The European economy tumbled into its worst recession on record in the second quarter, as quarantines in countries across the continent brought business, trade and consumer spending to a grinding halt.
From April to June, gross domestic product fell from the first quarter by 11.9 percent in the 27 member states of the European Union, and by 12.1 percent in countries that use the euro currency, according to figures released on Friday by Eurostat, the bloc’s statistics agency.
On an annualized basis, European Union economies shrank by 14.4 percent, and eurozone economies by 15 percent, the sharpest contractions since statistics started being kept in 1995.
But there were signs that the worst may have passed since then, and that a tentative recovery was gaining some traction as governments unleashed enormous stimulus spending. Lengthy lockdowns, while painful for business and industry, have helped curb a widespread resurgence of the pandemic in most countries, easing reopenings.
The data was especially grim for nations on Europe’s southern rim, which were among the worst affected by the virus and which faced longer quarantine periods than northern European countries.
In Spain, which has had one of Europe’s highest death tolls, the economy shrank by a staggering 22.1 percent from a year ago and by 18.5 percent from the first quarter. France, the eurozone’s second-largest economy, shrank by 19 percent from a year ago and by 13.8 percent from the first quarter; and Italy, the third-largest economy in the zone, contracted by 17.3 percent from a year ago and by 12.4 percent from the first quarter. France is officially in recession, with three straight quarters of contraction.
On Thursday, the authorities reported that the German economy, Europe’s largest, shrank by 11.7 percent from the same period last year and by 10.1 percent from the previous quarter.
European Union leaders last week agreed to a landmark stimulus of 750 billion euros, or about $884 billion, to rescue their economies and to anchor a mild turnaround that had started to take hold after lockdowns began to be lifted.
But risks abound as surges in new cases are reported, increasing the possibility of more quarantines.
“The hard part of this recovery is set to start about now,” Bert Colijn, senior economist for the eurozone at ING Bank, said in a note to clients.
European countries have, for the most part, contained the spread of coronavirus. But the outbreak, which was early and widespread, has left a deep scar on the region’s economy: A 12 percent contraction in the second quarter of the year compared with the first quarter. Different government interventions and infection rates means the impact has been uneven. Here are snapshots from the region’s largest economies in the three months that ended in June.
Though France’s 13.8 percent decline is stark, a mild rebound in consumer spending and business activity after quarantines were lifted has helped the country avoid a far sharper decline. In fact, the nation’s central bank recently revised its economic forecasts, expecting slightly less damage in the next few years.
The government’s largess has been key: It spent over 100 billion euros ($118 billion) to pay businesses not to lay off workers, it delayed deadlines for business taxes and loan payments, and deployed over 300 billion euros in state-guaranteed loans to struggling companies.
The 10.1 percent drop in Germany’s G.D.P., the largest since the country began keeping quarterly records, might already be painting a darker picture of the economy than is warranted. Separate data released Thursday showed the labor market stabilized in July and surveys of business activity indicate a quick rebound.
But the continuation of this recovery is at risk. Germany was in a better position than other European Union countries because the government was effective in containing the spread of the coronavirus. However, there is now an increase in new infections as Germans return from holidays abroad, stoking fear of a second wave.
The devastating economic impact of Italy’s outbreak and lockdown, the first in Europe, was a 12.4 percent drop in G.D.P. While the central bank estimates that two government relief packages mitigated the contraction, a slow return in tourism, consumer spending, and business investment is dragging the recovery down.
“At least for Italy, the possibility of a V-shaped recovery is not what we have in front of us,” Bank of Italy’s governor, Daniele Franco, said. One slice of the economy is experiencing a stronger rebound: industrial production. During the first phase of the lockdown, which ended in early May, half of the Italian companies that were forced to shut managed to reopen, the central bank said.
Spain’s recession is the deepest of all the European countries that have reported second-quarter G.D.P. so far. The economy contracted 18.5 percent compared to the first three months of the year, and the outlook for the rest of the year is grim. Spain officially ended its Covid-19 state of emergency on June 21, but it has since been struggling with an increase in the number of new cases and over 300 local outbreaks, particularly severe in the northeast.
Tourism is a substantial component of the Spanish economy but hopes of a tourism-led economic recovery this summer have been undermined by quarantine restrictions placed on the nation and its islands by Britain and other countries.
Exxon Mobil announced a record-breaking quarterly loss of $1.1 billion, blaming the coronavirus pandemic for lowering oil and gas prices and sales volumes.
The results from the largest American oil producer were further evidence of the deepest downturn for the industry in the modern era. Oil prices have recovered in recent weeks to around $40 a barrel, but that is still roughly a third below the oil price of the beginning of the year.
Chevron, the second largest U.S. oil company, also posted disappointing results for the quarter on Friday and said it was writing off its $2.6 billion investment in Venezuela because of the country’s political instability and American sanctions against its government.
Exxon’s oil production was down 3 percent and natural gas output was down 12 percent, compared to the quarter a year ago, a reflection of the crippling of global demand for energy due to a worldwide recession.
Darren W. Woods, Exxon’s chairman and chief executive, attempted to put the best face on the results.
“The global pandemic and oversupply conditions significantly impacted our second quarter financial results,” he said. “We responded decisively by reducing near-term spending and continuing work to improve efficiency. The progress we’ve made to date gives us confidence that we will meet or exceed our cost-reduction targets.”
The $1.1 billion loss compares to a profit of $3.1 billion a year ago. At the same time the company’s capital and exploration expenditures were down to $5.3 billion from $8.1 billion in the quarter last year.
Chevron said it lost $8.3 billion in the quarter; a year earlier it reported a $4.3 billion profit.
The company reported an adjusted quarterly loss of $3 billion, excluding one-time items, compared to adjusted earnings of $3.4 billion in the same quarter of 2019. In addition to the $2.6 billion Venezuelan write down, Chevron also took a $1.8 billion write down based on the company’s oil and gas price outlook.
Chevron reported sales and other revenue of $16 billion, compared to $36 billion in the same period a year earlier.
“We’re focused on what we can control,” Michael K. Wirth, Chevron’s chairman and chief executive, said in a statement. “We’re transforming our company to be more efficient, agile and innovative.”
Exxon and Chevron said they would maintain their dividends.
Stocks climbed on Friday as gnawing concerns about the economic toll of the pandemic were outweighed by the huge surge in profits reported by America’s largest tech companies.
The S&P 500 rose half a percent, on track to end July with a gain of more than five percent. The index has climbed for four consecutive months — rising nearly 26 percent since the end of February.
A big factor behind that rally has been the relative success of big technology companies, which were well positioned to benefit from a shift to remote work and limits on public activity.
On Thursday, investors heard just how much they benefited. Amazon, Apple, and Facebook reported surging profits on Thursday. The blockbuster earnings seemed to briefly put aside the uncertainty and pessimism surrounding the economic impact of the pandemic, but also perhaps underscored the concerns of lawmakers, expressed on Wednesday, that American’s tech giants have gotten too big.
Shares of Amazon, Apple and Facebook rose more than 5 percent on Friday. Alphabet, the parent company of Google, which reported its first-ever decline in quarterly revenue on Thursday was lower. The gains lifted the Nasdaq composite by more than 1 percent.
In other markets, the 10-year U.S. Treasuries were slipping, oil futures were recovering some of the losses from earlier in the week, and gold was climbing.
But the virus continues spreading, and its damage is mounting. On Thursday, the United States reported that its economy fell 9.5 percent in the second quarter, compared with the previous quarter, the most on record. On Friday, the authorities reported that the eurozone contracted 12.1 percent in the second quarter. Both the United States and Europe are in deep recessions caused by shutdowns in economic activity to curb the spread of the disease.
A day after lawmakers grilled the chief executives of the biggest tech companies about their size and power, Alphabet, Amazon, Apple and Facebook reported surprisingly healthy quarterly financial results, defying one of the worst economic downturns on record.
Even though the companies felt some sting from the spending slowdown, they demonstrated, as critics have argued, that they are operating on a different playing field from the rest of the economy.
Combined, the companies reported $28.6 billion in quarterly net profit, underscoring how regulatory scrutiny remains more background noise and a distraction for them rather than an imminent threat to their businesses.
“The strong continue to get stronger,” said Dan Ives, managing director of equity research at Wedbush Securities. “As many companies are falling by the wayside, the tech stalwarts continue to gain muscle and power in this environment.”
The editors and reporters for the DealBook newsletter sift through a lot of company reports and dial into many earnings conference calls. A huge number of companies reported their latest financial results on Thursday, and aside from the tech giants’ bumper profits these are some of the things that caught our notice, from lapsed cereal eaters to “coronabeards.”
🍺 “To put a finer point in the level of demand we’re seeing, we eclipsed July 4 week shipment days in the United States four times already this year. That’s unheard of.” — Gavin Hattersley, the C.E.O. of Molson Coors
🇯🇵 “We would be in Tokyo right now under normal circumstances. So it’s a total bummer for our company that we don’t have the Olympics.” — Jeff Shell, the C.E.O. of NBCUniversal
🥣 “Special K gained share in quarter two as did Mini-Wheats and Raisin Bran. We are also excited about the consumer trial and rediscovery we are seeing from new and lapsed users in cereal.” — Steven Cahillane, the C.E.O. of Kellogg’s
🧔 “As people go back to work in offices and outside the home, we’ll see a pickup in the wet shave rate.” — David Taylor, the C.E.O. of Procter & Gamble, in response to an analyst question about the rise of mullets and “coronabeards” during lockdowns
🍩 “I love when we really get on our doughnut mojo, but look, we are leaning into beverages in a big way.” — David Hoffmann, the C.E.O. of Dunkin’ Brands
With Zoom call fatigue setting in and boozy lunches out of the question during the coronavirus pandemic, housebound executives are finding new ways to meet and bond in video games. The goal is to break up a day that is crammed with get-togethers that generally look, sound and feel identical.
And for people like Lewis Smithingham, an advertising executive in Brooklyn, an outing in virtual space is a chance to form memories with people he has never met, which is a crucial part of developing relationships, business and otherwise.
“It’s my golf,” he said. Unlike golf, video games come with social distancing built in. It is back slapping without the slapping or the back, ideal during a pandemic.
Nobody knows how many executives are meeting in video games, including game publishers, but examples are popping up on Twitter and other social media platforms.
The idea of holding business meetings in a virtual world enjoyed a certain vogue about a decade ago. More than 1,400 organizations had a presence on Second Life, an online realm with everything an avatar would need, including auditoriums and beer.
For Mr. Smithingham, different games offer advantages for different clients. Gunplay and mayhem is not always the right fit. He is a fan of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, a new version of a long-popular Nintendo game, which was released in March.
“My production value is now considerably better in Animal Crossing than it is on Zoom,” he said.
Fiat Chrysler reported a net loss of 1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) in the second quarter, but said it expects improving economic conditions to lift its fortunes in the second half of the year.
Forced to shut down operations in Europe and North American for much of the quarter because of the pandemic, Fiat Chrysler said revenue dropped 56 percent, to 11.7 billion euros. It also used some 5 billion euros in cash.
In a conference call, the automaker’s chief executive, Mike Manley, said auto sales are recovering faster than had been expected, and the company has been able to ramp production back to normal levels in North America. Its European plants should return to typical production levels in the third quarter, the company said.
“We expect significant improvement in profitability and cash flows,” he said. “We expect a much, much better second half.
The automaker also plans to introduce five new electric vehicles in the coming months, including plug-in hybrid versions of three different Jeep models.
Fiat Chrysler is in the process of merging with French automaker PSA Group, maker of the Peugeot and Citroën brands. The combined company will be called Stellantis.
Europe has a bad rep with investors. For years, asset managers and bank strategists have characterized the region by its anemic growth rate and shaky political union, and steered investors away.
Now, a crisis has turned into an unlikely investment opportunity as the region appears to have handled the pandemic better than some other parts of the world. In the past few months, European assets have staged a comeback, writes Eshe Nelson, who gives two reasons for the turnaround:
The euro has gained more than 5 percent against the dollar so far this year, according to FactSet data. Since late May, Europe’s stock market has recorded stronger gains than the S&P 500 index, after taking the strength of the euro into account.
Investors are starting to take advantage of the relative cheapness of European equities, but a sustained recovery in either stock market will depend on consumer and business confidence returning, which would in turn stir economic activity.
Here’s some of what happened on Thursday that you might have missed.
Ford Motor said it earned $1.1 billion in the second quarter as a large one-time gain in the value of its investment in an autonomous driving company more than offset losses in its main business. Without the gain, from its stake in Argo AI, Ford lost $1.9 billion excluding interest and taxes. The result was better than Ford’s earlier forecast of a pretax loss of $5 billion.
United Airlines warned its pilots that it might need to expand planned furloughs if demand for flights remained deeply depressed and a vaccine was not mass produced by the end of next year. The airline previously said that it could furlough up to one third of its pilots, or 3,900 people, this year and next.
Comcast, the largest cable operator in the U.S., said that Peacock, its new streaming product, attracted 10 million sign-ups in its first three months.
California Pizza Kitchen filed for bankruptcy protection in Texas. The company, which operates more than 200 locations in the United States and internationally, said it would use the restructuring process to close unprofitable locations and cut debt, and planned to emerge from bankruptcy in less than three months.