The Latest: Halliburton furloughs workers as oil prices sink

NEW YORK (AP) — The Latest on action in the financial markets (all times local):

10:45 a.m.

Halliburton will institute a mandatory furlough for 3,500 employees in Houston, Texas, beginning next week amid falling oil prices.

The furlough will begin Monday and will last up to 60 days, company spokeswoman Emily Mir said Wednesday.

Crude oil prices have plunged 45% so far in March and are at the lowest level since 2002. The energy market has been slammed by a slump in demand because of the virus pandemic and a price war between some of the world’s largest producers.

Halliburton, which is one of the world’s largest providers of oilfield services, has plummeted more than 65% in March alone. Shares of larger oilfield services company Schlumberger have dropped 51% this month.

During the furlough, affected employees will work one week on followed by one week off, the Houston-based company said. Employees will maintain their benefits, including health insurance, during the week off but will not be paid.

9:45 a.m.

Shares in European plane maker Airbus plunged Wednesday after it suspended operations at all facilities in France and Spain.

Airbus announced the four-day suspension Tuesday because of new virus confinement measures imposed in both countries. It said the suspension would allow time to put new safety and hygiene measures in place.

But the move puts thousands of people temporarily out of work and is a sign of the larger trouble for the aviation industry caused by the virus.

After falling Tuesday, Airbus shares sank another 15% by midday Wednesday, much deeper than the overall decline on France’s CAC-40 exchange.

Airbus is one of Europe’s leading manufacturers and a major employer in France. It said it’s “constantly assessing the situation” and working with airlines and suppliers to minimize the impact of the virus on their operations.

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