This Morning in Metals: U.S. jobless claims reach record 3.3M as coronavirus outbreak intensifies

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rolled aluminum on table with worker

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This morning in metals news, U.S. unemployment insurance claims soared last week as the coronavirus outbreak intensified, Thyssenkrupp announced 3,000 layoffs and the United States Trade Representative (USTR) said there had been progress in enforcing some provisions of the recently signed Phase One trade deal with China.

U.S. jobless claims surge to 3.3M

U.S. unemployment insurance claims reached 3.3 million for the week ending March 21, the Department of Labor reported Thursday, marking a record weekly total.

“During the week ending March 21, the increase in initial claims are due to the impacts of the COVID-19 virus,” the Department of Labor announcement notes. “Nearly every state providing comments cited the COVID-19 virus impacts. States continued to cite services industries broadly, particularly accommodation and food services. Additional industries heavily cited for the increases included the health care and social assistance, arts, entertainment and recreation, transportation and warehousing, and manufacturing industries.

Jobless claims for the week prior (ending March 14) totaled 282,000.

Thyssenkrupp announces layoffs

German firm Thyssenkrupp announced plans to lay off 3,000 workers in its steel division by 2026, Reuters reported.

In February, Thyssenkrupp announced it would be selling its profitable elevator business to a consortium led by Advent, Cinven and RAG foundation for €17.2 billion.

Progress in Phase One implementation

Earlier this year, the U.S. hailed its so-called “Phase One” trade deal with China after more than two years of trade hostilities, including an exchange of hundreds of billions worth of tariffs.

However, even with a deal, enforcement has always been the tricky part.

This week, the USTR claimed there had been progress toward enforcing agricultural provisions of the deal (building on earlier implementation actions).

“We are working with China on a daily basis as we implement the Phase One trade agreement,” USTR Robert Lighthizer said. “We recognize China’s efforts to keep the commitments in the agreement and look forward to continuing our work together on trade matters.”

Among the recent actions was the agreement that, “in the event of a detection of highly pathogenic avian influenza or virulent Newcastle disease in a particular region of the United States, will allow U.S. poultry exports from unaffected regions of the country to continue (APHIS Regionalization Protocol Announcement).”

“This action will help protect the increased access American farmers have gained in China’s poultry market,” the USTR announcement said. “U.S. poultry exports have the potential to exceed $1 billion per year.”

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