April 3, 2020

A Widening Toll on Jobs: ‘This Thing Is Going to Come for Us All’

Finally, on Tuesday, he managed to file his claim.

“So I now join the group who can shout out to the rest: ‘There’s hope!’” Mr. Sullivan wrote in an email.

Mr. Sullivan was one of more than 366,000 New Yorkers to file claims last week, up from 80,000 the week before, according to Thursday’s federal data. California, another state that has struggled with the deluge of filings, reported close to 900,000 claims last week, up from 186,000. Those figures, unlike the nationwide total, are not adjusted for seasonal patterns.

In a news conference this week, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said he knew the state’s claims system wasn’t keeping up with the surge, and he said hundreds of people were working to expand capacity.

“The site is so deluged that it keeps crashing because you literally have hundreds of thousands of people at any time trying to get on the site,” he said. “I apologize for the pain. It must be infuriating.”

Economists, too, have struggled to keep pace with the speed of the collapse. A month ago, most forecasters still thought the United States could avoid a recession. Today, many economists are expecting a decline in gross domestic product that rivals the worst periods of the Great Depression.

On Friday, the Labor Department will release its monthly report on hiring and unemployment, usually one of the most-watched indicators on the economic calendar. But the data was collected in early March, an eon ago in the coronavirus age. Most forecasters expect it to show only a modest uptick in the unemployment rate and a small decline in jobs, despite the wave of layoffs that hit later in the month.

For workers and businesses, the reversal of fortune has been head-spinning.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/02/business/economy/coronavirus-unemployment-claims.html

Gold rush amid coronavirus & economic uncertainty leads to shortage in small bars & coins

The price of gold hit a seven-year high of more than $1,700 per troy ounce on March 9, as a result of the deepening economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

“People want to buy, not to sell, gold,” Mark O’Byrne, the founder of GoldCore, a dealer based in Dublin, told Bloomberg. “We have a buyers’ waiting list and we emailed our clients seeing who wished to sell their gold. At this time there are roughly only one or two sellers for every 99 buyers.”

According to Markus Krall, chief executive of German precious-metal retailer Degussa, premiums in the retail market “have exploded.” The average price of products in shops is somewhere between 10 percent and 15 percent over spot prices, Krall explained, adding that he’s never seen that before. Demand has also hit the highest level he has ever experienced.

Also on rt.com World’s super-rich are hoarding physical gold in secret bunkers

United Overseas Bank (UOB) reported that this past week, the market has encountered a “massive short squeeze for physical gold” as the epidemic reduced air transport and shut down bullion trading centers and refineries.

“This pushed futures price for gold to a significant premium against spot price. The net result for this is also a wider bid-offer spread for gold amidst signs of limited liquidity,” said UOB’s Head of Markets Strategy Heng Koon.

He added that after a temporary drop below $1,500 an ounce, gold has rebounded and is ready for a major rally.

Spot gold was trading 0.3 percent lower on Thursday at $1,586.24 per ounce, after rising 1.2 percent on Wednesday. US gold futures rose 0.6 percent, to $1,600.20 per ounce.

For more stories on economy finance visit RT’s business section

Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/484751-shortage-of-small-gold-bars/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

Saudi Arabia won’t undermine Russia-US energy deal & risk facing oil price war on two fronts – market analyst to RT

The US and Russia agreed to engage in energy talks earlier this week, as both the global coronavirus crisis and the oil row between Russia and Saudi Arabia sent crude prices into a tailspin. International benchmark Brent and US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crashed to 18-year lows on Monday, but they have slightly recovered since then with the news of a possible deal.

The prices could plunge lower if no agreement is reached, analysts have told RT. According to Lipow Oil Associates LLC President Andrew Lipow, WTI could sink below $15 a barrel, and Brent below $20 a barrel. While the market cannot be stabilized without new output cuts, crude is unlikely to fall much lower, argues David Madden, market analyst at CMC Markets.

Also on rt.com Oil recovers from decades’ lows as Russia US agree energy talks

There is a huge possibility that the two sides will finally sign an accord to support the energy market, the analysts believe. It is especially vital for the US to keep its shale industry afloat to preserve jobs.

“So there is a good chance of striking a deal with Russia as a way to stabilize the oil market and protecting the shale industry,” Madden said in a phone interview with RT, adding that the upcoming election puts added pressure on US President Donald Trump. “He will do whatever it takes to ensure that the US economy is in the best shape” it could possibly be.

If Moscow and Washington come to an agreement, the role of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its de facto leader, Saudi Arabia, would be in question. However, the kingdom is unlikely to do anything about it, as it could then face political consequences, Madden noted.

“I don’t think Saudi Arabia would want to go down the road of having a price war with Russia and the United States combined,” the market analyst said.

Also on rt.com US drillers face doomsday scenario as some crude blends hit $1

However, the current oil market crisis – with demand on the downward spiral and countries running out of storage space – could be solved only by a joint effort, Lipow argues, adding that any energy accord should include Saudi Arabia.

“The demand is so low that the OPEC and non-OPEC members might simply be forced to curtail production because there is no storage for the extra supplies,” he told RT. “Saudi Arabia simply could continue producing as much oil as they want. So it’s important that Saudi Arabia is included because it’s such a dominant player.”

For more stories on economy finance visit RT’s business section

Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/484748-saudis-russia-us-oil-talks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

Oil price war: Is it game over for Trump?

Saudi Arabia has already hired additional supertankers and a wave of additional supply is about to set sail, according to Bloomberg. In the last week of March, exports rose to 9 million barrels per day (mb/d), up from a rate of 7 mb/d earlier in the month. 

Saudi Aramco has also apparently funneled a lot of oil into storage in Egypt, “a stepping stone to the European market,” Javier Blas and Brian Wingfield write for Bloomberg. Aramco is aiming to produce 12.3 million barrels per day (mb/d) in April. 

It may not be all smooth sailing. The Wall Street Journal reports that Aramco is struggling to find a home for all the additional supply. Some ships are departing from Saudi shores with oil but have no destination. “There are loadings [from Saudi ports in the Persian Gulf] with no destination on them because we don’t have buyers,” a Saudi official told the WSJ.

Also on rt.com Russia says OPEC+ deal revival possible if other countries join in

The Trump administration is pursuing several avenues to convince Riyadh and Moscow to back down from the price war. On Monday, Trump spoke with Vladimir Putin, where they agreed that “current oil prices aren’t in the interest of our countries,” according to a readout from Moscow. 

Trump also spoke with Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, after which Trump said that the three leaders would “get together.”

“I never thought I would be saying this: Maybe we do have to have an oil increase,” Trump said on Fox News. “Because we do. The price is so low now.”

Meanwhile, some US shale drillers and Texas regulators have raised the prospect of participating. Pioneer Natural Resources and Parsley Energy have called for some sort of global negotiated settlement, which would include Texas regulators instituting mandatory production cuts. 

For now, there is little sign that the US will be able to convince Saudi Arabia or Russia to change course. 

OPEC has been unable to agree to hold an emergency meeting, suggesting that the group has no intention to cut production anytime soon. 

Trump says oil price war ‘devastating’ for Russia – but it’s Saudis  US shale that stand to suffer most Trump says oil price war ‘devastating’ for Russia – but it’s Saudis US shale that stand to suffer most

Saudi Arabia likely sees little benefit to backing off its new strategy of flooding the market. In fact, Riyadh may now view additional volumes as critical to its budget with prices so low. “Saudi Arabia now needs to produce 13m bl/day and export 10-11m bl/day which, together with government spending cuts of 20-30 percent, will bring down its social break-even towards $50/bl,” Bjarne Schieldrop, chief commodities analyst at SEB, said in a report. “Lifting Saudi Aramco’s production capacity to 13m bl/day is not a threat, it is a need.”

“The market is hoping for too much if it is now expecting Saudi Arabia to cut production aggressively again once we are on the other side of the Q2 2020 oil market disaster and price trough,” Schieldrop said. 

On April 5, Aramco will publish its prices for May, which will offer a major signal regarding Riyadh’s intentions. 

The thrashing around by the US government, oil regulators and even some shale companies reveals their lack of leverage. They are throwing a lot at the wall and trying to see what sticks. As Liam Denning put it in Bloomberg Opinion: “The long arc of the American dream of energy independence, having recently soared Icarus-like toward energy dominance, has finally crashed ignominiously into energy incoherence.”

At the same time, Russia and Saudi Arabia won’t escape unscathed. Goldman Sachs says that Russia may also face shut-ins. “Russia will likely be required to shut-in production given the inland nature of its production and the decline in refinery runs happening in its European pipeline export market,” the investment bank said. Moscow may want to get ahead of this problem and use it as a carrot to entice cuts from elsewhere. 

READ MORE: Saudis want to flood Europe with cheap oil to squeeze out Russia, claims US media

Riyadh also has immense budgetary pressure from low prices. For now, the Saudi government is targeting volumes over price, but that may not last forever. Perhaps the one piece of leverage the US has is threatening other parts of the American-Saudi relationship. North Dakota Senator Kevin Cramer has proposed pulling US troops out of the Middle East as a way of applying pressure on Riyadh.

Because of these dynamics, some see a slight possibility of an international arrangement. “[W]hile coming to such an agreement remains difficult, signs of policy discussions are multiplying and we believe such an outcome should no longer be dismissed,” Goldman concluded. 

But given the size of the demand shock, the attempts to negotiate are “likely too little too late” for the oil market, Goldman concluded. 

This article was originally published on Oilprice.com

Article source: https://www.rt.com/business/484746-oil-price-war-trump/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=RSS

Alarm, Denial, Blame: The Pro-Trump Media’s Coronavirus Distortion

In the weeks that followed, thousands would die from the virus around the world, thousands more would be sickened across Europe and the first cases would emerge in the United States. But the tone of the coverage from Fox, talk radio and the commentators who make up the president’s zealous online army remained dismissive.

Talk show hosts and prominent right-wing writers criticized other conservatives who took the threat seriously. “Drudge has a screaming headline,” Rush Limbaugh announced on Feb. 26, referring to Matt Drudge and his website. “Flight attendant working L.A.X. tests positive. Oh, my God, 58 cases! Oh, my God. Oh, my God.” For years, Mr. Limbaugh has encouraged his audience to be suspicious of science as one of his so-called Four Corners of Deceit, which also include government, academia and media.

On Feb. 27, Mr. Hannity opened his show in a rage. “The apocalypse is imminent and you’re going to all die, all of you in the next 48 hours. And it’s all President Trump’s fault,” he said, adding, “Or at least that’s what the media mob and the Democratic extreme radical socialist party would like you to think.” His program would be one of many platforms with large audiences of conservatives — 5.6 million people watched Mr. Hannity interview the president on Fox last week — to misleadingly highlight statistics on deaths from the seasonal flu as a comparison.

On Feb. 28, Mr. Limbaugh read from an article from The Western Journal, a website that was blacklisted by Apple News last year for promoting articles Apple determined were “overwhelmingly rejected by the scientific community.” The coronavirus, Mr. Limbaugh said, “appears far less deadly” than the flu, but the government and the media “keep promoting panic.”

Joel Pollak, an editor at Breitbart News whose work on the virus has been cited by Mr. Hannity, published several articles in February and early March that highlighted the least severe symptoms and best possible outcomes. On Feb. 28, he urged people to “chill out.”

The first of more than 4,500 American deaths to date would occur the next day. Two days later, Mr. Pollak wrote another article criticizing a doctor from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who warned that the coronavirus was likely to spread. The doctor was the sister of Rod Rosenstein, the former deputy attorney general, he noted, “who was once suspected of trying to help remove the president from office.” He assured his readers that he saw “no conspiracy” — only “the ordinary problem of scientists not being very good at communicating to the public.”

Mr. Pollak, whose articles were breezier in tone than much of the coverage elsewhere on Breitbart, declined to comment.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/01/us/politics/hannity-limbaugh-trump-coronavirus.html

When All the Zingers Were Fit to Print

Rusty Unger, 74, former film executive columnist for The Village Voice I was talking to my friend Chris Cerf, saying it would be so great to do a parody of The New York Times while it was on strike. He said, “My friend Tony Hendra [an editor at National Lampoon magazine] and I were just talking about the same thing.”

Christopher Cerf, 78, former songwriter for “Sesame Street” I remember I’d been thinking of Victor Navasky’s parodies of The New York Post and The Daily News ever since they came out. He took advantage of an opportunity that the world handed him of a newspaper strike [in the early ’60s]. I always thought that was brilliant, and I just filed that fact away. I remember Victor saying that they couldn’t do The Times because they couldn’t match the typeface.

As we talked about this, we got quite excited. We thought, “I wonder if we could get some of our friends, writers that we know, involved.”

Unger Between the three of us, we probably knew every writer in New York — and, you know, all the funny people.

Frances FitzGerald, 79, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Rusty would call people up and say, “We don’t know what we’re doing exactly, but come help us.”

Cerf The real fun was when we began to find that all the people from The Times wanted to do it.

Steven Crist, 63, former Times horse racing writer I graduated in June of ’78 and went to work at The Times as a copy boy, which was the lowest rung, entry-level job. After the paper went on strike, I started going to the racetrack and tried to make a living betting on the horses. And then along came Not The New York Times.

Richard Yeend, 75, former Times designer I had no food at the time. I figured this might be an opportunity to have a free meal. I learned that was exactly what this was.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/01/reader-center/times-satire-history.html

Auto Sales Plummet in First Quarter as Coronavirus Keeps Buyers Away

“My wife said we could get a Mustang, but I wasn’t going to go out shopping for a car,” Mr. Maletic said.

The drop in sales is the second big blow to automakers. Most companies have shut down factories across North America to prevent the spread of the virus among workers.

Automakers and dealers expect a bigger decline in April because stay-at-home orders will be in effect for most or all of the month in many parts of the country. Even as some states lift or relax those orders, consumers will likely stay away from showrooms for some time. To lure buyers, G.M., Ford Motor and Fiat Chrysler are offering zero-percent loans that last up to seven years for new car purchases.

In St. Louis, where a lockdown order has been issued by the local government, Ann Kittlaus is unsure of how to trade in her family’s 2017 Acura MDX, since the lease is expiring soon. “We would have to have the dealer deliver a new one and take the other away,” said Ms. Kittlaus, a public relations professional and mother of two college-age children.

She added she would probably let the vehicle sit for a week to be sure it doesn’t have any traces of the virus. In any case, she said she is not in a hurry to make the trade. “It’s not like we’re going anywhere,” Ms. Kittlaus said.

A dramatic drop in sales in April could cause a painful chain reaction. With no buyers driving cars off their lots, dealers won’t have to order more from the manufacturers. That could force car companies and their suppliers to keep their plants idle or production low even once officials allow more people to go back to work.

“April is likely to see further historic declines, driven largely by a lack of consumer confidence and substantial increases in unemployment,” said Charles Chesbrough, a senior economist at Cox Automotive. “And that trend will likely continue into early summer, at best. The second quarter will be the real measure of Covid-19’s impact on the economy and the auto industry.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/01/business/economy/auto-sales-coronavirus.html

Former Hulu Boss Will Lead WarnerMedia, Home of HBO and CNN

In his 20 months at the WarnerMedia helm, Mr. Stankey refashioned the division to focus on streaming. He invested heavily in HBO Max and made it his mission to dissolve the borders between WarnerMedia’s separate units.

Tensions between Mr. Stankey and his new charges arose shortly after the merger, at a June 2018 town hall for HBO employees in New York. At the meeting, the new boss sat on a stage with Richard Plepler, a gregarious entertainment executive who had led the cable network to 160 Emmys. Mr. Stankey warned of a “a tough year” ahead that would require significant changes. He also mentioned that HBO did not make enough money. Those were fighting words, given that Mr. Plepler had repeatedly said the best thing for the network home of “The Sopranos” and “Game of Thrones” was to maintain its independence.

People familiar with Mr. Plepler’s thinking said that he found he had less autonomy in his short run as an ATT employee. In January, nearly a year after his departure, Mr. Plepler signed an exclusive, five-year deal to produce films and shows for the Apple TV Plus streaming platform.

On Mr. Stankey’s watch, WarnerMedia also lost David Levy, who resigned as president of Turner Broadcasting, the division that includes TBS and TNT. In addition, Kevin Tsujihara, the former head of Warner Bros. studio, stepped down after accusations that he had tried to arrange TV and film roles for a woman with whom he had a sexual relationship.

The leadership team installed by Mr. Stankey includes Mr. Greenblatt, the former chairman of NBC entertainment. Mr. Zucker, the CNN head, has assumed responsibility for sports programming.

The executive who will replace Mr. Stankey is perhaps best known in Hollywood for a 2011 blog post. To many readers, Mr. Kilar’s piece came across as a blistering critique of Hulu’s corporate ownership, as well as a manifesto on the future of entertainment.

Since removed from Hulu’s corporate site, the post panned traditional TV for running far too many commercials. Mr. Kilar also blasted cable, predicting that viewers would eventually drop expensive packages.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/01/business/media/warner-media-jason-kilar-john-stankey.html

T-Mobile Closes Merger With Sprint, and a Wireless Giant Is Born

The suit was brought in June after regulators at the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission approved the merger plan. The states argued that the combination of T-Mobile and Sprint would reduce competition, lead to higher cellphone bills and place a financial burden on lower-income customers.

Letitia James, the New York attorney general, a key plaintiff in the case, had argued that the merger would cost subscribers at least $4.5 billion annually. She called the February ruling in favor of the deal “a loss for every American who relies on their cellphone for work, to care for a family member and to communicate with friends.”

With the completion of the merger, the number of major carriers in the United States stands at three — for now. To obtain regulatory approval, T-Mobile and Sprint agreed to sell off certain assets, including Sprint’s prepaid wireless business, to the satellite TV service Dish. The pay-TV operator hopes to become a new fourth carrier, in place of Sprint.

The fight for customers among the major carriers has driven subscription prices downward. The average monthly wireless bill has fallen by over 25 percent in the past decade, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Wireless carriers still enjoy fat profits, but they have flattened or declined in recent years.

The T-Mobile deal technically faces one more hurdle. The California Public Utilities Commission, which governs telecommunications services in the state, has yet to sign off on the merger.

The companies closed the deal Wednesday after Sprint made a clever technical maneuver. The company withdrew its application to the California agency after changing how it delivered voice calls. Last week, the carrier switched to an internet-based system for phone calls, meaning Sprint no longer makes use of landlines. That effectively nullified the commission’s authority over the deal, according to the company.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/01/business/media/tmobile-closes-sprint-merger.html

Why State and Local Debt Is Fraught Territory for the Fed

William C. Dudley, who was formerly president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, is sympathetic to the idea of a municipal bond program of some sort, especially given that “they basically have the blessing of Congress.” But he said officials should stick to investment-grade debt.

“Once you start to get below investment grade, it gets a lot trickier — you’re taking on a lot more risk, and where does it end?” Mr. Dudley said. The central bank might end up with riskier bonds that investors are offloading because the debt is unlikely to be paid back.

Lawmakers are leading the push for Fed action. The new legislation insists that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin push for an emergency lending program related to state and local finance, though it’s fuzzy on the details. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, has said repeatedly that she’s urged Jerome H. Powell, the Fed chair, to do more to help municipal markets.

Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, urged Mr. Powell and Mr. Mnuchin in a Tuesday letter to “address the needs of state and municipal governments that face desperate budget shortfalls” and do so “rapidly.”

After legislation passed empowering the Fed with more financial backing for emergency lending, which it would use to snap up the municipal bonds, the market for outstanding local bonds temporarily calmed. But volatility returned on Wednesday.

“Liquidity is the most critical piece right now,” said Deborah Goldberg, who is Massachusetts’ treasurer and who has been pushing the Fed to get involved.

The message from the Fed and the Treasury has been, consistently, that it is a work in progress.

“We’ll be looking at programs for state and local governments,” Mr. Mnuchin said in a CNBC interview Wednesday. “I can assure you, Jay Powell and I are working around the clock at providing liquidity into the economy.”

Mary Williams Walsh and Alan Rappeport contributed reporting.

Article source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/01/business/economy/fed-coronavirus-municipal-debt.html