Saturday, August 8, 2020

Live Stock Market News During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Unemployment Claims Show Continued Pressure on Economy: Live Updates

Credit…Kamil Krzaczynski/Reuters

Thanksgiving Day is being returned to the workers at major retail chains, fueled by concerns for worker and customer safety amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Target said Monday that it would close its stores on Thanksgiving this year as part of safety measures it has rolled out during the pandemic, following a similar announcement from Walmart last week, which cited appreciation for its staff.

“Let’s face it: Historically, deal hunting and holiday shopping can mean crowded events, and this isn’t a year for crowds,” Target, which is based in Minneapolis, said in a statement. Target said that it would start offering deals in October this year as well as after the holiday.

The pandemic has given retailers the chance to reverse the creep of Black Friday sales into Thanksgiving, something that had increased in popularity over the past decade. The sales have received widespread criticism for forcing workers into stores on a holiday often spent with family, and for promoting consumerism on what’s meant to be a day of gratitude. The criticism has deepened as more consumers shop online from their couches instead of lining up at stores.

Last year, Target opened at 5 p.m. on Thursday and stayed open until 1 a.m. on Black Friday. (It reopened at 7 a.m. that day.) A spokeswoman for Walmart said that the retailer had been open on Thanksgiving since “the 1980s.”

John Furner, the head of Walmart’s U.S. operations, said last week in a memo to employees that after a trying year, “We want you to enjoy the day at home with your loved ones.”

Other retailers are likely to follow suit given the size of Walmart and Target. Dick’s Sporting Goods also announced Monday that its retail locations and distribution centers would shut for the holiday.

Credit…John Locher/Associated Press

As coronavirus cases surge across the country, MGM Resorts International said on Monday that it would not restart live entertainment events before Aug. 31.

The company also expects to lay off the majority of employees working in the entertainment division on that day, according to July 27 letter sent to employees.

“We’ve pledged to be as transparent and supportive as possible with employees and are working to reduce the impact and help them moving forward,” MGM said in a statement. “We’re continuing to coordinate with public officials and look forward to the time when we can bring back employees to support our entertainment offerings and relaunch entertainment for our guests.”

Many MGM-owned resorts are now open to guests, including the MGM Grand, the Bellagio and the ARIA, with most amenities available including casinos, pools and dine-in restaurants.

Las Vegas’ road to reopening has been rocky. Since Nevada casinos opened on June 4, hundreds of thousands of people have filled the Las Vegas Strip, many of them without masks. As Covid-19 cases increased across the state, the governor of Nevada forced bars that did not serve food to shut their doors at midnight on July 10, for the second time since the pandemic hit.

Credit…Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Judy Shelton, President Trump’s unconventional nominee to the Federal Reserve Board, has lost the support of a second Republican senator, potentially imperiling her confirmation to the central bank.

Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, said in a statement that she would not vote for Ms. Shelton’s confirmation, joining Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, who said last week that he would not support Mr. Trump’s choice.

“Ms. Shelton has openly called for the Federal Reserve to be less independent of the political branches, and has even questioned the need for a central bank,” Ms. Collins said in her statement. “This is not the right signal to send, particularly in the midst of the pandemic.”

Ms. Shelton needs only a simple majority vote to clear the Senate. Assuming no Democrats support her candidacy, she would need to avoid losing another two Republicans to get the votes she needs for confirmation.

Ms. Shelton’s chances remain unclear. Lisa Murkowski, an Alaskan Republican who was thought to be a possible “no” vote on the nomination, told reporters last week that she was leaning yes.

Her candidacy has raised questions in part because of her close ties to the White House. Ms. Shelton advised Mr. Trump’s campaign and critics, including Democratic senators, have suggested she would lack the independence needed for the Fed board. Her views have also raised eyebrows: Ms. Shelton has a long history of pushing for a gold standard, or a similar system in which currency is backed by a common store of value.

She is nominated alongside Christopher Waller, the research director at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and a much more conventional pick. It is unclear when the Senate will vote on the nominations.

If both are confirmed, Mr. Trump will have nominated six of the board’s seven members, who hold a constant vote on monetary policy and regulatory oversight of the largest banks.

Credit…Christie Hemm Klok for The New York Times

Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Google’s parent company Alphabet, told employees Monday that they would not be expected back in the office until mid-2021.

The company’s work force, which has been working remotely since March, had previously been told to expect a return to the office in January 2021.

A Google spokesman said: “To give employees the ability to plan ahead, we are extending our global voluntary work from home option through June 30, 2021 for roles that don’t need to be in the office.”

Technology companies moved quickly with work-from-home policies from the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak, and have been reluctant to bring workers back too early. In May, Facebook said it would allow many employees to work from home permanently.

The moves reflect the reality that no one can be sure how long the coronavirus pandemic will last, as new outbreaks emerge across the United States even as the spread of the virus has slowed in early hot zones like New York City.

News of the decision was reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal.

  • Regal Cinemas, the No. 2 movie theater chain in the United States, consisting of 7,128 screens in 42 states, pushed back its planned reopening until Aug. 21. Regal, owned by Cineworld of Britain, had previously said it would start relighting marquees on Friday. But studios have since postponed release plans for new films. The No. 1 theater chain, AMC, said last week that it hoped to reopen in “mid to late August.”

  • The supermarket chain Albertsons reported on Monday that it had seen a boost to its bottom line since the pandemic hit. Sales were up by 21 percent, reaching $22.8 billion, with digital sales more than tripling. The company earned about $586 million during the first quarter of 2020, compared with $49 million during the same period last year.

  • The gym chain Planet Fitness announced Monday that all guests would be required to wear masks at all times while inside its facilities, effective Aug. 1. “Club employees have already been required to wear masks, but this new measure is designed to keep everyone in the clubs as safe as possible, which is Planet Fitness’ top priority,” the company said in a statement. The announcement follows similar policies implemented by national chains in recent weeks, including Walmart, Target and McDonald’s. Planet Fitness opened its 2,000th gym in December 2019.

Credit…Caitlin O’Hara for The New York Times

As the United States slowly, haltingly reopens, hotels are trying to persuade Americans to make this the summer of the road trip.

Although some hotels have kept a trickle of guests coming through the doors by catering to essential workers, people seeking a change in scenery and willing to drive to a vacation spot are the industry’s lifeline for the foreseeable future. Most business travel and nearly all group bookings have been postponed, and many travelers are reluctant to take unnecessary plane trips.

“Everything that we’ve seen and read was pointing to the summer of the drive market and drive destinations,” said John Davies, vice president of marketing at Benchmark Resorts & Hotels.

So, hotel marketing campaigns are leaning into nostalgia, invoking the familiar tropes of the family car ride to a beach, the mountains or a national park.

Given that many pools, spas, gyms and restaurants remain closed or are operating in only a limited capacity, hotels are promoting nearby parks, scenery and vistas along with simple activities that are easy to do while maintaining social distance. The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess has held drive-in movie nights, playing family-friendly cartoons and comedies in its parking lot, while Kimpton hotels in Winston Salem, N.C., and Los Angeles created pop-up “bodegas” with premade snacks and bottled cocktails for guests while their restaurants were shuttered.

The focus on regional and short-haul markets is changing how hotels communicate with travelers and giving a much bigger role to social media channels. “The messages are getting a little bit more specific,” said Bjorn Hanson, a hotel industry consultant. “This is a property-by-property environment — each really has to have its own unique messaging.”

Credit…Melinda Sue Gordon/Warner Bros.

Is Labor Day our moment to return to the movie theaters? Warner Bros. is betting on it.

On Monday, Warner said that it was scheduling the oft-moving “Tenet” for a Sept. 4 release in the United States. First, though, the film will open in over 70 countries, including Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Russia, Spain and the United Kingdom, starting on Aug. 26.

Touted as a mind-bending thriller from the filmmaker Christopher Nolan, “Tenet” has become something of a marker in the struggle to open theaters in the United States. Originally slated for July 17, the film’s release has been pushed back twice because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The release of Walt Disney’s “Mulan” has also been delayed, as has “Unhinged,” a Russell Crowe thriller from Solstice Studios. While those are likely to receive new release dates in the late summer or early fall, other studios have given up on 2020. Paramount, for example, has pushed its wide releases for films like “A Quiet Place 2” and the “Top Gun” sequel into 2021.

Here’s the latest news in the ongoing negotiations in Washington over a new stimulus package:

Republicans are seeking a $400-per-week reduction in unemployment benefits in their $1 trillion proposal economic recovery package, initially lowering the payments for tens of millions of jobless Americans from $600 to $200, according to officials familiar with the talks.

The proposal to slash the jobless aid by two thirds, part of a Republican plan they intend to present later on Monday, is likely to be among the most bitterly contested issues in bipartisan negotiations over the next round of pandemic relief. Democrats support a $3 trillion package that includes extending the $600-per-week unemployment payments, which expire on Friday, through the end of the year.

Gold reached a record high on Monday, continuing its rise as nervous investors sought a safe place to put their money.

The price for spot gold, which has been climbing steadily since March, reached a record high of $1,944 per ounce on Monday.

The price of gold usually rises amid financial uncertainty, and its recent climb reflected a number of factors, including concern over U.S.-China relations, the decline of the U.S. dollar amid the Federal Reserve’s stimulus efforts and rock-bottom interest rates. The last time gold reached this level was following the 2008 financial crisis, another time when the Fed flooded the economy with dollars to generate economic activity.

Stock markets were mixed on Monday, with shares in the United States slightly higher while those in Europe and Asia were mostly lower. The S&P 500 rose more than half a percent, as shares of large technology companies like Apple and Microsoft rebounded from a decline last week. Reflecting the rally in tech stocks, the Nasdaq composite rose more than 1.5 percent.

Monday saw some encouraging news on the coronavirus vaccine front. Shares of the biotech company Moderna rose more than 9 percent after it said that it had received another $472 million in funding from the U.S. government. Moderna’s experimental vaccine will go into a Phase 3 test on Monday involving 30,000 people.

The British government’s abrupt decision over the weekend to order travelers arriving from Spain to self-isolate for 14 days, citing a spurt in coronavirus cases in that country, added to uncertainty over travel restrictions and caused shares of travel-related companies to dive. The British low-cost airline EasyJet and the European travel company Tui each fell sharply, as did IAG, the parent company of British Airways and Iberia.

Credit…Michael A. Mccoy/Getty Images

The pandemic has scrambled what fliers want.

Price and schedule flexibility used to be the most important factors in choosing a flight, but now customers are more concerned about cleanliness and social distancing throughout the airport and on the plane, according to Bill Lentsch, a 30-year veteran of Delta Air Lines who serves as its chief customer experience officer.

“The order of priorities is different,” he said in an interview.

Delta is trying to stake a claim as one of the most cautious airlines in the industry, as it and its peers fight over the few people who are still flying. The airline has already promised to leave middle seats empty through September, test all of its employees for the coronavirus and clean each of its planes between flights.

Last month, Delta teamed up with the Mayo Clinic, and on Monday, it announced a new partnership with the parent company of Lysol to improve cleaning in flight, starting with airplane lavatories.

“It doesn’t sound terribly glamorous, but it’s incredibly important to our people,” Mr. Lentsch said.

The airline hopes those partnerships will yield dividends, helping to improve its practices in unexpected ways.

“We’re looking for a critical eye to help us fill any gaps and push the boundaries,” Mr. Lentsch said. “It is my opinion that in three to six months, there are going to be some products on our airplanes that I’m not even contemplating right now.”

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