A roundup of select COVID-19-related policy and market developments.


IMF, WTO – The International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organisation have called on governments to refrain from imposing export and other trade restrictions on key medical supplies and food and to quickly lift those put in place since the start of the year.

In a joint statement they called for “more attention to the role of open trade policies in defeating the virus, restoring jobs, and reinvigorating growth”.

“In particular, we are concerned by supply disruptions from the growing use of export restrictions and other actions that limit trade of key medical supplies and food.”

Bpifrance – Bpifrance Financement today launched a COVID-19 response bond, said to be the first such issue out of France. The €1.5bn seven year bond, which was well over-subscribed, will finance loans that will mainly assist companies with ongoing cashflow for operations and employees. If it raises more than the amount of originated COVID-19 response loans Bpi will reallocate proceeds to loans to companies contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Bpifrance is a state-owned bank dedicated to promoting the financing and development of French companies, in particular SMEs.

IBA: Germany’s labour market research institute says unemployment could surpass 3 million in the coming months. In March there were 2.335 million unemployed.

European Council: EU leaders last night agreed to work towards establishing a recovery fund, but there was no agreement on the details. They tasked the Commission to analyse the exact needs and “to urgently come up with a proposal that is commensurate with the challenge we are facing”. Commission is supposed to clarify the link with the upcoming multiannual financial framework.

Leaders also endorsed a €540bn package of measures to support workers, businesses and certain sovereigns, that had been agreed in a Eurogroup meeting earlier this month.

“The declarations of the European Council should satisfy a bit of everybody’s expectations”

Agnès Belaisch, chief European strategist at Barings

Agnès Belaisch, chief European strategist at Barings, said: “The declarations of the European Council should satisfy a bit of everybody’s expectations.

“For the pessimist, it kicked the can a little bit down the road, asking the EC to work on details of a European Recovery plan to be presented at the next Eurogroup in a few weeks. For the optimist, it put trillions on the table without conditionality, and said there would be ’a sound balance between loans and grants’. For the cynical, it was vague with details.”

Mohammed Kazmi, portfolio manager and macro strategist at UBP, notes that the outcome of the meeting sent Italian sovereign bond spreads wider this morning, ahead of an S&P rating decision on Italy tonight.


US Department of Labor: 4.4 million more people filed for initial jobless claims in the US last week, taking to 26 million the number of individuals applying for unemployment benefits in the five weeks since lockdowns were introduced to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

HM Treasury – UK government announces that the Debt Management Office, which borrows on markets on behalf of the government, planned to raise a total of £180bn via Gilt sales from May until the end of July. It had previously indicated planning to borrow around £160bn in 2020-21. £45bn of Gilt sales have already been earmarked for April.  


European Central Bank (ECB) announces temporary changes to mitigate the effect on collateral availability of possible credit rating downgrades in response to the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. Assets and issuers that were investment grade on 7 April will still be accepted as collateral as any downgrades do not them  below ”credit quality step 5,” which is equivalent to a BB rating.  (CQS5, equivalent to a rating of BB)

The measure is aimed at avoiding potential procyclical dynamics.

European Council adopts new rules on the fund for aid to the most deprived (FEAD), supposed to make it easier for member states, partner organisations and other parties involved to access the fund and protect staff involved in distributing the aid. Around 13 million EU citizens benefit from the fund each year. The new rules are expected to enter into force by the end of the week.

European Commission adopts proposal for a €3bn macro-financial assistance package to Albania, Kosovo, Jordan and seven other ”enlargement and neighbourhood partners” to help them to limit the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

UK Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is activitated and extended to the end of June.


AIMA, Efama and InsuranceEurope join several other financial associations in calling for reporting obligations relating to the EU’s 2018 update of its cross border tax directive to be deferred until 2021 because of “significant implementation challenges outside of their control, including most recently the COVID-19 pandemic”. 


West Texas Intermediate price plunges below zero for the first time, almost reaching -$40. Ben Jones, multi asset class strategist at State Street Global Markets, says: “The negative pricing on the 20th April is technical in nature, relating to futures expiry, but it does highlight how oversupplied the US oil market is and how tight storage has become as oil demand collapses. As such, oil prices will remain under pressure and a repeat of these events at the end of May, once the June contract rolls, is not out of the question.”

European Commission co-launches a European COVID-19 Data Platform to enable the rapid collection and sharing of available research data.