The bill for saving the world economy is $7 trillion and rising

A record number of Americans filed for their first week of unemployment benefits, as businesses shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. CNN's Christine Romans reports.

Posted: Mar 26, 2020 10:20 AM
Updated: Mar 27, 2020 6:45 AM


The United States, Europe, Japan, China and India are unleashing trillions of dollars in government spending and newly created money as they desperately attempt to keep the global economy from sinking into depression.

The response to the coronavirus pandemic has been unprecedented in terms of speed and scale. Commitments from governments and central banks to date are close to $7 trillion, according to an analysis by CNN Business. The total includes government spending, loan guarantees and tax breaks, as well as money printing by central banks to buy assets such as bonds and stock funds.

The figure includes the $2 trillion US relief package working its way through Congress and an anticipated 30 trillion yen ($274 billion) in stimulus from Japan that could be approved next month. In Europe, CNN Business tallied stimulus efforts by the biggest economies: Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy and Spain.

The combined effort dwarfs the response to the 2008 financial crisis, which smashed records at the time. But economists worry even the Herculean efforts undertaken so far won't be sufficient should the crisis extend beyond June.

'The [$2 trillion US] stimulus package is likely the bare minimum needed to offset the current drag from the outbreak,' Bank of America economist Joseph Song told clients Thursday. 'The economy will likely need close $3 [trillion] in fiscal stimulus, if not more.'

The last time global economic growth was this depressed during peacetime was in 1938, according to Chetan Ahya, Morgan Stanley's chief economist.

G20 leaders, who represent the world's biggest economies, said Thursday that they stand ready to do 'whatever it takes' to minimize the economic damage from the pandemic and restore global growth.

'The magnitude and scope of this response will get the global economy back on its feet and set a strong basis for the protection of jobs and the recovery of growth,' the leaders said in a joint statement after a video conference. They say that their countries have committed to stimulus worth $5 trillion.

Yet the vast spending can only blunt some of the economic pain. While unemployment benefits and cutting checks to citizens will provide much needed assistance, the economy can't begin to recover in earnest until bars and restaurants start to reopen, people go back to work and travel resumes. Even then, it will take time, as China is discovering.

'It's not going to be possible to get back to the same level of output and activity immediately,' Ahya said, noting the lingering effects of a sharp spike in unemployment and battered corporate balance sheets.

Here are the highlights from the first wave of central bank and government action.

United States

  • US lawmakers are expected to pass a $2 trillion stimulus package later this week. The legislation includes direct payments to individuals, a boost to unemployment benefits and a $500 billion lending program.
  • Congress has already approved more than $112 billion to ramp up vaccine research and provide two weeks of paid sick leave for those who are being tested or treated for Covid-19, the disease cause by the novel coronavirus.
  • The Federal Reserve has let loose a tsunami of stimulus measures in recent days. That includes an initial pledge to purchase $700 billion in US Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities, which now has no cap and can include corporate bonds and bond exchange-traded funds. The Fed also announced $300 billion in new financing to keep credit flowing to businesses and consumers.

United Kingdom

  • The UK government has unveiled £330 billion ($397 billion) in loan guarantees and suspended local business taxes for the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors for 12 months. It will also cover 80% of workers' salaries for at least the next three months, up to a maximum of £2,500 ($2,900) a month. It's unclear how much that initiative will cost.
  • In addition, the UK government on Thursday promised to provide the self-employed with a cash grant of 80% of their average monthly profit, up to £2,500 ($3,000) a month, over the next quarter.
  • The Bank of England has said it will increase its holdings of UK government and corporate bonds by £200 billion ($242 billion).

European Union

  • Germany has unveiled a rescue package worth up to €750 billion ($825 billion) that includes measures to spur lending to businesses and take direct stakes in companies.
  • France has approved €45 billion ($50 billion) in relief for small businesses and unemployed workers. It is also guaranteeing €300 billion ($330 billion) in corporate borrowing.
  • Italy has greenlit €25 billion ($27.5 billion) to help workers and support the country's health system, while Spain has put up €200 billion ($220 billion).
  • The European Central Bank has said it will spend €750 billion ($824 billion) buying government debt and private securities before the end of 2020, and stands ready to do more if necessary. That's on top of €120 billion ($133 billion) in extra purchases it announced previously.

China

  • So far, China has announced at least 116.9 billion yuan ($16.4 billion) in financial relief and stimulus, plus 800 billion yuan ($112.5 billion) in tax and fee reductions. But if necessary, the country could very well spend trillions of dollars and rack up massive amounts of debt to shore up its economy.
  • The People's Bank of China has adopted various credit easing measures, allocating at least 1.15 trillion yuan ($162 billion) to help businesses hit by the virus.

Japan

  • The Japanese government is expected to consider an economic stimulus package in the coming weeks that would likely include cash handouts as well as measures to help small and medium-sized companies get access to loans. The package could total 30 trillion yen ($274.2 billion).
  • The Bank of Japan has said it will raise the annual rate of its purchases of exchange-traded funds by 6 trillion yen ($55 billion) and boost the annual rate of purchases of real estate investment trusts by 90 billion yen ($822 million). It also raised the limit for purchases of commercial paper and corporate bonds by 2 trillion yen ($18 billion).

India

  • The Indian government unveiled a relief package worth $22.6 billion just 36 hours after the country's lockdown was imposed. It includes health coverage and food assistance, as well as subsidies and benefits for workers.

— Laura He, Manveena Suri, Kaori Enjoji, Yoko Wakatsuki, Ya Chun Wang, Fanny Bobille, Benjamin Berteau and Hada Messia contributed reporting.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the value in yuan of the financial relief announced by China.

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