four presidents have been charged with corruption. “You bastards, return what’s been stolen!” Mr Bukele demanded before the election. He gave his victory speech in jeans and a leather jacket. But in his 11 months as president he has done more to wreck El Salvador’s democracy than to reform it. In February he entered the Legislative Assembly with soldiers to bully it into financing his…