They Were Fervent Trump Supporters. Then Coronavirus Hit.

In his northern Missouri town of about 6,000, Vincent Harris suspects he was one of the most vocal supporters President Donald Trump had there.

The 54-year-old Navy veteran was a self-described “deplorable” (a reference to Hillary Clinton’s notorious dig at Trump supporters in 2016). He fiercely defended the #MAGA mindset on social media, acting as one of the president’s model “keyboard warriors.”

But his staunch support for Trump began to slip as the coronavirus began to spread.

“Up until that time, I felt like the press had been uncharacteristically hard on him,” Harris said. For him, Trump’s “disregard for science” amid a pandemic marked a turning point that warranted national scrutiny.

Harris grew frustrated and discouraged as he watched Trump contradict the country’s top public health experts from the White House podium, downplaying the threat of the virus in the U.S. and hawking unproven treatments.

“I think what some may perceive as attacks from the media now are very fair, are accurate and are pointing out the inconsistencies that are incredibly dangerous from a public health perspective,” said Harris, a lifelong Republican.

Older Americans were key to securing Trump’s victory in 2016. But some ― including Harris, who supported the president in the last election ― aren’t so firmly in his camp this time around, a shift that could present a hurdle for Trump as he seeks a second term.

Among voters 45 to 64 years old, Trump outperformed Clinton by a 4-point margin, according to the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, a survey of more than 64,000 voters organized by Harvard University and administered by YouGov. The same survey showed Trump won voters 65 and older by a hefty margin of about 13 points.

This time around, according to a FiveThirtyEight average of national polls, voters 55 and older are almost evenly split between Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden.

Biden’s appeal to older voters, especially to those who are 65 and older, had been evident long before the United States’ first documented COVID-19 death in February. But Trump’s handling of the coronavirus crisis could push even more of those voters toward the presumptive Democratic candidate. The vast majority of Trump voters are likely to stay with him, but in a close election, even a small erosion in support could prove important.

A survey conducted by HuffPost earlier this month showed 45% of voters aged 45 to 64 disapprove of Trump’s response to the pandemic, compared to 54% who approve. The objection is stronger among voters 65 and older, with 56% who disapprove compared to 41% who approve.

Still, Trump maintains strong backing overall from those who voted for him in 2016, according to the poll. Just 12% of Trump voters disapprove of his response, with a staggering 85% who approve, the poll showed.

Melody Paquin of Barrow County, Georgia, is one of the former.

“He acts like everything comes down to money, like he doesn’t really care about the people,” Paquin, 69, said. “I have a daughter who is a nurse, and she puts herself at risk all the time. So if she can do that, why can’t he man up and do his job in a professional manner?”

Paquin said she’s been a strong Republican for as long as she can remember and was first drawn to Trump because he was a businessman. But his initial decision to publicly shrug off the virus’ potential threat, followed by his push to reopen the country despite a dearth in testing capacity and hospital preparedness, repelled her in recent months.

“Testing, testing, testing ― if that would have been done very early on, we wouldn’t have the mass number of deaths that we have had,” Paquin said.

“He was running his mouth about everybody having [personal protective equipment] while my own daughter in a big hospital was having to reuse masks,” she added. “He just lied and lied and lied.”

Paquin said she would rather vote for Sen. Bernie Sanders — who dropped out of the race for the Democratic nomination last month — than for Biden. But she added that she isn’t ruling out voting for a Democrat in 2020. She indicated she would consider voting for almost anyone who isn’t Trump and who tells the truth (including actor Sean Penn, apparently).

Starting To Question Things

Like Paquin, Harriette Sucher, a 61-year-old in Northern California, voted for Trump because of what she considered to be his business acumen. She said she “started to question things” when Trump appeared to ignore the warnings coming from Chinese doctors about the virus. His dubious suggestion that injecting disinfectant might help COVID-19 patients recover didn’t help.

“I started seeing a less intelligent man who’s not understanding the simple science,” Sucher said. She added: “It really matters how we handle this COVID-19 pandemic as a nation and how our leaders handle it. This disease does not know political boundaries.”

Sucher isn’t sure whom she’ll vote for in November. There’s a slight chance she’ll go for Biden, but she worries about his age, she said.

The decision is more straightforward for others, such as 51-year-old Stephanie Rivers of western Massachusetts. She’s one of roughly 40 million Americans who have lost their jobs in the midst of the economic crash caused by the pandemic.

“I looked to our president to guide us and make hard decisions to protect Americans, but what I saw and heard from him was anything but leadership,” said Rivers, an independent who has voted for both Republicans and Democrats in the past.

She said she supported Trump in 2016 because she felt he offered a better plan for job creation and economic stimulus than Clinton. But his botched response to the virus — including offering misinformation and frequently lambasting the media — caused her to withdraw her support. Barring the emergence of a third-party candidate, she said she’ll likely vote for Biden this year.

HuffPost heard from several past Trump voters who cited his rejection of science amid the pandemic as their top reason for dumping him in 2020. Of course, this isn’t the first time the president has undermined his own scientists.

Trump has kneecapped U.S. environmental policy, pulled out of an international climate agreement and buried his own government’s global warming report, which warned of catastrophic consequences for failing to act.

Asked why, if science was his biggest concern, he didn’t speak out against the president sooner, Harris pointed to his exasperation with Democrats. He said he was so angered by their accusations of Russian collusion against Trump’s 2016 campaign and the negative impact it had on the president’s ability to fulfill campaign promises that he was able to look past the president’s potential shortcomings.

Plus, the threat of the pandemic feels more immediate than global warming, making it a concern that’s easier to push to the back of his mind, Harris said.

Paquin believes Trump is committing “political suicide” with the way he’s handling the coronavirus crisis. Harris, however, appears unconvinced that the president’s rhetoric will be reflected in the larger pool of past Trump voters. 

He said he turned many people onto Trump, but those same people didn’t follow him when he began questioning the president’s coronavirus response. Friends he’s had for 40 years asked whether he had lost his mind, he said.

“If you would have asked me before this pandemic … if Trump followers were cultish, I would have said, ‘That’s ridiculous,’” Harris said. “At this point, I would tell you that what I’m seeing from some of the people who are ardent supporters of Trump is very synonymous with cult behavior.”

HuffPost received several emails from Trump voters who said they believe he’s done a stellar job navigating the pandemic. Others said they aren’t thrilled with his response but will stick with him for other reasons, namely his support for Israel and his tax cuts.

Neither Paquin nor Harris felt ready to commit to voting for Biden in November. But both suggested it seemed unlikely they could cast a ballot in favor of Trump, a man they once believed would bring spirited change to the country.

“This guy is refuting one of the most knowledgable disease experts in the world in the middle of a pandemic,” Harris said, referring to Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading infectious disease expert on the White House’s coronavirus task force.

“I will take a president who embraces science over a president who rejects science any day,” Harris added, “even if they are a Democrat. Even if that means having to vote for Biden.” 

Ariel Edwards-Levy contributed reporting.

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Kevin Hassett predicts coronavirus job losses will peak in June

Trump to unveil new coronavirus stimulus plan ‘shortly’: White House economic adviser

White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett discusses his outlook for the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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White House adviser Kevin Hassett on Friday predicted June could mark a turning point for the nation's unemployment rate after another brutal jobs report in May.

"We're going to get another bad May number that'll probably be an unemployment rate in the 20 percent range, maybe a little more," Hassett told FOX Business' Stuart Varney. "I expect that June will be the trough, and then we'll start heading back up."

UNEMPLOYMENT SURGED TO 14.7% IN APRIL, HIGHEST SINCE GREAT DEPRESSION

Unemployment in the U.S. is already at the highest level since the Great Depression, a remarkable sign of the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but economists have warned the full impact of the crisis on the labor market might not be seen until later this year.

"As the people sort of roll back in, I think to get jobs moving in the right direction, it's just going to take a little bit longer," Hassett said.

MARK CUBAN CALLS FOR DEPRESSION-ERA FEDERAL JOBS PROGRAM TO REVIVE US ECONOMY

In April, the Labor Department provided one of the first comprehensive looks at the economic impact of the virus outbreak and subsequent stay-at-home measures adopted by states to slow its spread. Employers cut 20.5 million jobs in the one-month period, according to the data, pushing the unemployment rate to 14.7 percent.

But economists say it’s likely the April jobs report, which relied on surveys conducted in the early weeks of the month, did not show the full extent of the labor market's destruction at the hands of the virus outbreak.

POWELL RULES OUT NEGATIVE INTEREST RATES, DESPITE TRUMP PRESSURE

Since the nation's economy came to a near standstill in mid-March, 38.6 million Americans have filed for first-time unemployment benefits, meaning the jobless rate will likely increase in May, even as some states begin to ease stay-at-home guidelines.

The government collected its data for the May jobs report in the beginning of the month including May 12.

A recent study from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland estimated the unemployment rate will reach its max in May before gradually declining, ending the year at roughly 7.5 percent.

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Amazon's extended coronavirus remote work policy could devastate nearby Seattle restaurants, bars

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos requested to testify before Congress

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is being called to testify on Capitol Hill regarding abuse of power.

Small businesses that serve some of America's biggest tech companies could continue to be starved for business as more employees work from home in the fall.

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Seattle-based bars and restaurants located near Amazon’s Seattle headquarters around its Downtown and South Lake Union campuses could reopen to a desolate dining scene after the e-commerce giant, which employees 50,000 Seattle-based workers, announced last week employees can work from home through Oct. 2 if their jobs allow them to do so, in an effort to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Seattle restaurants feeling the impact of Amazon, tech company closures

When Amazon and Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft advised staffers to work from home in March when the pandemic broke out, restaurants lost a big chunk of revenue within days, resulting in many temporary closures even before Gov. Jay Inslee issued the state’s first stay-at-home orders, Eater Seattle reported. Now, it's likely they will face a prolonged hit to business even after the state eases its stay-at-home orders.

AMAZON CEO BEZOS CALLED TO TESTIFY BEFORE CONGRESS 

Mediterranean restaurant Anar, located inside the Doppler building (also known as Amazon Tower I)  is temporarily closed, and its sister restaurant Mamnoon Street in the same building, is now running solely on take-out and delivery orders, Eater reported. Twelve of the 13 restaurants in Seattle-based chef Tom Douglas’ restaurant group have also reportedly shut down, for the time being, leaving only its new take-out pizzeria in Ballard open for business. The group's staff was cut from 850 employees to just five.

CORONAVIRUS PUSHES CITIES TO CAP THIRD-PARTY DELIVERY FEES 

To support local businesses near its campuses, Amazon announced in March a $5 million fund to help restaurants, bars and food trucks that were most impacted by COVID-19. It also rolled out a separate $2.5 million fund specifically for workers impacted by the virus including employees unable to take sick leave and for those without health insurance.

Amazon did not immediately return FOX Business' request for comment on details of the fund and if it would continue its effort to support small businesses nearby in the coming months.

AMAZON SAYS IT DOESN'T USE SELLERS' DATA AFTER WALL STREET JOURNAL STORY

Some small business owners who did receive funding say they will still not be able to keep their enterprises running for an additional five months. Zheng Cafe, a Chinese restaurant in South Lake, told Eater Seattle it received $2,500 from Amazon’s fund along with a grant, but said it used the money on unpaid bills.

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The delivery-only model has proven to be a difficult one to sustain across the country as small businesses grapple with using third-party delivery services to expand their customer reach, which can cost them sometimes up to 30 percent in commission fees per order.

A number of cities, including Seattle, have pushed to stop delivery services like Uber Eats, Grubhub, Postmates and DoorDash from charging more than 15 percent commission for take-out orders to reduce the financial burden for restaurants during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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U.S. Cases Rise; Congress Rejects Trump Test Offer: Virus Update

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U.S. cases of coronavirus rose faster than the one-week average. New York’s new deaths inched higher while hospital admissions fell. U.K. fatalities closed in on the toll for Italy, which reported a jump that kept its tally the highest in Europe.

New Jersey’s decision to reopen will be driven by how much “knucklehead” behavior is apparent as limits end. Saudi Arabia faces deep spending cuts, a top official said.

Congress’s two top leaders rejected a White House offer of testing equipment until the technologies are more widely available.

Key Developments

  • Virus Tracker: global cases top 3.4 million; deaths 242,000
  • America’s retailers lure virus-weary shoppers to malls
  • Stir-crazy Italians ask, who can we visit now?
  • U.S. beef output is down more than shutdowns suggest
  • Covid exit strategy needs a worldwide vaccine
  • From Houston to New York, muni finances in tatters

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U.K. Primary Schools to Reopen June 1: Telegraph (5 p.m. NY)

U.K. primary schools are due to reopen as soon as a June 1 under Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to gradually “unlock” Britain, The Sunday Telegraph reports. Johnson is expected to unveil the government’s “road map” out of the lockdown in a speech next Sunday.

Johnson hopes to put teachers on three weeks’ notice to reopen primary schools to all pupils on June 1, the newspaper reported.

Saudi Minister Warns of ‘Painful’ Steps (4:30 p.m. NY)

Saudi Arabia will need to take “painful” measures and consider deep spending cuts to deal with the pandemic and a meltdown in global oil markets, Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said on Saudi television station Al-Arabiya.

A week ago, Al-Jadaan told reporters the kingdom had survived similar, “maybe even worse,” crises and would pass through this one as it had others. On Saturday, he said government spending would need to be “cut deeply” and even some programs in Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s “Vision 2030” economic plan face cuts as implementation is delayed by steps to slow the outbreak.

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U.S. Cases Rose 3.2%, Above Week’s Average (4 p.m. NY)

U.S. cases increased 3.2% from the same time on Friday to 1.12 million, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University and Bloomberg News. The national increase was above the average daily increase of 2.9% over the past week.

  • New York reported 4,663 new cases, for a total of 312,977 — about 9% of total reported cases around the world. Deaths rose slightly, by 299, to 18,909, the Department of Health reported.
  • New Jersey registered 2,912 new infections, bringing total cases to 123,717. Governor Phil Murphy reported 205 deaths, down from 311 reported Friday, to bring the total to 7,742.
  • Massachusetts had 1,952 new cases, boosting the total to 66,263, while deaths rose by 130, to 3,846, the Department of Public Health said.
  • Illinois reported 2,450 new cases, boosting the total to 58,505, and deaths increased by 105, to 2,559, the Department of Public Health reported.
  • Florida added 735 new cases, up 2.1%, to 35,463, while deaths rose by 50, or 3.5% to 1,364, the state health department said.
  • Texas reported 1,293 new cases, the biggest one-day rise, bringing the state’s total to 30,552, with 31 additional fatalities, for a cumulative tally of 847, the state health service said.

California Deaths Rise (4:05 p.m. NY)

California added 98 new deaths from the outbreak, bringing the total toll to 2,171. The state added 1,755 new cases, with a total of 52,197. Hospitalizations increased by 5. Governor Gavin Newsom said Friday he could be making announcements on the easing of the state’s stay-home orders within days, not weeks.

Newsom faced protests after ordering beaches to close in Orange County, which is south of Los Angeles. Newport Beach Mayor Will O’Neill said he wasn’t consulted on the decision and that sheriffs in the coastal city don’t plan on arresting beachgoers.

House, Senate Decline Offer for Tests (3:55 p.m. NY)

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declined an offer from the Trump adminisrtation to use rapid coronavirus testing equipment for lawmakers until “these speedier technologies become more widely available.”

“Congress is grateful for the Administration’s generous offer,” the leaders said in a statement. “Congress wants to keep directing resources to the front-line facilities where they can do the most good the most quickly.”

Earlier, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar tweeted that three Abbott point-of-care machines and 1,000 tests are being sent to Capitol Hill. President Donald Trump noted “tremendous” testing capacity for lawmakers and tweeted that that the House — which opted to remain out next week — also should return to work.

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N.J. Alert for ‘Knucklehead’ Behavior (2:50 p.m. NY)

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, who is reopening state parks, said the pace of returning to normal would be driven in part by how much “knucklehead” behavior emerges as restrictions are relaxed.

“If we hear reports of people not taking either their health or the health of — maybe even more importantly — the health of other park-goers seriously then we won’t hesitate to — and I don’t say this with any joy — to close them again,” Murphy said.

Murphy reported signs of progress. Some 5,713 Covid-19 patients are currently hospitalized in the state, a drop of 1,000 on the week. Those in intensive care and on ventilators are also down.

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French Deaths Fewest in Almost Six Weeks (2:10 p.m. NY)

France reported 166 new deaths, bringing the total number to 24,760 since March 1. The country reported 1,530 new cases in 24 hours, for a total of 201,667. The French health ministry also said hospitals in Southern France are under less pressure.

Ethiopia Offers Business Tax Break (1:30 p.m. NY)

Ethiopia offered tax relief to companies affected by the outbreak, including cancellation of interest and penalties on outstanding taxes due for 2015-2018, state television said.

In addition, underlying taxes due for the period can be paid in installments, the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation reported, citing Finance Minister Eyob Tekalign. The government will grant a one-month grace period on payment of value-added and turnover tax payments.

Cuomo Orders Police Enforcement (1:20 p.m. NY)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered police to enforce social distancing and made it clear that he would not immediately follow other states in reopening or easing restrictions.

“I disagree with people who say ‘open the economy’ even though you know there’s a public health risk,” Cuomo said at a briefing in Queens. “I’m not going to put dollars signs over human lives.”

Cuomo noted trends that continue to show that the outbreak in New York has receded significantly: new and ongoing hospitalizations continued to drop, as did admissions to intensive care units.

Italy’s Deaths Rise, Cases Stable (12:10 p.m. NY)

Italy’s daily death count rose and new cases remained stable as the nation prepares to gradually ease its two-month lockdown as of Monday.

Figures from civil protection authorities showed 1,900 new cases, compared with 1,965 a day earlier. There were 474 deaths, compared with 269 on Friday, bringing the total number of fatalities to 28,710. The daily tally includes 282 deaths from April that were only communicated at the end of the month, the Lombardy region said on its website. Without the addition of the Lombardy numbers, which include Milan, the daily toll would be the lowest in more than a month.

U.K. Deaths Rise to More Than 28,000 (11:06 a.m. NY)

The U.K. reported an additional 621 deaths on Saturday, bringing its total to 28,131, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said, adding that 76 million pounds ($95 million) will be made available for victims of domestic abuse.

Jenrick also outlined measures to prevent homeless people who have been housed during the crisis from returning to the streets.

Eurostar Passengers Must Cover Faces (10:45 a.m. NY)

Passengers on Eurostar trains between London and Paris and Brussels must cover their faces starting Monday, the rail operator said on its website. “Any type of mask is suitable as long as it effectively covers your nose and mouth,” Eurostar said. “If you don’t have a mask you may be refused travel on our services.”

Eurostar said the move is in line with guidelines announced by governments in France and Belgium, where fines may be imposed on passengers not wearing masks.

Portugal Hospitalizations Decline (9:36 a.m. NY)

Portugal reported 203 new confirmed coronavirus cases in a day, taking the total to 25,190, Health Minister Marta Temido said. The total number of deaths rose by 16 to 1,023. The number of hospitalized cases and of patients in intensive care units fell. Deaths so far indicate a fatality rate of 4.1%, while for those more than 70 years old it’s 14.5%, Temido said. Figures for confirmed cases from previous days are being revised to remove some duplicated cases, according to Temido.

— With assistance by Steve Geimann, Ian Fisher, Arsalan Shahla, Rodrigo Orihuela, Stepan Kravchenko, Hailey Waller, Ari Natter, Linus Chua, Ania Nussbaum, Samuel Gebre, Marco Bertacche, Vivian Nereim, and Reema Al Othman

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Stocks surge as Gilead coronavirus drug eclipses GDP drop

Walmart, JPMorgan Chase, ExxonMobil stocks should be avoided: GraniteShares CEO

GraniteShares founder and CEO Will Rhind says in order to outperform the market in the long run, investors must make these specific tweaks to their portfolios.

U.S. equity markets soared Wednesday as upbeat news about a potential coronavirus treatment from drugmaker Gilead Sciences helped offset a larger-than-expected drop in first-quarter gross domestic product.

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The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 449 points, or 1.86 percent, in the opening minutes of trading while the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq Composite rose 2.04 percent and 2.03 percent, respectively.

The U.S. economy contracted 4.8 percent in the first quarter, according to an advanced reading from the Commerce Department, outstripping the 4 percent drop that economists surveyed by Refinitiv were expecting. The negative print was the first in six years and the biggest since the financial crisis.

The GDP report came as the Federal Reserve wraps up its April meeting, at the conclusion of which the central bank is expected to give an assessment of COVD-19’s impact on the U.S. economy and the impact its lending programs are having on credit flow to businesses and consumers.

Drugmaker Gilead Sciences announced positive data was emerging from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ study of using the antiviral drug remdesivir for the treatment of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, earnings season continued with Dow component Boeing and a number of other high-profile companies releasing their quarterly results.

Boeing reported a first-quarter loss of $641 million as COVID-19 and the grounding of the 737 MAX eroded sales. The aerospace giant expects to begin production of the 737 MAX at low rates in 2020 before ramping up to 31 per month in 2021.

Revenue at Alphabet jumped 13 percent year-over-year as “stay-at-home” orders drove traffic to Google, YouTube and cloud-based services. While Google’s advertising business was strong in January and February, there was a sharp slowdown in March as the virus’ outbreak forced the delay of ad campaigns.

Starbucks reported second-quarter profit fell 50 percent from a year ago as COVID-19 forced the coffee chain to limit operations around the world. Same-store sales slipped 3 percent in the U.S. and 10 percent globally. Comparable sales in China tumbled 50 percent, though most of those stores have since reopened.

General Electric said first-quarter profit spiked 73 percent despite COVID-19 causing a “dramatic decline” in its commercial aerospace business. GE warned results in the April-through-June period will see a sequential decline due to the virus.

Elsewhere, Uber announced chief technology officer Thuan Pham will step down effective May 16. The news comes amid a report the company is considering cutting 20 percent of its workforce as COVID-19 crushes demand for the service.

Facebook, Microsoft and Tesla are among the names reporting after the closing bell.

Looking at commodities, West Texas Intermediate crude oil surged 25 percent to $15.47 a barrel after an inventory report from the American Petroleum Institute showed stockpiles grew less than expected. The official report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration is due out at 10:30 a.m. ET. Gold slipped 0.52 percent to $1,713 an ounce.

U.S. Treasurys gained, pushing the yield on the 10-year note down by 0.7 basis points to 0.603 percent.

European markets were higher, with Britain’s FTSE up 2.2 percent, Germany’s DAX climbing 2.11 percent and France’s CAC advancing 1.62 percent.

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In Asia, China’s Shanghai Composite gained 0.44 percent and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng added 0.28 percent while Japan’s Nikkei was closed for a holiday.

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Oil tankers fill up as coronavirus crushes crude demand

Oil won’t go below $10 a barrel: Analyst

Lipow Oil Associates Andy Lipow argues as oil companies fight off bankruptcy, we will see more consolidation in the oil industry.

Oil tankers are massing off the coast of California and elsewhere as burgeoning supplies leave producers scrambling to find storage.

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“Stay-at-home” orders issued by governments worldwide to slow the spread of COVID-19 have reduced global crude demand by 30 million barrels per day, worsening a supply glut that has left the world awash in oil.

The surplus has storage capacities nearing their max, causing producers to turn to offshore supertankers as an alternative means of hoarding their crude.

GOLDMAN SACHS HAS SIMPLE 3-PART CORONAVIRUS PLAN TO CAPITALIZE ON REOPENING OF US ECONOMY

Supertankers are a “good place to park all of your crude in one place,” Stewart Glickman, an energy analyst at New York-based CFRA Research, told FOX Business. Most tankers are already accounted for, however, and “prices are through the roof” for the ones that aren’t, he pointed out.

An oil tanker sits anchored off the Fos-Lavera oil hub near Marseille, France, October 15, 2015. (Reuters/Jean-Paul Pelissier)

A very large crude carrier that can hold 2 million barrels of oil was fetching more than $5 per barrel per month, five times the price from a year ago, before prices eased off their highs. There are currently 140 million to 160 million barrels at sea.

Strong demand for tankers has caused the shares of companies within the space – Scorpio Tankers, Teekay Tankers, Diamond S Shipping and Nordic Amren Tanker Shipping – to outperform oil services and equipment companies that have been hit hard by crude oil prices falling 78 percent this year.

Demand for tankers began when “OPEC started to increase production in early March,” Peter McNally, global sector lead for industrials, materials and energy at the New York-based research firm Third Bridge, told FOX Business.

That’s when Russia and Saudi Arabia, two of the world’s largest producers, embarked on a price war that led to both countries joining the No. 1 producer — the U.S. –  in pumping out record amounts of crude oil just as demand was beginning to be impacted by the global response to COVID-19.

“Very few people had a sense of how quickly demand was falling and as demand started to fall and refiners started to run at reduced rates or even just close, the question of where to put this oil emerged,” McNally said.

U.S. crude oil inventories swelled by 17 percent over the past seven weeks and are straining storage capacity. Inventory at Cushing, Oklahoma, a key U.S. oil hub, ballooned to 59.7 million barrels last week, up 8.7 percent from the week prior, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The storage facility tops out at about 76 million barrels.

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If inventories build at the same pace they’ve been going at since mid-March, they will “probably run out by the end of May,” Glickman said, adding “it might even be faster than that” if companies panic and start trying to obtain storage before competitors.

The fact that crude futures contracts for delivery over a year from now are valued at more than twice current prices gives producers an incentive to store their output in hopes of bigger profits later.

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While companies will shut production to limit supply, Glickman says the biggest catalyst for price increases will be demand coming back. A V-shaped recovery would provide a “nice groundswell of support for higher prices,” he said, but admitted there’s no “visibility as to when economies are actually going to return.”

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New home sales drop in coronavirus pandemic, falling 15% in March

How will housing in a post-coronavirus world perform?

DeBianchi Real Estate founder Sam DeBianchi discusses the housing market and says the coronavirus pandemic won’t automatically cause city residents to move to the suburbs.

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U.S. new home sales plunged 15.4% in March as a winding down in the middle of the month due to the coronavirus began to rattle the housing market.

The Commerce Department reported Thursday that sales of new single-family homes dropped to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 627,000 last month after sales had fallen 4.6% in February.

GETTING A MORTGAGE-PAYMENT BREAK ISN'T THE BOON MANY EXPECTED

The decline was expected, though economists say it will grow much worse as the country struggles with a shutdown that has thrown millions of people out of work and disrupted wide swaths of the economy.

US HOME SALES PLUNGE 8.5% IN MARCH, AND IT MAY GROW WORSE

The median price for a new home sold in March was $321,400, down 2.6% from a median price of $330,100 in February.

By region of the country, sales fell a sharp 41.5% in the Northeast and were down 38.5 in the West. Both of those regions had states that implemented stay-at-home orders sooner than other parts of the country.

DAVID BECKHAM BUYS MIAMI CONDO IN STRIKING NEW SKYSCRAPER

Sales fell 8.1% in the Midwest and were down a slight 0.8% in the South.

Ben Ayers, senior economist at Nationwide, said that sales activity in coming months will take a significant hit from the government-mandated shutdowns and layoffs. But he said the outlook for the housing sector should improve as the virus impacts wane.

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"Low mortgage rates and continued demand from the millennial generation should drive a rebound in housing activity later this year and into 2021," he said.

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House to vote on $484B coronavirus relief bill to replenish small-business fund

Trump, Mnuchin think new PPP will pass the House on Wednesday

President Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin discuss the details of the new Paycheck Protection Program funding deal.

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House representatives are voting Thursday on a $484 billion coronavirus relief package that will boost the tapped-out small business loan program, the latest effort by lawmakers to bolster the stalled U.S. economy.

The package, which passed the Senate on Tuesday and will head to President Trump for his signature after the House approves it, includes $310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, established to help small businesses maintain workers on their payroll during the virus outbreak.

There is also $75 billion for hospitals, with a special focus on those in rural areas, $25 billion to expand testing for COVID-19 and $60 billion in loans and grants for a separate Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.

It will add to the already unprecedented levels of federal spending. Last month, Congress passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, which first created the $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program.

JPMORGAN'S SMALL BUSINESS RELIEF GIVES MILLIONS TO BIG RESTAURANT CHAINS, PROMPTING BACKLASH

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif. arrives to read a statement outside her office on Capitol Hill March 23, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

But money for the program ran dry within two weeks, prompting anger from the business community.

The aid can be used for payroll and other expenses, like insurance premiums, mortgages, rent or utilities through June 30. As long as 75 percent of the money goes toward keeping workers employed and maintaining salary levels, the loans, which are guaranteed by the federal government, will be fully forgiven.

In their haste to get life support to small businesses, Congress did not exclude publicly traded companies or limit market value in the economic-relief plan that passed last month. Regardless of how much cash a company had in the bank, if the business could show any loss as a result of the virus outbreak, it qualified for a small-business loan through the PPP, according to an SBA source.

BURGER KING FRANCHISE OWNER WITH OVER 1,000 STORES MAY APPLY FOR SMALL BUSINESS LOAN

That opened the program to a slew of big firms that could have received help via different avenues, like the Federal Reserve.

At least 75 publicly traded companies — some with market values well over $100 million — tapped the government-backed Paycheck Protection Program, receiving a combined $300 million in low-interest loans, according to a recent Associated Press analysis.

The loans were among the 4,412 approved by banks and the Small Business Administration worth $5 million or more, according to SBA data. The total amount of loans approved for at least $5 million totaled $30.9 billion — or about 9 percent of all those approved. The size of the typical loan nationally was $206,000, according to the data.

The backlash against the program began this week, after national restaurant chains that employed thousands of workers before the crisis secured millions of dollars in small-business loans. Among the companies were Potbelly Corp., the nationwide sandwich shop chain, Ruth's Hospitality Group, which operates a series of steakhouses, and Shake Shack.

Congressional leaders were unable to secure an agreement that would allow lawmakers to pass the legislation via unanimous consent. Many in the chamber will be required to return to Washington from their home states, facing the possibility of objection from members of either party.

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The House is planning to take precautions during the vote by adhering to social distancing guidelines.

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Congress isn’t scheduled to return to Washington until May 4

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IPhone China Shipments Rebound as Manufacturing Resumes

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Apple Inc.’s iPhone shipments in China rebounded in March as the world’s second-largest economy worked to reboot its manufacturing industry following the disruption caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Shipments of Apple’s marquee device jumped 19% in March from a year earlier to 2.5 million units, according to Bloomberg calculations based on monthly data from the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, a government think tank. The broader smartphone market, including Android devices, shrunk by roughly 22% to 21 million shipments, the academy said.

February, which was most impacted by government lockdown measures designed to curb the spread of the virus, saw iPhone shipments plunge more than 60% year-on-year as factories remained shut past the Lunar New Year holiday break.

Apple’s assembly plants in China, run mainly by Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., also known as Foxconn, slowly resumed operations through that month and into March. At the mega-complex in Zhengzhou, known as “iPhone City,” more than 200,000 workers had returned to production lines as of late March, according to the local authority’s website. The factory shipped almost 300,000 iPhone units per day at that point, a similar output to its pre-coronavirus capacity, the authority said.

Read more: Apple Plans iPad-Like Design for Next iPhone, Smaller HomePod

Apple is preparing a redesign of its top-tier iPhones, borrowing cues from the latest iPads, as part of a major fall refresh that will see 5G added to as many as four new handset models and the release of two key new accessories, Bloomberg News reported on Monday. Some of the new iPhones could be released several weeks later than normal because of the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

— With assistance by Vlad Savov, and Yuan Gao

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‘Jobs for Life’ in South Korea and Japan to Cushion Virus Blow

A longtime thorn for businesses and productivity in Japan and South Korea is set to prove a bulwark for those economies as the coronavirus threatens millions of jobs around the world.

Mass layoffs are frowned upon and labor laws make it hard for employers to fire workers in the two North Asian nations, helping keep jobless rates low. In February — even as virus cases spread — South Korea’s unemployment rate dropped to 3.3% while Japan’s is set to hold at 2.4%, according to economists surveyed ahead of data due Tuesday.

Although less than before, lifetime employment remains a hallmark of corporate cultures in both countries, with employees at the likes of Samsung Electronics Co., Sony Corp., Hyundai Motor Co. and Panasonic Corp. among beneficiaries. During the 2008-2009 financial crisis, both countries reported much lower jobless rates than the U.S. and eurozone, helping lay the groundwork for their economic recoveries.

“It’s generally in their corporate DNA to make every effort possible to avoid making redundancies, and where everyone in the company embraces the mentality that ‘all of us are in this together’ during tough times,” said Lloyd Chan, an economist at Oxford Economics. “Such a corporate culture also has as much to do with public policies that discourage redundancies and protect employees from termination.”






China, too, may escape European or U.S.-style layoffs, but for a different reason. There, the Communist Party wields enormous influence, meaning the government can instruct companies not to fire workers.

In good times, the difficulty of laying off workers has generally been viewed as an impediment to productivity as business executives find it harder to restructure their companies. Last year, the World Economic Forum recommended South Korea and Japan improve their labor market flexibility.

“Various rigidities” undermine Japan’s labor market while South Korea has a rigid two-tier system that is more generous toward permanent employees, it said. During the financial crisis a similar two-tier system in Japan led companies including Toyota to fire temporary workers rather than regular staff. China’s market is undermined by “rigidities in wage determination and redundancy,” the report said.

South Korea has faced criticism from economists and investors for failing to reform its labor market in the face of opposition from militant unions. Government jobs are jokingly referred to as “iron rice bowls” and unionized jobs at some companies have even been called “diamond rice bowls.”

Greater reliance on bonus pay in Japan and South Korea also gives large companies more room to cut wages instead of firing workers. Some conglomerates can also draw on record cash reserves that might otherwise have been used to raise base salaries to help maintain employment levels.

“Again we’re unlikely to see big job cuts by Japanese companies this time,” said Atsushi Takeda, chief economist at Itochu Research Institute. “Culturally it’s just not OK. It’s not like in the U.S. That’s why companies are so hesitant to raise wages and have accumulated so much cash instead.”

Still, government officials are doing their bit to insure against a spike in joblessness in coming months, too. Boosting jobs was a key component of an 11.7 trillion won ($9.6 billion) extra budget South Korea’s government pushed through in March. Japan has already offered payments to workless freelancers, but is still considering wider measures to protect employment.

“Low unemployment could be a factor in helping economies recover somewhat quicker,” Bloomberg economist Justin Jimenez said. “Structural labor market rigidities in economies like South Korea and Japan have historically kept increases in unemployment relatively manageable during times of crisis.”

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