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White House Considers Postponing Tariffs to Help Businesses: Live Updates

The Trump administration is considering postponing tariff payments on some imported goods for 90 days, according to people familiar with the matter, as it looks to ease the burden on businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.

Some businesses and trade groups have argued that the levies President Trump imposed on foreign metals and products from China before the outbreak continue to raise their costs and weigh on their profits as the economy is slowing sharply. But even after the global pandemic hit the United States, Mr. Trump and his advisers have denied that cutting tariffs would be one of the measures they would undertake to buoy the economy.

The White House now appears to be considering a proposal that would defer tariff duties for three months for importers, though it would not cancel them outright. The administration’s consideration of a deferral was reported earlier by Bloomberg News.

It is not clear which tariffs the deferral might apply to, or if the idea will ultimately be approved. But the proposal appears to be separate from a plan announced on Friday by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection that it would approve delayed payment of duties, taxes and fees on a case-by-case basis.

Investors left Asian markets mixed in early Thursday trading as they awaited news of the fate of a huge coronavirus economic rescue package in the United States.

Japan led the declines, falling 4 percent at one point, as investors also reacted to a sharp rise in confirmed coronavirus cases in Tokyo. Other markets rose or fell more modestly.

Futures markets suggested a similar hesitance awaited Wall Street for its Thursday opening. They predicted the S&P 500 index would open modestly lower.

The Senate Wednesday night unanimously approved a record-setting $2 trillion government relief bill.

Other markets also signaled hesitance.

Prices for longer-term U.S. Treasury bonds were up, sending yields lower and suggesting investors were looking for safe places to park their money. Oil prices, a proxy for the outlook for the world economy because they indicate demand for fuel, fell on futures markets.

In Tokyo, the Nikkei 225 index was down 3.8 percent midday. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was down 0.4 percent. South Korea’s Kospi index rose 0.8 percent after the country’s central bank announced further action to keep its economy supplied with money.

Australia was the Asia-Pacific region’s big gainer, with the S&P/ASX 200 index rising 2.6 percent.

Stocks on Wall Street rose on Wednesday as investors sized up a $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package intended to shore up the American economy, but the gains faded late in the day as debate over the bill continued without a vote in the Senate.

The legislation would be the biggest fiscal stimulus package in modern American history, and more than double the size of the roughly $800 billion stimulus package that Congress passed in 2009, during the last recession.

The S&P 500 climbed more than 1 percent, adding to a 9.4 percent gain on Tuesday that had come as investors anticipated that Democrats and Republicans would reach a deal over the plans.

Investors have welcomed the plans, but few are willing to conclusively say that the worst of the market sell-off is over.

Economists are expecting almost unthinkable declines in the gross domestic product in the second quarter. Analysts at Capital Economics said on Wednesday that they expected U.S. growth to fall 40 percent in the second quarter at an annualized pace, as the unemployment rate jumps to 12 percent, higher than its 10 percent peak in 2009.

South Korea is taking its boldest action yet to support its economy, pledging to put an unlimited supply of money into its financial system by buying up bonds.

The Bank of Korea said on Thursday that it will temporarily pump an unlimited amount of cash into money markets over the next three months through what is known as repurchase auctions. The action is intended to help banks and public institutions such as the land and housing authority, electricity providers and small business associations get access to much-needed cash.

The Bank of Korea’s vice governor, Yoon Myeon-shik, told reporters that it would not be wrong to see the new package as a form of “quantitative easing,” referring to huge bond buying projects that the United States and Europe undertook during the 2008 financial crisis.

South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, has pledged $81 billion in financial support to help companies facing bankruptcy and financing difficulties because of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The central bank’s move on Thursday comes as governments around the world are rushing to find ways to help shore up their own economies as they deal with the effects of the outbreak.

Reporting was contributed by Carlos Tejada, Alexandra Stevenson, Su-Hyun Lee, Heather Murphy.

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