“THE COVID-19 pandemic is having a significant impact around the world,” warned Fred Smith, boss of FedEx, at his firm’s earnings conference on March 17th. That is putting it mildly. The express-delivery giant announced that it was slashing its delivery capacity and, for the first time ever, refused to give earnings guidance. While economists debate whether this recession will be short-lived or sustained (see Briefing), bosses the world over already see mayhem. The virus has destroyed $23trn in global market value since mid-February.
As governments curb citizens’ activities—including much of commerce—in an effort to save lives, the ranks of corporate casualties are swelling. Fewer people are taking planes (see article), hailing rides, eating out, staying in hotels, going to cinemas or gathering just about anywhere. Most American and European sports leagues have been suspended. Formula 1 motor-racing has ground to a standstill. Apple and Nike have closed most of their stores outside of China. Carmakers including Ford, Toyota and Volkswagen are shutting factories in Europe and America.
The bloodletting will continue. Scott Stringer, New York’s finance chief, predicts that the city’s...
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