08 Jun Live Stock Market News During the Coronavirus Pandemic
Stocks on Wall Street erased their losses for the year, a remarkable milestone for a market that was reeling just a few months ago as investors feared the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The S&P 500 rose more than 1 percent on Monday, adding to a weekslong rebound that has been fueled by hopes for a quick economic recovery, significant intervention by the Federal Reserve and a disregard for the serious risks that businesses and consumers still face.
A familiar list of companies has been leading the recent gains. Airlines have been lifted by signs that domestic travel is starting to pick up, and they rallied again on Monday along with Boeing. With oil prices rebounding, crude briefly crossed above $40 a barrel on Monday for the first time in months, energy companies have also surged.
Stocks have been on an upward trajectory for weeks as investors have responded to signs around the world that the virus was abating. New York, the center of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, on Monday began to lift some restrictions on construction, manufacturing and retail operations.
Progress like that, and early evidence that it means people are returning to work, helped fuel a nearly 5 percent gain in the S&P 500 last week — its biggest weekly run since early April. But the market’s rebound really began in March, after the Federal Reserve signaled its willingness to funnel unlimited amounts of liquidity into financial markets. Since then, stocks have risen more than 44 percent.
Investors have plenty of reasons to be wary, of course: A second wave of the coronavirus outbreak that forces governments to clamp down on public activity again, a premature end to government spending or a slower-than-expected return of business could all dampen enthusiasm for stocks.
According to data compiled by The New York Times, new infections are still increasing in more than a third of states. Public officials are also wary of a surge in new cases as thousands of protesters across the country demonstrate against police brutality after the death of George Floyd.
The U.S. economy entered a recession in February.
The United States officially entered a recession in February 2020, the committee that calls downturns announced on Monday, marking the beginning of the first economic downturn since the 2007 to 2009 slump.
The National Bureau of Economic Research said that the economy hit its peak in February and had since fallen into a downturn, as pandemic-related shutdowns tanked activity and brought an end to a record-long expansion — one that had lasted 128 months.
Analysts often refer to recessions as two consecutive quarters of contraction. The National Bureau of Economic Research, a nonprofit group that tracks economic cycles in the United States, formally determines when recessions begin and end based on a range of factors, most importantly gross domestic product and employment. Most economists expect that this recession will be both deep and short, with growth rebounding as state economies reopen and the world figures out how to function amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“The unprecedented magnitude of the decline in employment and production, and its broad reach across the entire economy, warrants the designation of this episode as a recession, even if it turns out to be briefer than earlier contractions,” the bureau said in a statement.
Globally, “this is almost certainly the deepest recession” since at least the Second World War, Jan Hatzius, Goldman Sachs chief economist, wrote in a note on Monday. But it is also probably the shortest: He noted that the bureau’s database showed no other recession that had lasted less than six months in records dating back to the mid-1800s.
Most economists believe the recovery has already begun. On Friday, after weeks of data depicting enormous economic destruction, the Labor Department reported that the unemployment rate fell and employers added 2.5 million jobs in May. But tens of millions are still out of work, and the unemployment rate, which fell to 13.3 percent from 14.7 percent in April, remains worse than in any previous postwar recession.
When the Labor Department reported on Friday that employers had added jobs in May and that the unemployment rate had unexpectedly fallen, economists were surprised.
Others had a different reaction: suspicion.
For many, those suspicions seemed confirmed by a note, deep within the report, saying some workers had been improperly counted as employed rather than unemployed. If those workers had been classified correctly, the unemployment rate would have been about 16.4 percent in May, rather than the official rate of 13.3 percent (although it still would have been lower than in April).
But economists across the political spectrum say it would be all but impossible to manipulate the jobs numbers undetected. And while there is no question that the speed and severity of the economic collapse has made gathering and interpreting economic data unusually difficult, they say the Bureau of Labor Statistics — the Labor Department office that produces the jobs report — has done an admirable job both ensuring that the numbers are reliable and publicly identifying potential issues.
The nation’s largest airlines are preparing for a limited rebound next month as more Americans book vacations in places like Florida and the mountains and national parks in the West.
That resurgence would offer some hope to the travel industry, which racked up billions of dollars in losses as tourists and businesspeople canceled trips in the last three months because of the coronavirus epidemic. Some in the industry said the recovery was now already underway.
After cratering in April, the number of travelers and airline and airport employees filtering through the Transportation Security Administration’s airport checkpoints has steadily climbed in recent weeks. The low point arrived on April 14, when the agency screened fewer than 90,000 people, just 4 percent of those screened the same date last year. On Sunday, the agency screened more than 440,000 people, about 17 percent of last year’s number and the best day since March.
Investors appear to have noticed those numbers, and airline stock prices have surged. American Airlines is up nearly 90 percent since Monday morning last week, United Airlines is more than 70 percent higher, and Delta Air Lines is up more than 45 percent.
As some of the wealthiest health care companies in the United States received billions of dollars in taxpayer funds to help them cope with lost revenue from the pandemic, they laid off or cut the pay of tens of thousands of doctors, nurses and lower-paid workers, while continuing to pay their top executives millions.
The New York Times analyzed tax and securities filings by 60 of the country’s largest hospital chains, which together have received more than $15 billion in emergency funds through the economic stimulus package in the federal CARES Act.
The hospitals — including publicly traded juggernauts like HCA and Tenet Healthcare, elite nonprofits like the Mayo Clinic, and regional chains with thousands of beds — are collectively sitting on tens of billions of dollars of cash reserves that are supposed to help them weather an unanticipated storm. They awarded their five highest-paid officials about $874 million in the most recent year for which they have disclosed their finances.
At least 36 of those hospital chains have laid off, furloughed or reduced the pay of employees as they try to save money during the pandemic.
More than a dozen workers at the wealthy hospitals said in interviews that their employers had put the heaviest financial burdens on front-line staff, including low-paid cafeteria workers, janitors and nursing assistants. They said pay cuts and furloughs made it even harder for medical workers to do their jobs, forcing them to treat more patients in less time.
‘Corporate America has failed black America.’
In the past week, it has seemed like every major company has publicly condemned racism. All-black squares cover corporate Instagram. Executives have made multimillion-dollar pledges to anti-discrimination efforts and programs to support black businesses.
Yet many of the same companies expressing solidarity have contributed to systemic inequality, targeted the black community with unhealthy products and services, and failed to hire, promote and fairly compensate black men and women, David Gelles writes.
“Corporate America has failed black America,” said Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation and a member of the board of Pepsi, and who is black. “Even after a generation of Ivy League educations and extraordinary talented African-Americans going into corporate America, we seem to have hit a wall.”
With dozens of cities protesting the violent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and others, a national conversation about racism is underway. For black executives, who have spent their lives excelling at business while overcoming structural discrimination, the killings and ensuing protests have unleashed an outpouring of emotion. Many are speaking candidly about their private fears, as well as their disappointment with the corporate apparatus that made them stars.
Robert F. Smith, a private equity billionaire and the richest black man in America, said he had been overwhelmed by conflicting feelings. “I am saddened, I am angry, I am upset and I am determined,” he said. “I run through that wave of emotions every minute.”
Something remarkable is percolating in the commercial real estate market: Investors may end up losing millions in tax savings on gains from the sale of their properties because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Like-kind real estate exchanges, also known as 1031 exchanges (after the provision in the Internal Revenue Code), allow investors to sell a commercial property and pay no tax on the gains as long as the money from that sale is reinvested in other real estate. It could be a similar building, land or even air rights.
To reap the benefit, real estate investors need to identify a replacement property 45 days after the sale of the original property and close on the purchase within 180 days. If the criteria are met, the investors can defer taxes on the gains from the sale of the property. The deferral can extend until the investor’s death, at which point the capital gains tax is wiped out.
If the criteria are not met, the investors face not only an enormous tax bill for the gains but additional taxes for deductions taken while they owned the building. That can amount to millions of dollars for some properties.
Mortgage rates may be appealingly low, but people shopping for a new home this spring face a challenging market.
Demand, which was pent up during coronavirus stay-at-home orders, and a dearth of homes for sale are keeping prices high and setting off bidding wars in some areas as states continue to reopen for business. Some buyers may also find it tougher to qualify for mortgages, as lenders require higher credit scores and bigger down payments in response to higher unemployment and economic uncertainty in the pandemic.
Nationally, the median price for a home, excluding new construction, was about $287,000 in April, up more than 7 percent from a year earlier, the National Association of Realtors reported.
Now, with many states lifting restrictions on home tours, the housing market is reawakening. Shoppers are feeling more comfortable visiting properties: About two-thirds of people who attended an open house within the past year said they would attend an open house now “without hesitation,” a separate survey from the Realtors association found.
But some sellers remain cautious. They want to show homes by appointment only, and they want offers from serious buyers who have been preapproved for financing, said Lawrence Yun, chief economist with the association. “They don’t want casual shoppers,” he said.
Catch up: Here’s what else is happening.
Dunkin’ Donuts said on Monday that it planned to hire up to 25,000 new workers at its franchises to deal with an influx of customers as states start to reopen. Dunkin’, which has 8,500 restaurants in the United States, said about 90 percent of its locations were now open.
BP said Monday that it planned to eliminate 10,000 jobs — nearly 15 percent of the company’s total work force — with most cuts coming by the end of the year. The company’s chief executive, Bernard Looney, said in a companywide email that the cuts were needed to stem losses arising from the coronavirus pandemic as well as to create a leaner company to achieve his ambitions to sharply reduce BP’s carbon dioxide emissions.
Reporting was contributed by Jeanna Smialek, Jessica Silver-Greenberg, Jesse Drucker, David Enrich, Patricia Cohen, Stanley Reed, Ben Casselman, Jason Karaian, Jack Ewing, David Gelles, Ann Carrns, Matt Phillips, Paul Sullivan, Carlos Tejada, Katie Robertson and Kevin Granville.